We are constantly told in the media that we are raising a nation of obese children and that their health is a ‘ticking time bomb’. There certainly does seem to be a higher percentage of larger children these days. I can remember at school the one or two children who were considered [weren’t we cruel?] to be the ‘fat kids’. There weren’t many. I doubt if it would be just one or two in most schools today. You can see even just at picking up time that there are considerably more children that one might kindly call ‘stocky’, even if they aren’t what one would call ‘fat’. This is part of the problem. Parents don’t see their children as fat a lot of the time, or even a bit overweight. They think of them as solid, fond of their food, maybe a little thick set, and maybe this is true, but it can also be used as an excuse. People don’t want to accept that their children simply eat too much and do not move around enough. It’s a simple balance, eat more than your body requires and it stores the rest as fat, but it’s not as simple to stick to this when you want to lose weight. Eating food is bound up with all sorts of emotional issues as well as physical needs and these messages are often passed on to the children from their parents. It is not about blaming the parents as the issue is complex. It doesn’t always follow that the whole family is overweight, but often this is the case. Our lives are generally more sedentary and we move from the car to the mall, from the train to the office. It can be hard to incorporate a good exercise regime and good diet into busy lives. When you get in late, it’s easier to go for that ready meal than to cook a meal from scratch and these cooking skills are not being passed on from generation to generation as they used to be. So, how can we begin to make the changes that our kids need to ensure they reach adulthood healthy and active? The answer lies in looking at our own lives and seeing how we can set a good example and be a healthy family.
Teach By Example
This is the best way to show children how to lead healthy lives. They won’t take us seriously if we encourage them to go for fruit rather than a doughnut if they see us tucking into an éclair with our tea or coffee every afternoon. No-one is saying that these are ‘bad’ foods that can’t be enjoyed from time to time, but that they are treats to be enjoyed occasionally, with a good balanced diet the rest of the time.
It’s very hard to try and lose a significant amount of weight. Much easier to try and control it in the early stages as statistic show that the level of obesity increases dramatically as the child gets older, making it even harder to lose the weight, putting them at risk of severe health problems later in life
Don’t USE food
Try not to use food as a tool to bribe, comfort or punish. It can be hard not to reach for the biscuits or some chocolate when a small child has bumped their knee for e.g., but it’s important that food doesn’t become associated with comfort, or indeed, threat.
Get moving together
One of the best ways to encourage the whole family to get healthier is to do stuff together. Go swimming at the weekends, or take up any other physical activity that enthuses your family to get outside. Some people hate walking but love cycling. It’s a personal choice but engaging the children in outdoor activities is a positive step in the right direction. If for whatever reason you can’t always get out then encourage them to be active in the garden. Get a trampoline or a swing. If you have space then there are all sorts of fantastic garden toys and structures available but even a simple ball can be great exercise if you get out there and kick it about with your kids. Exercise, fresh air and quality time. What’s stopping you? Go and grab that ball!
Sam Wright is a journalist working for Playhouses by Flights of Fantasy.