Childhood Obesity

It is all over the news.  I guess that it does kind of have a ring to it.  “CHILDhooood Obeeeesity.”   Initially, it had some shock value as in, “WHAT?  Fat kids in America?  No way.  I should listen to this.”  Now, we are so bombarded with it, that it is just like my kids saying, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mommy, Ma …” over and over and over again to get my attention.  Nothing but white noise.  Unfortunately, while I am a big proponent of ignoring your kids, I can’t condone ignoring this problem.  Growing up is hard enough which is why many adults (you know who you are) simply refuse to do it.  Throw a weight problem onto all the other stuff children have to deal with — acne, puberty, cyber-bullying, parents who can’t hear the whine over the wine, etc. — and we are creating one unhealthy and unhappy population.

1.  The figures – childhood obesity in this country has tripled in the past thirty years to about 17% of the 2-19 age group (these are obesity stats, not simply overweight stats)
– hospital costs for childhood obesity over a two year period are estimated at $127 million

2.  The risk – the risks are not confined to being bullied in the school yard.  Obese children are at higher risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.  It used to be that children with diabetes had the more serious juvenile diabetes.  Now, we are seeing more and more children with “adult illnesses.”

3.  As they age – overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults with all the associated health risks highlighted on Nov. 9th.  One study found that children who were overweight between the ages of 10-15 had an 80% chance of being obese as an adult.

4.  Hope – I know it can be difficult to deny children something as basic as food.  (I often do it by accident on Friday nights.  It is amazing to me how much maintenance kids require.  If it’s not food, it’s baths.  If it’s not baths, it’s homework.  If it’s not homework, it’s “read me a story.” …  I can’t even keep a plant alive.)  Anyway, while it is really hard to help a child lose weight, it is as important as vaccinating them or teaching them to cross the street safely.  It can save their lives.

5.  My child isn’t fat – that’s good but you aren’t off the hook.  Only 25% of obese adults were overweight as children.  You spend your whole parenting life preparing and protecting them for the future so they will take care of you when you are old.  Don’t forget about their relationship with food.  More on this tomorrow.

Undeniably, obesity is a huge problem in America.  The worst part of the epidemic though, to me, is how kids are affected.  Like Whitney Houston, I believe the children are our future.  Teach them well and let them — they won’t be able to lead the way if they can’t get off the damn couch.

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