This is a common phrase uttered by expectant parents when responding to the question, “Are you hoping for a boy or girl?”
But what happens after that couple is blessed with a healthy baby? Do we keep that child healthy, or do we begin feeding them a lifelong diet of sugar, processed foods, fat, sodium, fast food, and unbalanced meals?
As parents, we strive to instill positive habits, values, and education in our children that will fortify them throughout their life, But do we instill an understanding of the food they eat? Do we encourage regular physical activity and other healthy habits?
In many aspects of their lives, we challenge our children and assist them with projects—in the hope that their accomplishments breed self-confidence and a positive self-esteem, both of which are critical to living a more fulfilling life. Yet, having a poor body image and being overweight siphon self-confidence and self-esteem at an alarming rate.
We fiercely protect our kids from strangers, inappropriate images, words, viruses, and any negative external forces that could endanger them. Yet, the biggest threat to our children may reside within our own homes—in the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator and in the unhealthy habits we portray on a daily basis.
On June 10, 2010, the American Heart Association reported the following on overweight children—
Today, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.
Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects: Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.
Excess weight at young ages has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood. Perhaps one of the most sobering statements regarding the severity of the childhood obesity epidemic came from former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who characterized the threat as follows:
“Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents."
It’s easy to blame society, the government, or the food industry for this problem. It’s easier—and cheaper—to eat unhealthy, processed foods. Along those lines, wouldn’t it be easier to let our kids set their own bed times and roll out of bed whenever they want? How about letting them decide if they should attend school or complete their homework? We’d never model behaviors that would encourage those actions—because we know our kids are observing us. Ultimately, our kids will eat what we eat. They will be active if we are active. It starts and ends with us.
So think back to that initial hope, “As long as it’s healthy.” When it comes to healthy children, it’s like everything else in life. If you want something, you have to work at it.
9/21/2010 at 8:28 PM