It is no secret that childhood obesity is fast becoming an epidemic. Last estimated by statistics Canada in 2011; 1.6 million children were overweight or obese. When obesity levels rise, our children face a sick future. Chronic yet very preventable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and Type 2 diabetes are increasingly becoming an everyday reality.
Self-sacrificing parents spend their precious time packing healthy lunches for kids while feeling too pressed for time to cook for themselves. Whilst they encourage participation in fun fitness activities for their kids, the parents themselves wait in the bleachers, sit on the sidelines, and prove that, for adults, a sedentary lifestyle is the norm.
Every aspect of a child’s personality is heavily influenced by what he or she sees and experiences from an early age. Eating and exercising habits are no different. That is why there is only one true cure for childhood obesity. Parents must lead by example and get fit and get healthy with their kids.
The Journal of The American Medical Association demonstrated that parents that were reinforced to take part in a child’s healthy weight loss by following the same exercise, the same behaviour and the same nutrition changes as their children had kids that lost more weight compared to children that were reinforced to eat healthy and exercise without parent involvement (up to 11.2%). The most encouraging aspect of the study showed that the parent/child group kept the weight off for up to 10 years (Epstein, Valoski, & Wing, 1990). In other words, when both children and parents actively changed their unhealthy lifestyle, children lost weight and kept if off, thus reducing the risks of long-term health issues associated with childhood obesity.
Parents who join family exercise such as going on family bike rides, playing tag or jumping rope together, create warm family memories that make fitness a fun way of life instead of an adult chore that might be pushed aside. Nowadays, more and more exercises are designed to encourage family unity while getting fit. A perfect example is the growing number of family fun runs. Both children and parents can take part in small 1 or 5 kilometre runs or walks. Holiday themes make these events especially exciting for children while involving parents in the “learn to run” process too.
When it comes to nutrition, feeding healthy meals to kids is not enough. Children should be actively involved in helping their parents find healthy and delicious recipes. Kids can help in the kitchen with the cooking process and watch as their parents enjoy the same nutritious meals that they do. If possible, dinners should be spent with the family at home. Direct discussions about weight loss should be avoided, yet both parents and kids can openly discuss the health benefits of their favorite foods.
The important thing to remember is that your children are watching you. By showing your kids that you too lead a healthy and fit lifestyle, parents have the power to shape the lifelong healthy habits of their children. They can conquer childhood obesity and give their children the vibrant future they deserve.
Epstein, L. H., Valoski, A., & Wing, R. R. (1990). http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2012003/article/11706-eng.htm. The Journal of the american medical association, 2519-2523.