our children are at serious risk.

warning: I’m about to get very passionate and opinionated, not to mention long-winded…

On an episode of The Doctors a couple of weeks ago, they reported that 1/3 of our nation’s children are overweight or obese.  ONE THIRD.  And that’s just our children.

My jaw literally dropped upon hearing that statistic.  One third?? I still can’t get over it!

I’m a huge advocate of children’s health.  I believe all children have to be taught how to treat their bodies with respect so that they can grow up being strong, healthy, and confident.  There are endless factors that contribute to making that happen.

No 5-year-old drives to McDonald’s and orders and pays for chicken nuggets, french fries, and a sprite for supper.  That child’s parents do that…It’s not our children who are to blame here, it’s the parents that are responsible for them.

**side note: most, if not all children go through stages where their bodies naturally add a little weight to their frame.  This is natural and healthy because they’re about to grow and their bodies are preparing them for that.  Many children at that stage become very sensitive and self-conscious and it’s essential for their parents to feed into their confidence and understanding during those times.  *What I’m focusing on in this post is not what occurs during those natural and healthy growth stages, I’m talking about when it becomes a long-term weight gain that doesn’t diminish with a growth spurt.

The risks of being overweight are truly life-threatening.  For some reason (one I will never understand), our country has decided that being underweight is life-threatening but being overweight isn’t–that’s just a “normal.”  That makes no sense at all!  Without enough weight on a body it doesn’t function properly, and with too much/excess weight on a body it doesn’t function properly either.  In both scenarios, the body’s organs slowly begin to fail.  They get overworked, and in each case, those organs will eventually give up.

Obesity in a child causes dangerous risks and increases their likelihood of having problems such as cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, asthma, sleeping disorders, the early onset of puberty, depression, and more.  Below are a few good sites to find more information about the dangers of obesity in children if you’re interested:

But enough about the effects….how do we prevent it and raise our children to be as healthy and happy as possible?

Just like there are endless contributing factors for an adult’s health, as are there for a child’s.  And maybe even more so because children’s bodies are changing and growing significantly every single day.

I believe the best way to teach our children how to be healthy is to surround them with adults who are healthy examples and who do their best to live a happy, healthy lifestyle.

So, in what ways do we do that?

There are so many ways to be good examples for our children, and since anyone who’s ever been around a child knows that in the end they will do what you do and not what you say, our actions speak the loudest.  Just a few of my ideas:

  • Choose healthy, satisfying foods whenever possible.  Enjoy the occasional baked goods and treats too, just show children that eating well truly makes you feel good!  Always eat a healthy breakfast (I could write a small book on the importance of this).  Include kids in meal preparation and let them pick out a few fruits and vegetables each grocery shopping trip.  Nix soda pops and high-sugar juices, and instead drink a lot of water, teas, low-calorie water mix-ins, etc.  Cook a few nights worth of meals on Sundays so that the option of just picking up fast food on a busy night is eliminated.  Try a new healthy food together!  And never feel ashamed or guilty for eating.  Ever.
  • Be active.  This is an obvious one, but make it fun!  Exercise makes you feel good and it’s important that we encourage our children to find activities they enjoy doing.  It can be anything that gets them moving; play tag with friends, run, go for a walk, play leap frog, have a dance party in the living room, ride bike, play soccer, catch, kickball, or tennis, swing, stretch or practice yoga, strength train, swim, and the list goes on and on and on.  Remember that the activities your children like might be different than the ones you prefer–that’s perfectly okay!  The key is to have fun with it–exercise shouldn’t be a chore or something you dread and if it is your motive should probably be adjusted.
  • Speak positively. This is huge: a child hears every negative (and positive!) self-image comment around them and that absolutely soaks into their minds.  Quit complaining about your stomach, butt, or arms when you look in the mirror.  Politely and genuinely accept compliments.  Be confident with the body you have so that your children will be confident with theirs.  Give your children positive compliments not only on their looks but also (maybe primarily) on their intelligence, humor, creativity, thoughtfulness, love, friendships, ideas, hard work, talents, dedication, success, etc.
  • Exercise your mind.  Read a nonfiction book, a novel, the newspaper, read anything, play piano (studies show this reduces a person’s risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s) or another instrument, watch an informational program on tv, play a board or card game, do crossword or sudoku puzzles, etc.
  • Focus on how you feel rather than how you look.  Our society puts an insanely ridiculous amount of pressure on young people all people to look a certain way.  There is no one size or shape for each woman and man to achieve to be “healthy.”  Every person has their own set weight and unique body shape, and that silly number on the scale is only relevant in extreme conditions.  I’ve finally truly learned that how I look is not at all what’s important.  How I feel is important.  Thin isn’t necessarily healthy, but fueling your body with nutritious foods, exercising, thinking and speaking confidently always is.  Strive to find a balance that works for you.  And please don’t fall into the comparison trap, but rather, focus on how great respecting your body feels.
  • Strive for continual spiritual growth.  Practice what you preach!  Rejoice, praise, and be thankful.
  • Treat your body with respect.  You only get one life to live and one body to live it in, so you might as well do all you can to make it the best that it can be.

Other positive resources on being a great example:

There are so many ways for us to be good examples for our children.  They are our future.  They have their whole lives ahead of them.  Be an example for your son or daughter, niece or nephew, grandchildren, students, and neighbors.

There’s sooo much more I could say about this, but for now, please remember that the earlier children develop healthy habits, the better off they’ll be for the rest of their lives.  I’ve never heard a person regret striving to live a healthy life.