Childhood Obesity On The Rise

I don’t remember the morning program I was watching the other day that stated Colorado and Vermont are two of the thinnest states in the United States and that obesity is on the rise throughout the country.  Fast food restaurants are popping up on every street corner in America.  Why Colorado and Vermont?  They say because they are four season states.  The ability to get out there and exercise throughout all four seasons is more readily available in these states.  I believe, since I’ve lived in Vermont for over 20 years that it is also because there are less fast food restaurants and more local farms and local produce available.  Vermont is the only state that does not have a McDonalds in their capital city.

I remember growing up in Connecticut going to McDonalds at least once a week. There were10 of us in my family and my dad would have to go with a list.  It was a highlight of the week. The other highlight was game night in my home.  The prize for winning Bingo was a Twinkie or a Susie-Q.  However, we also grew up with a tennis court, basketball court and swimming pool in our yard.  Exercise was also available.  And my parents went vegetarian before any of us did and passed that knowledge onto us later in life.  It’s not too late to start good habits for you or your children.

Healthy eating starts in your own home.  The local schools can only do so much with presenting healthy food to your children if you are not willing to support that in your own home.  Obesity rates have doubled for adults and tripled for children since 1980.  Is it any wonder?  Fast food joints, vending machines and inactive lifestyles, contribute to a country with an obesity epidemic. 

What are some other factors for obesity?  Genetics, emotions, age, culture and medical problems all influence weight gain.  As you age, muscle mass decreases and will slow metabolism (I’ve been seeing that one myself).  Because of this, your exercise and eating patterns must be adjusted.  This could be a great time to read those books on your shelf about being a vegetarian or raw foodist.  Our bodies want to move.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Park your car in the furthest space away from the store.  By keeping a journal of your food and how you are feeling before you eat, you can start to recognize your eating habits.  Are you eating just because you are sad, anxious, or angry?  Notice how when your children hurt emotionally, the first thing you may want to do is feed them.  They need emotional nurturing, not a way to deny their feelings with food.  Start a diary with your kids.  This could also help to diagnose food allergies.

We learn about eating and cooking in our own households growing up.  In our family, birthdays were plentiful and also a great reason to get together for pizza, soda and cake.  Do you praise your children with food for good behavior or winning a game?  Most of us don’t recognize the habits we are teaching our children.  Think about your own upbringing.  What were your patterns when it came to food?  How can you help your child learn good eating and exercise habits?  Get rid of the distractions at the dinner table; the newspapers, tv and phone.  Eat slower, even with less talking.  Save the talking for before dinner during preparation and after dinner during clean-up. 

The Mayo Clinic states the following:  “Although there are some genetic and hormonal causes of childhood obesity, most excess weight is caused by kids eating too much and exercising too little. Children, unlike adults, need extra nutrients and calories to fuel their growth and development. So if they consume the calories needed for daily activities, growth and metabolism, they add pounds in proportion to their growth. But children who eat more calories than needed gain weight beyond what’s required to support their growing bodies”.

Get excited about learning some new things with your kids.  Yoga, raw food, the local farmer’s market, or just the fruit and vegetable isle at the grocery store.  Get out the juicer that you bought yourself and is now gathering dust in the cabinet.  Let the kids choose what fruits they want to throw in.  See who can achieve the best color of juice!  It’s ice cream season.  Some juicers will make really awesome, healthy and fresh ice cream.

Here’s to family health!

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