Mr. Norris, in spite of our country’s emphasis on fat-free, sugar-free, low-cal, no-cal, no-salt, no-carb, all-natural, all-organic foods and diets, obesity continues to grow in the U.S. Especially sad are the increased rates among children. Any suggestions for helping our kids fight the flab culture? – “Desperate in Delaware”
The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health reported: “For the first time, not enough exercise was rated by most adults at the top of the list (39 percent) (of childhood health problems). That was followed closely by childhood obesity (38 percent) and smoking and tobacco use (34 percent).”
“Drug abuse” was only 1 percent less than tobacco use.
Matthew M. Davis, M.D., director of the poll, commented on it by saying, “The strong connection of many of the top 10 child health concerns to health behaviors among children and adolescents underscores the importance of public programs and communication initiatives – for example, those designed to prevent drug abuse, tobacco use, alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy.” (One example of these would be my nonprofit foundation and martial arts program in Texas public middle schools, KickStart Kids, which helps kids become more physically fit and disciplined.)
Even more important than public programs, however, are healthy homes. I think the top 10 child health concerns underscore the importance and potential that healthy homes can produce healthy kids. We don’t need another government system; we need some old-fashioned parental intervention. As much as some community programs can help, the greatest power in children’s lives is the model they see at home, those who inspire them to be and do better.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both adult obesity and childhood obesity are growing across the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that 35 percent of adults, more than 78 million people, are obese. Not a single state had a percentage of obese residents that was less than 20.
Moreover, since 1980, the number of adolescents who are overweight has tripled in the U.S., and the frequency among younger children has more than doubled, according to studies cited in the U.K.’s Daily Mail.
It also was reported that in a study based upon 25,000 U.S. families, children with working mothers were at a greater risk of obesity, even if the father was a stay-at-home parent. Another study, published in Child Development, showed that children in sixth grade whose mothers were employed were six times likelier to be overweight than those with mothers who stayed home.
Sadly, the reason was that when left to themselves, fathers were less likely to maintain healthy eating habits and lifestyles in the home.
But, ladies and gentlemen, I believe we can do better!
Researchers recommend that instead of outsourcing meals to fast-food establishments, which serve foods that are high in salt and saturated fat, prepare meals from scratch and eat as a family; that could decrease a child’s risk of obesity. Also, parents should discuss day-to-day responsibilities when it comes to food preparation and meals.
The terrible economy has led to more stay-at-home fathers, so more research and more parental practice are needed to feed and nurture children.
My point is that there’s no greater power or catalyst for change in our children’s lives (physically, emotionally and spiritually) than parental models, accountability and encouragement.
I’m not saying that our model is everything or that we’ll do it perfectly, only that it is our greatest tool.
Edward Everett Hale said it well: “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
Or, as the Good Book simply puts it, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is older, he will not depart from it.”
If there’s a worthy fight, it’s this one. Let us parents strive every day to demonstrate a life, diet and exercise regimen that help our children to fall in line with healthy living.
The model we set is the model they get.
Over the next few weeks, I will continue talking about children’s health as they head back to school. I will discuss seven ways to promote your children’s good eating habits, dozens of exercises your children can’t resist and maximizing your children’s brainpower and potential.