by Andrea Frank Henkart, MA, CCE, CHHE, CNC
Nearly 1 in 3 American children are overweight or obese. Because this is such a growing tragedy, the President of the United States of America officially declared September 2010 as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. This declaration brings national attention to a growing epidemic among youth in the United States.
According to The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 10.4 percent of American children ages 2 to 5 are obese, 19.6 percent of kids between 6 to 11 are obese, and 18.1 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 19 are obese. Pediatricians and gastroenterologists continue to link this obesity epidemic to an increasing number of children with diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease. Experts blame:
- The prevalence of junk food and sodas marketed to kids
- Lack of exercise
- Too much time watching television and playing video games
- The decline in the number of families that take time to sit down and eat together
- Toxicity in the environment
Statistics show that soda, French fries, potato chips, hamburgers and chocolate comprise 70 percent of the American diet. No wonder America’s health is so awful. Unfortunately, countries around the world are quickly catching up. Diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables have given way to processed foods filled with fat, salt and sugar. New estimates indicate that about half a million children in Europe are combating the same kinds of health problems suffered by middle-aged adults simply because they are overweight.
The explosion in obesity rates and obesity-related diseases have made us keenly aware of the need to make global changes in our collective behavior. When it comes to our kids, we have to make sure the message is about healthful living, not just weight. In all their eagerness to help with solving childhood obesity, parents must make sure they do not damage their kids’ self-esteem by reinforcing negative body image. It is rare to find an adolescent girl who feels good about her body. Boys are increasingly affected as well.
Of course the media feeds into this frenzy by suggesting that if we look a certain way we can get what we want out of life. With all the lifting, tucking and nipping shown on TV, it is no wonder that girls are untrusting of their own bodies, while boys turn to steroids and other methods to alter the way they look. I highly recommend that parents change the focus from looking good to being healthy.
Children usually know if they are overweight and do not need to be reminded or singled out. They need acceptance, encouragement and love.
- Plan family activities that involve exercise. Instead of watching TV, go hiking or biking, wash the car or take an after-dinner walk. Offer choices, then let your kids decide which activity the family will participate in.
- Set family agreements for the amount of time your kids can spend watching television or playing video games. Let your kids participate in the making of those agreements so they feel involved and in control. Re-negotiate whenever necessary.
- Be sensitive. Find activities your children will enjoy that are not difficult or that could cause embarrassment.
- Eat meals together as a family and eat at the table, not in front of a television. Eat slowly and enjoy your food.
- Do not use food as a reward or punishment. Children should not be placed on restrictive diets, unless done so by a doctor for medical reasons. Children need healthy food for growth, development and energy. Buy organic meats, fruits and vegetables whenever you can to avoid harmful pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in your food.
- Make Isagenix available to your kids. Offer IsaLean® Shakes, IsaLean® Bars, SlimCakes®, and Isagenix Snacks!™ Take turns blending the IsaLean Shakes and let your kids create their own healthy smoothies.
- Involve your kids in meal planning and grocery shopping. This helps them learn and gives them a role in the decision making.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. Good options include fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, low-fat cheese, plenty of fresh water and IsaLean Bars. Look for non-allergenic, healthy snacks you can buy in your local health food store.
Armed with nutritional knowledge and honest concern for your child’s health, it is easy for food to become a source of conflict, especially if you have teenagers in the house.
Avoid bargaining or bribing kids to eat (or not eat as the case may be) and avoid using dessert as a prize. Do not force your kids to finish their food. This just teaches them to ignore their own feelings of fullness.
A better strategy may be to give your kids some control by letting them decide when they are hungry and when they are full. You are still in control over which foods are available at home, both at mealtime and between meals by only buying healthy, wholesome, nutritionally rich food.
Long-term good health is less an accident than the result of good habits and wise choices. Habits that include eating nutritious foods and understanding the relationship between physical and emotional health will help your child grow up healthy. Good nutrition does not mean that your children cannot eat their favorite foods or that they have to eat foods they do not like. Just monitor the sugary snacks, fast food and fatty desserts whenever possible. To enjoy good health now and in the future, learn how to create balance through eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep and controlling stress.
Andrea Frank Henkart is an internationally recognized expert and keynote speaker in the fields of parenting, communication skills, and personal development. She has a Master’s Degree in psychology, two teaching credentials from UCLA, a degree in holistic health education from Heartwood Holistic Health Institute, and is a certified Nutritional Counselor. She is the author of seven books on health and wellness including best-seller, Cool Communication, co-written with her daughter Journey. Her new book on the benefits of Isagenix for children will be released in early 2011.