Without a shadow of a doubt the United States has much to be proud of. However, as US parents how do we feel about these staggering statistics?
- The amount of children ranging from ages 2-5 years who are overweight has increased from 5% to 13.9%.
- 6 – 11 years – 6.5% to 18.8%
- 12 – 19 years of age 5% to 17.4%
- The number of obese children has tripled since the 1980’s
- An obese adolescent has a 70% chance of becoming an obese adult
The contributing factors that make up these statistics are many. Unfortunately, a finger cannot be pointed in any one direction but what is certainly not in doubt is that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of us, the parents.
And what a responsibility it is, especially when we know that these obscene statistics can cause immediate risks such as shame, self-blame and low self-esteem which ultimately impairs academic and social functioning. Approximately 60% of obese children aged 5 to 10 has a least one cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor (e.g. such as elevated totals cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin or blood pressure) and 25% had two or more risk CVD risk factors. The long term risks of childhood obesity are type 2 diabetes, for instance, for children born in the United States in 2000, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives is estimated to be 30% for boys and 40% for girls. In fact, in a case report limited to the 1990s, type 2 diabetes accounted for 8 to 45 percent of all new pediatric cases of diabetes – in contrast with fewer than 4 percent before the 1990s.
It really is not rocket science, the equation is simple. If your child takes in more calories than they expend in energy then they are going to be overweight.
Now this is all a concept I am sure most parents can grasp, but our job is certainly not made easy when you are combating huge industries spending billions of dollars bombarding our children with enticing packaging and free toys to eat their high fat, high calorific, high sugar products. Another billion dollar industry targets games that encourage our children to sit for hours, and, of course, there is always the box in the corner of the room! Powerful competitors indeed, but what about the competitors who we in fact believe are our allies?
How many parents have heard the words from their Kindergarten child “I did really well at school today, I was given six gummy bears for listening well!”
How many times has your child come home with candy from a “treasure chest” designed to reward good behavior?
What about the “desk fairy” who leaves your child a lollipop for a clean and tidy desk?
As if that wasn’t enough, how about the pizza or ice-cream party given at the end of term for good grades?
In fact how many of our children are given vouchers for free pizzas, cup cakes or burgers for being an honor role student?
Wouldn’t it be helpful if our schools rewarded our children with items relative to their education i.e. books, pencils, rulers, notebooks, educational games and toys? Instead of tying up with pizza restaurants giving rewards for honor role students, how about a book store getting involved and rewarding our children with book vouchers? Instead of an ice-cream party at the end of term, how about an afternoon of fun outdoor games, ice-skating, roller-skating the options are endless – exercise can actually be fun!
If you actually take a moment to register how many of our establishments are contributing to these worrying statistics and making parents jobs harder, you will be staggered. I am sure you can name your bank, church, doctor, gymnastic, cheer, dance, swim school, the list will be endless.
So to those of you who are desperately battling to re-enforce good habits that will last their lifetime, it might be time to demand a little support from some of the establishments that you might have some control over. Speak to your principle, P.T.A., teachers, and bank manager. In fact, speak to absolutely every establishment who rewards your child with foods that you are trying to persuade them not to eat.
Food for thought?