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The Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:37pm
As I sat at my kitchen table eating potato chips and dip, an article in today’s newspaper caught my eye, "Rampant obesity cripples children’s health." A child obesity expert at the Texas Children’s Hospital reported that today’s children "may be the first in a century not to outlive their parents, because of weight-related illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes." Scary, isn’t it?

Fortunately for my immediate family, obesity hasn’t been an issue we’ve had to contend with thanks to good genes and high metabolism. I was always the kid they called "bones" or "skeleton" because I was so skinny. My mom had to take a "tuck" in the waistband of all my jeans to make them smaller. (As an adult, of course, it’s a different story, as my metabolism has slowed way down. I suspect that only a small appetite keeps me thin these days!) So far, my kids have been just as fortunate. Tall and lanky, my boys seem to be bottomless pits when it comes to eating, and yet they remain thin. But, experts tell us, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re healthy. Despite our appearance, I suspect we’re sadly out of shape.

Of course, a lot of the obesity problem stems from our diets of fast food, chips, candy, soda, ice cream, and so on. But there’s also the problem of inactivity. I can’t remember the last time my kids went outside to hit a tennis ball or play a game of basketball. They can usually be found in their rooms in front of the computer. Nutritionists say this generation of kids "is battling a toxic fast-food, couch-potato culture." But who introduced them to this culture? Sadly, we as parents did. After all, most kids aren’t getting to the local fast-food joint by themselves. I would suspect that most homes, including mine, have an overabundance of snacks and an absence of fruits and vegetables.

It saddens me to see children who struggle to breathe when they run or who have to buy their clothing in the adult section. And, quite often, when you see an overweight child, he’s accompanied by overweight parents. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if families spent more time together on fun and healthy activities? When was the last time you threw a ball with your child at the local park or took a walk together to explore an adjoining neighborhood? Have you shown your child how to throw a Frisbee or play Hopscotch? Children are only going to start losing weight when physical activity is made a part of family life. It has to be a group effort to get out of the house more and eat healthy foods. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading out to the kitchen to throw away that bag of chips and take my twins to the park.
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