Facing the dangers of childhood obesity and making changes

The dangers of childhood obesity and the risks to overweight children are the same as for adults...only worse, because they'll suffer from the issues for much longer.

Type 2 diabetes numbers in children are increasing...so too is the consumption of fast food; fitness levels of children is decreasing...at the same time the amount of time they spend sitting on their bottoms is increasing...go figure!

One of the biggest dangers of childhood obesity and being overweight as a child is that these kids have up to a 50% chance of being overweight and obese adults!

Low self-esteem, teasing and bullying at school, eating disorders and...dying younger than their parents.

Yes, for the first time in 1000 years, researchers are expecting children to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents!!

Combating the dangers of childhood obesity.

The causes of childhood obesity are the same as the causes of adult obesity; too much food, or rather too much energy in, and not enough energy out.

It's no good saying it's the fast food industry's fault, or the government's fault. Whose fault it is is basically irrelevant, we need to change it! We need to make changes to fight the dangers of childhood obesity and the effects it'll have on our children today, and tomorrow.

What we can do to help overweight children and prevent the dangers of childhood obesity

Here is a list of just some things we can do to prevent the dangers of childhood obesity, to help our kids get and stay healthy.

While they are simple I know that some parents, teachers, family members and friends find it hard, because either the kids will act up, or that by giving in to them they're making their life better.

Yet, not one of these people really wants their child, or those in their family or their friends' kids, unhealthy. None of us want our children dying before us, but if we keep doing what we've been doing, that's exactly what's likely to happen.

What we can do...

  • Stand your ground - parents, nannas, grandpas, aunts uncles, friends - stand your ground. Your child, the light of your life asks for their second lolly for the day...you say politely 'no, that's enough for today.' They will scream maybe, give you the evil eye, tell you they'll never come to visit. Just calmly explain to them that they've had enough, that lollies are for occasional consumption...then hold firm. If you don't do it today, what are these children going to be like tomorrow, the next day, or the day after? It'll be more lollies more junk, more fat, more unhealthy.
  • Stop rewarding behaviour with food - This is an issue I'm currently taking up with my kids school. If all the kids in the class behave well, teachers give them group stars, after a certain amount of stars they get a reward...hot chips for lunch, an icypole before the end of school, a chocolate. There are two issues with this, number 1, most of these kids are already getting enough of this high calorie food outside of school, god knows my kids no longer just get chocolate at easter time, or for birthdays, or at Christmas.

    The second issue is that we're saying that when you do something well you reward yourself with crappy food. So if you pass a test, here have some McDonalds; remember to clean your room, here's a block of chocolate; be polite, well done...here's enough saturated fat to harden your arteries!!There are surely other rewards we can think of, not ones that contribute to the dangers of childhood obesity, but ones that promote health and fun even.

    Think about how you're rewarding behaviour. Good behaviour should be a foregone conclusion, but if you're going to offer some encouragement, in the form of a reward, let's not make it high fat, high sugar, high calorie foods. If we want obese and overweight children to be healthy kids, then we have to take better note of what we're encouraging and how, we have to realize that our attitudes to food flow down to them, and that one of the dangers of childhood obesity is there attitudes to food will make it difficult for them to change.

  • Get the family in on it - telling our kids to eat properly and move more will not help them in losing weight or being healthy, modelling that behaviour will. Honestly, is there anybody in the family that won't benefit from healthy eating and more exercise. Make it a family thing. Don't have time, well take 10 minutes a day to go for a walk around the block with the kids, then when you get back, instead of them sitting down and watching television, get them to help you prepare dinner, they can you know, and that way it'll be done faster.

    It can be little things. They get out the pans and plates and utensils while you start cutting up, if they're old enough and have had some practice with a knife, give them something they can cut. Topping and tailing beans and snow peas, taking the husks off corn can all be done by hand, and by little kids.

    We need to stop making excuses and start making changes. It's amazing the things my kids tell me while we're walking, and if hubby's home, and he comes, well some of the things that come out of his mouth...we need to walk more often.

  • Restrict bottom time - that is computers, television, game consoles. I know they'll moan, but if it gets to the point we're you can't take it, calmly take them by the hand, kiss them on the top of the head, walk them into the backyard, then go inside and lock the door behind you! Yes, they'll be bored and wander around lost for a few minutes, but there's nothing wrong with that! They'll find something to do, even if it's poking at an ant hole. Give their heads time to day-dream, and their bodies some fresh air.
  • Most importantly - you love them, so remind yourself that you are doing this for them. I can remember being teased for being overweight, and I didn't have a lot of junk food, I just out too much food...period. It sucked. When I lived just with my parents I didn't have this problem, my food choices were different, and mum did it without making an issue of it, the whole family lived and ate differently. But when we lived with my grandparents, my goodness, my grandmother loved me so much that she wanted me to have everything and as much as I wanted. She didn't even see it as a problem, she just did what she had always done, showed how much she cared by making sure we were fed with lots (and lots) of good, wholesome cooking, every day, at every meal, without limits. But I paid a price for that, even the best of intentions at the time can have disastrous effects, we have to start thinking about how the things we're giving our kids is affecting them, whether they think it's great or not.

We can reverse the dangers of childhood obesity, with each of us, as citizens, doing our own little bit. We can teach our children good eating habits, we can get them moving more, we can extend their lifespan and improve their quality of life, but we can't do it if we keep making it someone's fault while we keep doing exactly the same things.

It's time for a change of action, for all of us.

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