SET YOUR KIDS UP FOR
You have probably heard the alarming statistics: Today, one in three children and adolescents is overweight or obese. It’s a battlefield of wills in many households as parents try to instill a sense of healthier eating and increased physical activity in their kids, and as kids remain negatively influenced by advertising, peers and an immediate-gratification lifestyle.
The truth is, whatever you can do NOW to help your kids attain and remain at a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do for them. Our youthful bodies and our early habits determine what our adult years will look like. You may already know that, especially if you were an overweight child and continue to battle your waistline now.
WHY TODAY MATTERS TOMORROW
What were once considered only adult medical conditions are cropping up in overweight or obese children. Type-2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, joint stress, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea and skin infections are now negatively effecting the quality of many children’s lives – and shortening their lifespans.
Obese adults who were once overweight/obese children are expected to live 3 – 7 fewer years than adults who have maintained a normal weight from birth. As adults, they will deal with life-altering medical issues including chronic hypertension, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, dementia and endometrial, breast and colon cancer.
Luckily, the medical profession and public health agencies are paying attention. Even though obese children may remain relatively healthy for years, there is sure to be a long-term impact on the health insurance industry, public health institutions, the military health system, Medicare and Medicaid as they age.
Studies have also shown that there is a psychosocial toll on obese children. As they age, not only do they tend to be socially isolated, with high rates of anxiety, depression and eating disorders, they are also less likely than their thinner peers to complete college and thus more likely to live in poverty.
Peering even farther down the road, obese children who remain heavy in adulthood have an increased risk of having and raising overweight offspring, a phenomenon known as “perinatal programming.” Researchers are looking at how to alter this domino effect through biological reprogramming. But YOU can alter this future for your kids by helping them gain control of their weight right now, as they live under your influence.
TAKE ACTION FOR YOURSELF AND FOR THEM
It may be hard to admit, but you must take responsibility if your child is overweight.
If you and your family are struggling with weight management, make immediate changes. If you fear you can’t do it alone, talk to your family doctor or the school nutritionist. These experts can guide you to meal plans and other strategies for weight control.
- Take inventory of the items in your pantry and refrigerator. Reduce and ultimately eliminate unhealthy foods that are high in fat, low in nutritional value, and filled with overindulgence temptation. Make fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and lean meats readily available for snacks.
- Examine your family’s activity levels. If you don’t take time to exercise regularly, you can’t expect your kids to see it as a priority either. Work on increasing your activity level together.
- Take a hard look at your child’s heath and note any problems.
- Listen to how they breathe while they sleep. If you notice long gaps in their breathing rate, it could be apnea.
- Pay attention to their energy level and emotional state before and after meals. Mood swings could be a sign of metabolic problems including diabetes.
- Discuss your findings with your child’s doctor, who may order lab tests of their blood sugar levels.
It is within your power to make your child’s adolescent and teen years healthy, and to fend off chronic illnesses from their immediate doorstep. Focus on keeping their weight within the established norms and you’ll set them up for a more successful adult life. And while it might be a tough road to travel right now, it’s something they’ll thank you for in years to come.
FORGET THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE;
FOCUS ON YOUR HEALTH
The biggest threat to future life on earth isn’t the walking dead. It’s the limping, unhealthy, overweight masses of humanity that might take over if we don’t get our world’s obesity crisis under control. As a teen, you can help change the way the future looks by changing your own health right now and being an advocate for better health for others.
If you’re carrying some extra pounds you’re not alone. Today, about one in three children and adolescents is overweight or obese. “Overweight” means a person has a body-mass index (BMI) in the top 85th to 95th percentile for their age and gender, while “obese” means someone with a BMI above the 95th percentile. Being overweight isn’t an “everybody’s doing it” trend: It’s a dangerous beginning to a life filled with chronic health issues. It’s not a clique you want to be in.
You may not be aware of the way being overweight now is effecting you. Overweight teens are showing signs of serious adult health issues – and they’re cropping up long before they otherwise would. More and more teens have a list of problems from unhealthy eating habits: high cholesterol from eating high-fat and processed foods, high blood pressure from too much salt and not enough exercise, pre-diabetic blood glucose levels as a reaction to carb overloads and too much sugar, and sleep apnea and breathing problems from excess body weight.
And here’s a really scary research finding: Obese kids tend to be socially isolated and have high rates of eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. When they reach adulthood, they are less likely than their thinner counterparts to finish college and are more likely to live in poverty. Yikes!
A brighter future lies ahead if you can gain control now. But don’t think of this as boarding up the windows and reinforcing the doors against the hoards. This is the kind of action that skilled scientists take on – a systematic and progressive action plan for losing weight and staying within your normal BMI range for life. It means researching how to eat wisely, how to remain active to burn calories and build muscle, and how to adopt a healthy attitude about food.
What you do right now will certainly effect the way you live as an adult, and the kind of health and wellness future you are shaping. Overweight/obese kids tend to be heavy adults because the habits they set follow them into the future. Excessive weight early in life can also permanently determine the size of your fat cells, and guide how your brain senses hunger.
1. Take a serious and honest look at your waistline, eating habits and activity level.
2. Make a commitment to yourself to eat more vegetables, fruits, lean/unprocessed meats and healthy grains.
3. Take time to be more active.
- For more help on what to eat, and how much to eat, visit www.nutrition.gov
- Make small steps toward a greater goal. Go on a walk before or after dinner, before or after school, and instead of gaming. Then work up to longer walks, more intense exercise, and more activity integrated into every day.
4. If you need help getting into shape and taking positive steps toward a lifetime of improved health, talk to a school counselor, your parents or your family doctor.
5. Draft an army of friends to go on this healthy journey with you. Some of them may need a helping hand too. Fighting the enemy of obesity takes dedication and will, so the more allies you have, the easier the battle!