What are we, as parents doing to our children?

Obesity in our Children is something that is very easily prevented, so why is it that so many of them are Overweight or Obese. Figures show that between 1985 and 1997 the number of overweight 7–15 year olds in Australia had almost doubled and the number of obese children has more than tripled. Currently one in four of our children are either overweight or obese. At the current rate, it is predicted that nearly half of young Australians will be overweight or obese by 2020.

The rise in the number of overweight children is disturbing because it causes so many health problems and can lead to social problems. Obesity can have a major impact on how children feel about themselves and how they interact with others. Obese adolescents are more likely to have low self-esteem, which may impact on other aspects of their lives such as the development of friendships and competency at school.

Once a child is overweight it requires a lot of effort and commitment for them to return to a healthy weight. The only way to maintain a healthy weight, is to use (or ‘burn’) the energy from the foods you eat. If you eat more than you use, your body will store the extra energy as fat. Once overweight or obese our children are more than likely to remain obese as adolescents and become overweight or obese adults.

Now this is not just an Australian problem, but a worldwide one that is happening in many countries. The level of childhood obesity is increasing at alarming rates. So why is it, that we as parents are allowing this to happen to the people we love most, our Children? Especially when we all know that people who are overweight, and particularly those who are obese, have higher rates of death and illness than people of healthy weight, both overall and from a range of specific conditions. These include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, psychological problems and reproductive problems for women.

Being obese as a child or adolescent increases the risk of a range of diseases and disorders in adulthood, regardless of whether the adult is obese or not. It’s important to identify and start to reverse the condition before children become adults. Ideally, overweight and obesity should be prevented.

The main causes of obesity in children being…
• Food choices – such as choosing high fat and sugary foods instead of healthier options.
• Lack of physical activity – Australian children are less active than they were in the past.
• Spending a lot of time on sedentary pursuits – Australian children watch, on average, around 2½ hours of television a day, as well as spending time using computers and other electronic games. It seems that these pastimes are replacing active ones.
• Overweight parents – a family’s eating patterns can have a major influence on whether a child maintains a healthy weight. Some overweight parents may be less concerned about their children also being overweight than parents who have a healthy weight.
• Genetics – some rare gene disorders cause severe childhood obesity. In many other people, particular genes acting together probably make some children more susceptible to obesity. If there is a family tendency to become overweight, parents need to be even more aware of making healthy food choices for the whole family.

How to keep your children a healthy weight.
• Prepare healthy meals, with lots of fresh vegetables and salads.
• Remember that sweets are treats, and are not intended for everyday consumption.
• Walk your children to school, if you can.
• Send your children to school with healthy lunches; do not use the school canteen/cafeteria.
• Turn the T.V off and get your children outside playing.
• Have your children playing a school sport or enroll them in an out of school sport/activity.

With the majority of families having both parents working these days, I know it is hard to find the time to prepare a healthy meal, but we really need to make the time as we are literally killing our children by feeding them takeout regularly. A simple healthy meal does not take long to prepare and really aren’t your children worth that time.

WAU Australia

HomeFront Issue No 13

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