It’s a national problem. Look around and you’ll find obese and overweight people outnumbering the healthy and fit.
The statistics are grim. About 34 percent of kids 2 to19 years old in the U.S. are obese or overweight. One third of adults are obese, another third overweight.
What’s the difference between obese and overweight? Overweight means a body exceeds the recommended weight for height and bone structure. Generally, obesity in adults means 100 pounds over their recommended weight. Childhood obesity occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his age and height.
A serious problem with childhood obesity is that it puts the child on the path of adult obesity and introduces associated diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
Genes play a role, but DNA in humans has not changed in the last generation. The American lifestyle and eating habits have changed.
What can be done? How can we reverse this trend? Adults need to take the lead, not only to promote a healthy lifestyle for themselves, but for their children as well.
Following are ideas to embrace a healthy lifestyle:
– Think in terms of a healthy life style, rather than the negatively perceived “losing weight.” Do not restrict food, instead have a variety of healthy foods available. Avoid labeling foods “good” and “bad,” but rather emphasize that protein and calcium will give strength in sports performance. Fresh fruits and vegetables will give luster to skin and hair. Walking and/or running will make your legs shapely.
– Kids, and adults, will eat what’s in the pantry and refrigerator. Stock only healthy foods. Keep a bowl of fruit handy on the kitchen counter. A parent’s example is stronger than anything you can tell a child. Don’t expect a child to reach for an apple when he sees a parent munching on potato chips.
– Make meals count. Eat at the dinner table, not in front of the TV or in the car. Be mindful of what you eat. Make family dinners a pleasant event and a time for sharing thoughts. Prepare dinner plates in the kitchen to ensure balanced meals. After everything on the plate is eaten, allow second helpings of favorites. Serve the family’s favorite fruits and vegetables more frequently, giving everyone a say in what is served.
– Health experts suggest covering half the plate with fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables will satisfy appetites better than snack foods.
– Educate the family on healthy food. A diet soft drink isn’t a healthy choice, even if it has fewer calories. Praise family members and friends when you see they make healthy choices.
– Don’t use food as a reward. Instead reward yourself and your children with some fun time out that involves physical activity.
– Become physically active. Walk, play ball, swim, join a health club. Try to do something physical for at least an hour a day. Children should spend even more time with physical activity. Limit time in front of a TV, computer or cell phone.
As a nation, we must act on this unhealthy overweight epidemic. I often see people buying cases of soft drinks, giant packages of chips, super sized bags of candy. This trend must stop or we’ll have a nation crippled by our eating habits. Change won’t happen overnight, but it’s imperative we start NOW.