More recently parents have been asking me to come to their homes, look in their cupboards, and teach them and their children how to eat. Usually they have just come from a well child exam and their doc said that their kid needs to loose 10 -20 lbs. I have noticed that many questions come up that need clarifying.
The take home message from busting the following myths is that obesity is primarily rooted in behavior and behaviors are developed, curbed and molded in the home.
Childhood obesity is clearly on the rise. In fact according to the CDC, Center for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of our children are overweight or obese. This epidemic has caused several myths to surface. Myths only distort understanding. Let’s clear some of these myths up so childhood obesity can be faced and dealt with.
Myth #1 – Soda causes childhood obesity
Soda alone doesn’t cause obesity. A child who drinks a lot of soda and also has poor eating habits may be obese. If that same child is also living a sedentary life and eating additional processed foods then obesity may be the result. However, soda alone does not cause obesity.
Myth #2 – Obesity is inherited and you can’t do anything about it
It is true that you tend to see obesity run in families. If a child is obese, chances are the parents are also obese or overweight. However, it is uncommon for genetics to cause obesity. Occasionally a child may be born with a hormonal imbalance that causes obesity, but that’s not the norm.
In most cases a parent has simply passed on their poor eating habits and inactive lifestyle to their children. Those two elements combine to cause obesity. Eat a healthy diet and get active and obesity can be reversed, even if the parents stay overweight. The best scenario, however, is that the entire family works together to change behaviors as a family.
Myth #3 Obese children are just lazy
Absolutely not. Obese children are the same as any other children. They love to play and be active. However, it is also very easy to be sedentary today. Video games, electronic devices and television all keep children indoors and on the couch. Children of all ages and sizes need to be motivated by the adults in their life to get outside and to move their bodies.
Obesity can be reversed. Children can learn to live a healthy and active lifestyle. They can grow up into strong and healthy adults. However, they need the help of the adults in their life. They need guidance, controls and limits. They may also need motivation from time to time.
Basic behavioral goals that I share with my patients an children:
- 5-9 vegetables and fruit each day
- 2 hours of screen time, or less, each day
- 1 hour of physical activity each day
- sugar sweetened beverages each day
Childhood obesity doesn’t have to be a life sentence. In the majority of cases, the simple act of eating healthier foods and getting active can turn it around. Learn the myths and uncover the facts about childhood obesity. Help your child live a better life.
Food Rules/responses to kids requests:
- Try 1 bite of everything and eat all of something
- You can have seconds when your veggies and fruits are gone
- If you want a snack there are fruit and veggies in the frig ready to grab, help yourself
- If your thirsty, have water
- Milk is a food not a beverage, drink water
- Every meal including snacks should have a plant food and protein
- Carbs are plants and are necessary for survival – stop saying “less carbs” start saying “less sugar”. Adopt a balanced diet that includes complex carbohydrates – whole plant food.
- Read labels – avoid hydrogenated, dyes, HFCS, preservatives
- Meat eggs and dairy should be pasture raised and/or organic – animal fats hold onto pesticides and hormones and they are then stored in your body… potential carcinogens and hormone manipulators.
- Parents must practice what you preach…if we want our kids to read we must read, if we want them to sing we must sing, if we want them to exercise we must exercise.
Our kids may not act like it but we are there greatest source of influence and inspiration when they are young so instill good habits now.
“We must be the change that we want to see in the world.” Gandhi