Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Dear Parents,

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  Obesity in children has more than doubled and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years.  In 2012, more than one in three children and adolescents were overweight or obese.  Obesity has immediate and long-term effects on health AND well-being.  One immediate effect for kids is being the recipient of bullying by their peers at school, especially if they are in middle school. When kids get bullied at school, they isolate themselves at home and at school.  They stop participating in after-school activities.  They complain about stomach aches more often than kids who are not overweight or obese and have higher rates of absenteeism.  Then their grades start dropping.  Then their self-esteem is affected.  

Driving to work every day, I pass a middle school and an elementary school.  I always notice the kids who walk to school because growing up, I walked to school.  I see many kids struggling to walk, walking slower than other kids who are not overweight.  I see kids wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts because they are trying to cover up their size, even though it is 90 degrees outside and other kids are wearing shorts and T-shirts to school.  I notice that the overweight and obese kids are walking slower than the rest of their classmates.  How can you not notice a child who is twice the size of other kids?  

What bothers me about my goal of raising awareness about the solutions to childhood obesity is that kids who are overweight or obese need better role models.  Take today, for example.  I happened to be at the local hospital and I observed that most of the health care workers were overweight or obese.  Outside the hospital, I observed health care workers smoking (instead of walking) on their break.  In the hospital cafeteria, I saw lots of highly processed, prepackaged foods, iceberg lettuce on the salad bar (yuck!) and a large display of sodas right by the cash register.  If most adults are eating foods high in added sugars and think nothing of drinking 3 sodas a day, then is it any wonder we have an obesity epidemic in this country?

If childhood obesity is such a big problem, then do we really care enough to do something about it?  If the health care workers at my local hospital are any indication, then I would say no.  If the number of overweight and obese teachers is an indication, then I would say no.  

I could go on and on, but you catch my drift.  If childhood obesity is such a big problem, then WE MUST BE THE SOLUTION.  It is up to us to lead by example.  It is up to us to teach kids how to read food labels and be nutrition detectives.  But if we are drinking three sodas a day and taking our work breaks to smoke instead of take a 10 minute walk, then what are we really teaching our children about good health habits?  

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  Drink water, not soda.   Choose fruit instead of fruit juice.  Read food labels and don't buy food containing trans fats. Take a walk.  Make one change a week.  Be a better role model.  Choose to lead by example.  Dare to care.  Be the solution.

 NEXT WEEK:  Lessons from a box of Pop Tarts

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

PS-If your kids are age 13 and younger, then look for the details about our 4th Annual Poster Contest on the September 3rd issue of Wellness Wednesdays.   We are SO EXCITED about tapping the voice of America's children!