I felt terrible about my thoughts, I truly did because it was an awful thought to have, but I just couldn’t help it. “Should she really be buying anything from the vending machine?” I thought as I walked past the overweight female child purchasing a snack from the vending machine. Let’s be realistic here, sure she could’ve been choosing the healthiest snack available Chex Mix over the Hot Cheetos or Snickers, but come on, what kid does that? And judging from the looks of what I guess is her younger brother, she didn’t strike me as a health conscious child, but who really is when they’re kids? I see how this could be troubling some because I understand that it makes me seem like an asshole, but let me be clear that my perceivably monstrous thought was followed by, “I don’t blame the child though, I blame her parents. ”
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.3 Obesity is defined as having excess body fat. Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors(Center for Disease Control and Prevention website).
I see this all the time, overweight children, we all do and every single time I become a little angry and sad on the inside. A child does not posses the power to single-handedly decide what food is provided for them, the parents are responsible for what their child(ren) consume, outside of the cafeteria lady. What kid does anyone know that does the grocery shopping and purchases vegetables and fruits? (Because if that’s possible well, then I need mines to be one of those, if I’m ever so blessed.) Healthy eating habits need to be established at a young age so that when the child reaches adulthood they are inclined to endure the hassle of preparing a healthy home-cooked meal, vs copping out for McDonald’s. Most children view healthy eating as an enemy, which is why establishing healthy eating habits such as vegetables, fruits and water into a childs’ diet is so important. If parents give children unhealthy foods and allow them to frequently consume unhealthy items such as chips, cookies, candy, ice cream etc. then those parents are putting their child in risk of being overweight and serious illnesses. Some children are just chubbier than others because of genetics and those children especially require a structured, healthy diet.
Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma (CDC website).
It is puzzling to me how parents of children at an unhealthy weight can allow them to eat foods that are unhealthy. In this day and age, information about what’s healthy and how to be that way is easily and widely accessible over this thing called the Internet. (And free of charge at this magical location, public libraries.) I’ve personally been around overweight children and parents that permit them to have unhealthy foods, don’t encourage exercise and allow them to continue on the road to obesity and diabetes. I find it extremely troubling given that I was raised with the foundation that a parent loves their child and only wishes them to be happy, healthy and successful. Eating healthy is sometimes difficult to afford because wildly, healthy organic food is higher costing than unhealthy items. Nonetheless, it’s not impossible. Buying vegetables and fruits instead of snacks and water rather than sugary sodas and juices is a start. Encouraging and if so necessary, ensuring exercise would be helpful. By ensuring I mean, the parent and child excercise together, take the dog for a run, go to a park and play a sport or have running races. Maintaining a healthy body is not the easiest thing, but the work is worth it.
Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases (CDC webpage).
Children can be difficult when it comes to being healthy, I know I’m not the biggest fan of vegetables or the gym, but parents need to figure out a way that works for their child to protect their health. A healthy childhood is the foundation to a healthy life. That’s not to say that those who are overweight during childhood or at any point in their life cannot become healthier, it just requires effort. So now that the holidays are approaching, I encourage parents of all children, not just overweight children, to closely monitor what their child eats. As we all know, there’s a pattern of people gaining weight during winter due to the approaching holidays that include feasts, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Halloween is days away so watch how much candy your child has, how much they eat and if it’s too much then hide their candy and set a limit for how much they can have, just don’t be cruel and forbid them from eating their trick-or-treating sweets. Kids are precious, beautiful little human beings that deserve the best and should have it to live long, happy, healthy lives, give them a jump start by providing a healthy childhood.