Are We Passing Obesity to Our Children?

How Your Habits Directly Affect Your Child’s Health

How Childhood Obesity is Learned from Parents
The obesity epidemic isn’t just at crisis level among adults. Our behavior is passed to our children as easily and silently as our genes. We must be healthy examples to keep our children healthy.

How would you feel if you knew that your actions were likely putting your children’s health at risk? Certainly, this isn’t your intention, but your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors regarding nutrition and physical activity are handed down to your children just as easily as your genes.


When you make choices consistent with healthy living, your little ones are much more likely to do the same. And, that’s the goal – you don’t want them struggling with food and weight issues, perhaps like you did, when they become adults and start making decisions without your input.


It’s easy enough to point your finger elsewhere and blame your children’s weight issues on sugary cereals, unhealthy food commercials aimed at children and fast food places that promote eating greasy, high calorie food to kids but it’s time to get real and take some responsibility. Yes, all of these factors may contribute to the issue but the bottom line is that you, as a parent, play the starring role in determining your children’s health outcome.


Show little Johnny to eat sweets, high-fat snacks and processed foods (just as you do) and you’ve increased his chances of childhood obesity which often results in type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and overall bad health. However, if you show him that fruits, veggies, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates are what you eat because you care about your health, he will learn to do the same.


Now, you’re likely to say, “Hey! What about genetics? Don’t they matter?” Yes, they certainly are a factor but to use them as an excuse isn’t going to do your children any favors. People defy science every day and you will do more good for your child if you teach them to quit making excuses and focus on what they can change instead.


Childhood Obesity Is An Epidemic


More children in this country are facing obesity related issues than ever before. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where schools are removing vending machines and altering their lunch programs because children are not making good choices. Why? Because nutrition and healthy living starts at home!


Look at it this way: It is expected that a whopping one in three children born this year will develop type 2 diabetes at some time in their childhood. So, if you’ve been fortunate enough to have three children, one of them is likely to receive this diagnosis. Is this enough to get you to live what you preach?


What Your Habits Tell Your Children


Certainly, you probably try to tell your children to eat their veggies and lay off fatty foods, but is that what you’re showing them? Do you make the same choices that you wish your children would make? If not, why?


No parent is perfect and kids can definitely learn bad habits no matter how much you try to steer them in the opposite direction; however, as a parent, you always have to remember that you serve as the #1 role model to your children. 


So, if your kids watch you take an extra portion of pasta at dinner, for instance, they see that as normal and will tend to mimic that behavior.  If they watch you sneak ice cream or cookies between meals, they will likely follow in your footsteps there as well.


The Problem With Certain Foods


You may be wondering why you can’t feed your children pasta and sugary sweets. After all, they’re not real bad, are they? As it turns out, they are.


These two types of foods have one thing in common - they are both treated as sugar in your body.  While pasta (and other products made from white flour) may not look like anything like ice cream, it is a starch which means that it breaks down into simple sugars when you digest it. This causes a spike in insulin levels followed by a major crash.


It is this imbalance in insulin levels that creates food cravings and often triggers the start of overeating and eventual obesity.  Therefore, when you feed your children large amounts of processed and refined foods like white bread and pasta, you create a blood sugar roller coaster that gives them constant cravings for sugary foods and drinks, as well as other foods that will break down rapidly into glucose.


It’s understandable that you get super busy and don’t feel like spending all your spare time in the kitchen to cook a healthy home cooked meal. After all, between work, taking care of the house, after-school sports activities and the ever increasing homework that children are given, it can be hard enough to find time to eat, let alone cook a meal.


Unfortunately, this creates a huge reliance on prepared or fast foods and gives your children a diet that is high in calories, preservatives, and sodium, but extremely low in nutrients.  Combine this with huge portion sizes (despite the outcry from the government to get rid of supersizes) and your job as a parent gets that much harder when it comes to nutrition.


Physical Activity Matters


Food isn’t the only thing that can lead your children to obesity as the amount of physical activity that kids get nowadays compared to years past is minimal. When you were little, you likely spent your time outdoors building tree forts and playing tag. Today’s children spend a majority of their time in front of the television, computer, smartphone or video game and the only movement their body experiences is their little fingers maneuvering the keys or joystick.


Children used to get more physical activity in school too. Unfortunately, budget cuts at the educational level all too frequently lead to the elimination of physical education and sports. Schools that do have P.E. generally only offer it on certain days instead of on a daily basis like years ago.


In addition, if you are required to work outside the home to help support your family, it is all too easy to enable their inactive lifestyles. You may feel like you need to compensate for your time apart by allowing them to spend evenings and weekends watching television and playing video games or maybe you just need a breather when you get home.


While you may think you’re adding to their life satisfaction by letting them do something that they enjoy, you are likely decreasing their life expectancy due to their lack of physical activity. Children need at least an hour of physical activity every day, yet most do not get even half of that amount! 


What You Can Do


Thankfully, there are many things you can do to help prevent or even reverse obesity in your children. Granted, some of them may take work on your part, especially if you struggle with food related issues yourself, but your kids are more than worth it (and it will benefit you too)!


It is extremely important that you set a healthy example because kids mimic what they see their parents do. Not what they are told, but what they see with their own two eyes.


To begin, you’ll want to engage in healthy eating behaviors by eating foods that are nutritious. Build meals around lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fruits and veggies. Bake, broil, grill and roast instead of frying in oil. Choose herbs and spices over salts and sugars for seasonings.


When it comes to snacks, keep a bowl of fresh fruit available or chop up some veggies and keep them in the fridge with hummus or low-calorie ranch dressing. It is absolutely okay to give your children treats every now and then, but this way of eating should be the exception and not the rule.


This may take a complete overhaul of your current eating lifestyle, but you’re better off showing your children that you care enough about them and their health to watch what they eat – even if it is the harder route to take.


If your children already struggle with their weight, putting them on a restrictive diet is not the answer. Instead, teach them how to make healthier food choices, increase their physical activity, and decrease their portion sizes and snacks. Your child may not see a reduction in sweets as an act of love, but it’s a small price to pay for the reward of avoiding diabetes and other life-shortening illnesses.


Also, make it a point to be active with your children. Although you may be tempted to leave them in front of their computer or video game so that you can enjoy some well-earned quiet time, remember that they’re only young once. Use each and every opportunity available to build quality memories that you’ll both cherish well into your old age.


Engage them in the games that you used to enjoy when you were little. Teach them the fun of tag or playing cops and robbers. Or, better yet, let them make up their own game and teach it to you. Kids love to share their imagination and creativity!


Finally, teach your children why good nutrition is a must. It’s not enough to say, “You will eat this and you can’t have that” because it is only when they know and truly understand what fat, sugar and salt do to their body that they can apply that reasoning to future choices.


You can’t control everything your children do, but you can give them a strong foundation from which to start. Follow these suggestions and that is exactly what you’ll be doing!



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