Child Obesity

Have you noticed more children with weight problems today than ten or twenty years ago? If so, it’s not your imagination, child obesity is a bigger problem now more than ever before. Some of you may know a child with a serious weight disorder, or maybe you even have a child of your own with a weight problem. Just the other day I read a couple articles focusing on this very subject, and thought to myself that it is definitely well worthy of addressing in my column.

To give you a little insight into some of the causes of child obesity, aside from major health and genetic related causes, we need to take a closer look at the changes over the past few decades that directly affect our children’s health. For starters, our age of technology is in direct correlation to our children’s activity levels. As a child, I spent as much time playing outside as I possibly could. And yes, I was very fortunate that I grew up in a neighborhood that had a lot of kids to play with, but regardless, I think my activities would have been similar in any case. Most of our play involved some type of physical activity, unlike many of the games that children today play. With the advancement of technology came the advancement of video games and DVD players. And while this may have brought with it many interactive games for kids that are not only fun, but also educational, it also brought a lot of sedentary activity.

Kids spend much more time watching television today than they once did. Just take a look outside of the home and into the car and you will see evidence of this. How many minivans and SUV’s come with DVD players in them now? I believe it is standard policy to at least have the option of adding one to your new vehicle. While this may take some stress off of the parents, I don’t know if it is the best lesson to teach your child. We are promoting sedentary activity and demoting exercise.

I recently read an article that conducted a survey on portion sizes at various restaurants across the nation and discovered that the average size of an order of food is larger now than it was 25 years ago. So if you’re still attempting to clean up your plate before you leave the table, please reconsider. Also, many families are forced to buy dinner more frequently rather than cook, due to the fact that often both parents work. While this isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, it is something than needs to be addressed in order for us to compensate for the decrease in activity and parent supervision, coupled with the increase in dining out and portion size.

While I am certainly not casting blame on anyone, and in no way am I questioning your parenting abilities, I am simply trying to shed some awareness on this problem and encourage the parents of this generation to educate their children on good eating habits (including portion size), and a fit lifestyle. While it may be almost impossible for a lot of the parents out there to monitor the foods their child is consuming every second they are away, or decrease the number of hours that the parents works, you do have control over the foods that you stock in your pantry and refrigerator as well as the activities that you do as a family.

Try going for a family hike followed by a picnic or to the beach for a swim on the next Saturday that you have free. That’s just an example, the opportunities are endless here is San Diego. I happen to know of a neighbor of mine, who almost every weekend takes the entire family either rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, kayaking, or some other type of fun family activity. And the kids love it! As a matter of fact it will probably surprise the children when they learn that not all families are like this. And these parents look like regular people, they’re not even superheroes!

All I’m urging you to do is to instill in your kids the value of their health and what role that will play in the quality of their lives to come. And remember that it’s all right to take baby steps–major lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. Give you children as much of an advantage in life as you can.