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Childhood Obesity

It’s something that brings up an emotional response because there are the critics and then there are those who have to live with the problem.  What causes childhood obesity is the question that has no definitive answer.

Parents are accused of feeding their children only junk food, the food industry is accused of adding sugar and fat to products, the entertainment industry is accused of… well, getting kids to watch TV or a movie instead of going out to play.

Who or what is to blame for every case may never be answered satisfactorily, but most experts agree that poor food choices and a lack of exercise combine to make obesity a real problem for many.

The human body was designed in such a way that it will store energy in the form of fat when it isn’t needed at the moment.

When food supplies were less dependable and when daily life meant continual activity, energy storage made perfect sense.

It meant that when a meal was eaten, the part that wasn’t needed right then was stored for when it was needed. That’s logical and sensible, and nature is that.

Nature doesn’t always keep up with the times, though.

Now food is available around the clock and in embarrassingly huge amounts for much of the world’s population. Children are encouraged to have a “healthy appetite,” which means “Eat, eat, eat…”

“It’s healthy,” we say. It’s not, except for very young children and babies, who need a lot of calories in comparison to the size of their stomachs.

It would be cruel to immediately and strictly limit the caloric intake of an obese child and one should not do so, especially in a negative manner.

Work on a positive change. Instead of taking away all sweets and other high calorie food, add other, healthier options.

Offer fruit for snacks and use flour tortillas or pita bread instead of sandwich bread. Begin a gradual change by adding more salads and making salad dressings yourself.

Popcorn is better than potato chips and fruit drinks are better than soda. There are many ways to make small changes that will reduce the calories taken.

Encourage an obese child to be more active. Invite them for a walk (that means you have to walk, too!) even if it’s a walk through the mall.

Challenge them to a little exercise. (I bet I can take fewer steps from here to there than you can.) Gradually, go on to more strenuous things.

There are no easy fixes for obesity in children, but little changes will add up. Obesity can’t be turned around in a day, a week or even a month, but changes that are brought on slowly enough to become ingrained in the child’s life can make a difference in a child’s weight and overall fitness and it will last a lifetime.

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