The public health alarm has sounded and most people are well aware of the increase in overweight children in the U.S. The questions we are grappling with – why is this trend occurring and what does it mean for the future of our children?
Answering the first part of this question could be stated very simply – too many calories and too little activity, but in reality it is more complex. The media marketing food and sedentary activities to our children, cheap processed food choices, the ease of fast food for stressed out parents, schools offering sodas and candies, communities that make driving necessary and walking almost impossible, and the list could go on and on.
But who is ultimately responsible for the problem?
In many cases, we need to take a good look at the family. It is not the overweight 6-year-old who is doing the grocery shopping or running to the local drive-thru to pick up dinner. Parents need to take the ultimate responsibility and this can be taken in many ways despite the challenges. Parents are still in control and they can set limits. For example, examine what foods are brought into the house (do the parents understand how to read a nutrition label?), set limits on media (does a child need a TV in their own bedroom?), decide what types of restaurants are frequented (there are better choices out there), and get involved with the schools (school boards need to hear from parents voicing concerns about food choices in the schools).
The problems for the future of our children is not about the cosmetics of looking skinny, but more about the health impact and risks for diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. The concern with diabetes is that overweight children are being struck with a disease that was considered to be a grown-up disease for old people.
As waistlines of our children continue to expand, their lifespan will be shortened and dollars spent on healthcare in treating their diseases will skyrocket. Is this the future we wish for our children? We as parents can not only take responsibility for what occurs in our homes, but should be out there advocating with the schools, restaurants, food industry, businesses and our government to ask them to support us to keep our kids healthy. No one wants to be blamed for the childhood obesity epidemic, but if everyone claims they are not to blame and chooses to do nothing, well-needed changes will not happen.