We all know that childhood obesity is on the increase in the Western World. In the states alone, seventeen percent of children and teens are overweight. It is an epidemic. Although there are various campaigns and efforts being made to inform the public and steer children toward better eating habits, the statistics show that we still have a lot of work to do if we want to have healthier young people.
Weight problems do run in families. There is a major genetic component to the problem, but lifestyle is also a huge part of the problem. Families too poor to buy enough healthy food, families undereducated in wise use of their food money, families who are too busy with a hectic schedule and those who have a sedentary home lifestyle all contribute to the problem. They sacrifice healthy meals to the convenience of fast food.
Surprisingly, one of the big causes of overweight is individuals or families who skip meals. The studies show that when a meal is skipped there is a tendency to overeat later in the day. Families that sit down to eat meals together tend to eat healthier, more balanced foods and have more control over portions eaten.
Another large factor in childhood obesity is the sedentary lifestyle allowed or even encouraged in many homes. Children who spend several hours each day playing video games or watching television are much more likely to be heavy. By contrast, those children who play actively at least sixty minutes each day are much more likely to have their weight under control. Parents and grandparents can do a lot to model a healthy active lifestyle by staying active themselves and including children in walks, and active outdoor play.
An interesting study done by a doctor at the University of Florida showed that training parents to eat and serve healthy, well-balanced meals was just as effective as training the children too. The study suggested that parents have a primary responsibility to build healthy habits into their children as they are raising them. The children will not only receive the health benefits of eating well, but will learn how to continue to eat well as adults. It is generally advised that if one member of the family is overweight, the entire family should modify their diet to ensure healthy eating habits. Being singled out to eat less or to eat different foods is sure to injure self-esteem. Interestingly, when overweight youth take part in exercise programs designed to help them get started on a healthy lifestyle there is the added benefit of better behavior and fewer anger-related incidents. It makes sense that an overweight child will be more positive and more encouraged when engaged in activities that will help solve the weight problem.
There is no doubt that being overweight predisposes children and youth to a wide variety of diseases and to future adult health risks leading to earlier death rates. What can you do to encourage healthy eating habits in your home? How about having lots of fruit and veggies around when the grandkids visit? Find some fun healthy recipes that they may not have tasted before. Model some healthy eating and exercise habits yourself. Young people respect parents and grandparents who stay vibrant into their older years.
The health of our children is too important not to take notice. Be informed, pay attention to the diet of the young people in your life. Be ready to encourage steps taken to live healthy, active lives and let your grandchildren know that you want them to be healthy for a long, long time.