Obesity amongst adolescents continues to be a rising health risk within the United States. In the past, a fat child
was a healthy child, one who was less prone to infection and the hardships of undernourishment. But today, instead, our children are living in a world of excess… a world where they are no longer fighting undernourishment, but instead over consumption. In the last three decades, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. With approximately one in five children in the United States passing the youth physical activity guidelines, childhood obesity has presented itself as a critical priority to address in our community.
As role models, parents have a major impact on the living habits of their children. Children with one obese parent have a 50 percent chance of becoming obese as an adult. This increases to 80 percent when both parents are obese.
I am presenting these statistics, not to scare people, or even force them to run to the gym, but instead to start facing these alarming facts as a community. For children, it goes beyond, “we are what we eat,” we also need to add the concept “we are what we see.” Every parent can still have a positive impact on their child just by educating, being involved and providing positive feedback. These are just a few simple strategies that can help your child live a healthier, happier and longer life.
Education is the simple, first step in helping your child start living a healthy lifestyle. Here is a helpful equation to start with.
Living a Healthy Lifestyle =
Mindfulness + Diet + Exercise.
Mindfulness consists of being attentive to the present and living in the moment. In a state of mindfulness, you do not label your thoughts or feelings as good or bad, but rather observe them from a distance. Improving your well being and reducing stress levels are just a couple benefits of mindfulness. A great way to practice being present with your child is to do a few simple breathing exercises right before bed. This will help them get a sense of what living in the present feels like and help them have a better nights’ sleep.
The second component is diet. It is essential that you are providing your body with the appropriate vitamins and nutrients while keeping out the unnecessary toxins. Our bodies are our temples’. We need to be careful and understand what we are putting inside of them. Having a healthy diet will help boost energy levels, control our weight and more. Three techniques to helping your child choose a healthy diet are providing healthy snacks, bringing them grocery shopping and allowing them to help cook with you.
The third component and possibly the most important is exercise. Exercise benefits your entire body, especially your heart and brain. Just to mention a few, it can help prevent the development of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Exercise has many benefits from helping the body grow; strengthening bones to bulking up the heart. It is recommended that teens get 60 minutes of exercise per day.5 These 60 minutes can be broken up throughout the day. Getting involved with your child doesn’t mean you have to be out there running around with them. Being their cheerleader and encouragement will go a long way. Do not make playing outside seem like a punishment. Make it fun for your child!
It is up to us as parents and as role models to help our children live long and healthy lives. If we can start getting out children to living a healthy lifestyle while they are young and adapting to these behaviors, there is a great chance they will maintain healthy habits as adults and teach future generations the power of mindfulness, diet and exercise. Obesity can be stopped the same way as an avalanche, one snowflake at a time. Your child does make a difference and you do too!
References: 1Ebbeling, Pawlak & Ludwig, 2002 2http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm 3http://children.webmd.com/news/20110414/most-young-kids-dont-get-enough-exercise 4http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Obesity_In_Children_And_Teens_79.aspx 5http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html