Childhood Obesity

This week Herbalife is sponsoring a two-day Conference in Orlando that Physicians and nutrition scientists from around the world are gathering in order to discuss emerging trends and grass roots solutions to the global obesity epidemic employing balanced nutrition and teaching healthy active lifestyles.

The focus has been Obesity Prevention and yesterday they talked about Childhood obesity. This is a subject that touches me, and truth be said, makes me very sad.

In the United States, obesity rates in children have quadrupled in the last 25 years. (exact the same in Canada)

When we talk about childhood obesity (and overweight) many people will get mad about it, as they perceive it as a “pressure to look good”, or they think it will create an “eating disorder”, “it’s too early to teach about dieting”, etc. But the point here is not appearance, it’s HEALTH. It’s not dieting, it’s living a healthy lifestyle.

As a result, children are experiencing the same obesity-related diseases as adults – such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. But the difference between children and adults is that, in children, there is a shorter time interval between the onset of obesity and the development of obesity-related diseases. “Obesity-related diseases that may take 10 years or more to develop in adults can appear as early as 3-5 years after the onset of obesity in children,” adds Greene.

Scientists say that prevention tactics are critical, since obesity can set in firmly as early as age five. In fact, research suggests that the most critical period for prevention of obesity may be during the first two years of life.

“If we could prevent childhood obesity, this generation would witness a 50 percent reduction in obesity as adults,” said Greene.

Watch this video


I think there is a miconseption that kids can eat whatever they want “they are just kids, they will burn it off”… I remember growing up, I really could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight (still doesn’t mean it was healthy) BUT that was a time when kids used to be ACTIVE. I grew up doing ballet class, tap dance, swimming class…I tried a lot of different sports until I became a volleyball player, I used to practice 4 times a week for 4 hours + the games during weekends! Physical ativities was part of school curriculum and I didn’t grow up sitting at home and playing video games. Can the same be said about the kids today?

So, I am sorry to tell you, no they won’t burn it off.

What is causing this problem? I think we can all make a good guess in here but here are some of the factors:

  • Dietary – Calorie rich drinks and foods, sugary drinks, calorie dense prepared snacks, eating at fast food restaurants they are all easily available and became very normal with our “busy lifestyles”. Gone are the days we used to sit down and have a meal that was cooked by mom.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – this is a easy one… all life conveniences are making us lazy. Think about it, we don’t even need to get out of the car to get food anymore! In terms of childhood obesity researchers studied the physical activity of 133 children over a three week period using an accelerometer to measure each child’s level of physical activity.They discovered the obese children were 35% less active on school days and 65% less active on weekends compared to non-obese children.
  • Genetics – One study found that 80% of the offspring of two obese parents were obese in contrast to less than 10% of the offspring of two parents who were of normal weight. The percentage of obesity that can be attributed to genetics varies from 6% to 85% depending on the population examined.
  • Home environment – These is another interesting one. Of course the gome environment will be a big factor on everything we learn, including eating habits and health. When researching to write this post I was very impressed by these numbers:

Researchers provided a household eating questionnaire to 18,177 children, ranging in ages 11–21, and discovered that four out of five parents let their children make their own food decisions. They also discovered that compared to adolescents who ate three or fewer meals per week, those who ate four to five family meals per week were 19% less likely to report poor consumption of vegetables, 22% less likely to report poor consumption of fruits, and 19% less likely to report poor consumption of dairy foods. Adolescents who ate six to seven family meals per week, compared to those who ate three or fewer family meals per week, were 38% less likely to report poor consumption of vegetables, 31% less likely to report poor consumption of fruits, and 27% less likely to report poor consumption of dairy foods.

I was a very picky eater when growing up (still am but much better today 🙂 ) but still I can’t remember my mom making “menu choices” based on what I wanted to eat…that would be INSANE! I would eat chocolate cake everyday :o)Now my younger sister, my mom tried to spoil her a little bit more, being younger, etc and she was very different than us and managed to be even “pickier” than me! I remember she had times that she would eat ONLY chicken nuggets everyday. That’s what happens when you let the kids choose what they will eat… (I need to say, today, my sister is much better than me, she even eats salads, she needed to become an adult in order to learn what’s good for here…interesting, isn’t it?)

By this point most of the things you are reading in here are nothing new…is there anything new? Do we need studies to tell us that childhood obesity can’t bring anything good for this kids future? I don’t think so….

The other thing that makes me sad is that beyond the health and weight issues the first problems to occur in obese children are usually emotional or psychological, their self esteem, their self confidence, their self respect will be all affected, big time! We get into the””Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” dilemma and create a snow ball effect that not many people can get out off.

Studies have shown that overweight children are more likely to grow up to be overweight adults

What can we do to help this kids?

If you have kids, it all starts at home. The “irony” here is that many moms will say they, themselves, became overweight because they are taking care of the kids and don’t have time to take care of themselves. Well, the best thing you can do for them is take care of yourself, be a good hole model, kids ALWAYS want to be like their parents (even if they don’t say so 😉 ) the moment you begin to change you create change around you, everyone changes when you change.

The schools play a big big hole as well, demand of your kids school to make healthier food choices available! There are many movements taking place to change what’s offered and available for kids but you need to be in charge and not take a passive position of “waiting for it to happen here”.

This is a very interesting blog that shows you picture of “What’s for lunch” at schools around the world. http://whatsforschoollunch.blogspot.com/

Enable kids to learn, engage them, educate them. Kids are like a blank canvas and the good news is: they are open to learning. They WANT to learn. Education is key!

And of course, motivate your kids to be active. Kids are happier this way, that’s what we are “supposed” to do. We are “designed” to move, to run, to jump…not to sit down and eat.

Yes I am making it simple, and I do believe it is simple. The truth is I am not the one to tell you what to do, I can only say what I would and will do myself.

The important thing to understand is that something need to be done and it’s NOT okay. We neglect many issues because we think it’s okay, because we don’t see the accumulative effect of poor choices immediately. Because we don’t have a heart attack when we open a bag of chips and eat it,  it looks like “it’s only one, it won’t kill me. It’s okay”. Maybe that’s why so much money is been spent in studies that states the obvious, to make us believe and understand that for every choice we make there will have a consequence.

With all of us becoming more educated, becoming more aware, making conscious choices and demands for better food I believe we will solve this problem, we will fix our health and lifestyle.

When you see news like it’s out today about Pepsi “the world’s No. 2 soft drink maker, PepsiCo Inc., has pledged to pull high sugar soda from schools around the world by 2012.” we can know that things are changing and we will make it happen. Not because the companies are nice and all of sudden they developed a sense of responsibility, it’s more likely because what Michael Pollan the “Food Inc guy” says:

“We all can vote with our forks. We get three votes a day. You don’t have to get every one of them right. But if you get one of them right a day, if you vote for food that has been sustainably grown or humanely grown, whatever your values are, … you will change the food system. It’s happening now.”

Like Michelle Obama would say, as she leads the fight against childhood obesity: YES WE CAN 😉 and I trust we will…we have to!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childhood_obesity#cite_note-28

http://www.childhoodobesityfoundation.ca/index.php

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