If they were looking for volunteers, I’d be the first one in line to help teach kids about healthy living. There is clearly a shortage of health education for kids these days, and if it is being taught, it’s not being taught well.
Full disclosure, years ago, I fed my kids fun fruits and fruit roll-ups. Yes, we went to McDonald’s and Burger King. I potty trained my kids with M&M’s, yes, I did all the things I shouldn’t have done. But that was before I knew something wasn’t right. When I was pregnant, I made every effort to eat whole, pure food. Why should I feed them differently now? So, I made the decision to educate myself on food and the ramifications of feeding kids garbage, I reigned in, much to their disappointment.
I have been working with obese/inactive adults for almost 20 years. In the last 5 years, I have had a surge in Mother’s coming to be me with their young daughters, 11, 12, 13. “They just won’t stop eating. Their siblings are thin, their friends are thin, so I just want her to feel comfortable in her body and lose some weight.” All of this said in front of their child. I often ask parents what types of foods they buy at home, “Well, the other kids know when to stop, they don’t over eat some of the junk food I buy. Plus they’re really active. She just can’t eat that stuff.” My reply, “Well, why do you buy it?” Mother’s response, “Why should I have to punish the other kids when they don’t have a problem?” Hmmm, punishment = taking away junk food. And this my friends is where the problem starts.
Recently, there’s been some controversy over a new ad campaign in Georgia (which has the 2nd highest obesity rate for children) utilizing obese kids to get a message across; fat is bad. Some people are mortified by them, while others think they will have a positive impact. Me, I’m not so sure. As an obese teen, I find the ads offensive and ineffective. First of all, the photos should be of the whole family, not just the child. Second, I think a child that is 8 or 9 years old is being exploited and stigmatized. You don’t think kids will be bullied or teased when they see these ads? One of the ads, “Big bones didn’t make me this way, big meals did,” will surely result in teasing on the playground. A more positive approach would be a picture of an entire family that says: “A healthy child is the result of a healthy home.” or “A fit child, comes from a fit family.” Bottom line, FAMILIES need to be educated on food and how they feed their children. Just because children are active in sports does not justify a run to a fast food restaurant following practice. Parents will tell me, “Well, we don’t have time to cook a big meal, drive-thrus are just easier.” Well, they may be easier, but that’s not setting your child up for success when the shopping is ultimately u p to them.
Further, most parents are bound and determined to see that their kids do well in school and in life, shouldn’t nutrition and exercise be part of their rearing? 40 years ago, it was different, but today, it should be mandatory for every family that has a kindergarten age child, go to a class that teaches families the value in raising kids with healthy food and lifestyle. Even in low income areas, you could get volunteers teaching famlies how to eat healthy on a budget. (A girl can dream, can’t she?) A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is far better than a fast-food burger, or jumbo sandwich.
We, the parents are responsible for our children, and it is up to us to see that our children learn the importance of eating well and staying healthy. What they learn about nutrition now, they will carry through to their adult years. They won’t always be playing soccer or running track, so introducing healthy eating and reasonable ways to stay active, should not be done just for inactive kids, it should be for ALL kids.
I’m not crazy about the ad campaign, I feel that there could be a much more tactful, effective way to get the message out about childhood obesity. The people who came up with the campaign believe that the “shock and awe” value is what’s needed to wake people up to the problem of childhood obesity. I’m not so sure I agree. I think the only thing that is going to help, is educating families on what constitutes healthy eating and it needs to start from birth.
We can’t blame schools, vending machines, ads, fast-food restaurants for the obesity epidemic, rather it’s up to us to do the research, understand how junk food and fast-food compromises our health and begin making positive changes for ourselves. That way, we will be better equipped to pass it on to the next generation without feeling the need to objectify kids to make a point.
Here’s to your health!