Childhood obesity is a topic foremost in my mind and I wanted to tell you about why it was on my mind the other day.
My husband and I received an invitation last week to go to my daughter’s school for a little celebration, because most of the kids had reached a learning milestone for their grade. The celebration included ice cream, whipped cream, canned fruit in sweet syrup, sprinkles, chocolate syrup and a ton of other sweet treats. My 6-year-old is allowed to have these treats every now and then and she knows that she has the freedom to do so. I don’t control how much she eats, though, as I’ve seen her say “I’ve had enough” or often times take a candy out of her mouth because “it’s too sweet.”
My hubby and I sat down and we watched the children enjoy their celebration treat. We were close to the ice cream/treat table so it was hard to not pay attention to how many times some of the kids came up to get seconds and thirds. I must say that MOST of the kids did not have more than one serving, including my daughter. What caught our eye however, was an extremely overweight child who got seconds and thirds… and these were not small servings, they were heaping bowls of ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and sprinkles. I watched because it was just too difficult not to.
When the teachers called the children to get in line so that the parents could take them home, they were told it was time to go and please dispose of the ice cream they hadn’t eaten yet… by then 99% of the children had finished their ice cream, this child however, stood next to the trash can, making sure he got the last drop of ice cream from that bowl. I saw him and my heart hurt for him. I said nothing though, because quite honestly I did not know what to do or what to say.
You might think that I’m a strict mom with my child’s diet. Trust me, I’m not. I allow my daughter to have her share of treats when appropriate. I am careful to make sure that she’s aware about portion control… she doesn’t eat until she feels sick. She understands that there’s not a need for that. She understands the consequences of eating too much of something that isn’t that healthy and she’s only 6.
The truth of the matter is that the more I think of it, the more I realize that we train our children about portion control at a young age. We train them to be addicted to food or not… to make wise choices—or not. It’s not that child’s responsibility to know because they’re often times too young to know, and the truth is that it’s the parent’s responsibility to guide them so they can make good choices in life in regards to food, in the same way that it’s important to guide them in regards to their future. We want our children to live a healthy, happy, meaningful life; correct? So teaching them about portion control, in my view, fits right into the same category as looking both ways before crossing the street and other dangers in life.
You might think that I’m being harsh, maybe… but I see too many children being diagnosed with what used to be called adult onset diabetes and is now called “type 2 diabetes” because too many children were being diagnosed with it. You might say, “Wait, but childhood obesity and diabetes are hereditary.” and you might have a point…. but no child should be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when there are easy ways to prevent it.
Kids with childhood obesity are more likely to be teased in school and there’s research that suggests that depression and obesity are directly linked to each other. Which one happens first? I have no idea… I can tell you from personal experience however, that I’m much happier now that I’ve lost weight, than how I felt when I was heavy. I’m healthier too and reversed my high blood sugars after I lost some of my weight. I’m no stranger to the struggles of overeating and trust me it’s SO much harder when we’re adults. With children however, it’s not that difficult—and yes, they might whine cry and even have a temper—but I’d rather see my child doing that than living a life with heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related conditions. This has NOTHING to do with beauty, or being skinny; it has EVERYTHING to do with your child’s health. I won’t sugarcoat it for you, the way you feed your child NOW will either shorten his or her lifespan or increase it… it’s YOUR choice. If you TRULY love your child (and I’m pretty sure you do), give up the sense of guilt associated with saying “no”, stand your ground and think of the habits he or she is going to be developing and the future you’re helping create for him or her.
What you teach your child today might just save his or her life. Remember though that children learn through our example; so if you are eating unhealthy foods your child will follow your footsteps. If you’re not willing to make changes for yourself, then make them for your child. Improve your life for the sake of your children because they are worth it!
If you don’t know where to start, then ask me. I’m here to help you. If you find this article valuable, by all means please share it. You might be impacting another child’s life.