Amazingly adults often underestimate the power of their influence over children. Children learn a lot in their youth about relationships, work ethic and responsibility from their parents but what is often forgotten is what children learn about eating healthy and getting enough exercise.
Many obese children are that way for a few reasons. One reason is that not getting enough exercise and not eating right is a lifestyle for the entire family. In these households this choice may be made for a few reasons. The first is that it is possible that the parents have also been raised in a household where health is not a priority and now are simply doing what they feel is appropriate. In other households, it is possible that families do not feel they can afford to eat healthy. Eating healthy is not always the cheapest option upfront but when you consider health care bills etc. it is easy to make the switch. Exercise however although not always cheap if belonging to a gym can be free. You can exercise at home. Go for a run. Play in a youth sports league. All of these options are sometimes not considered by families.
Another reason for obesity in children is guilt. I have a very close friend who is a single parent. Her daughter is obese because her mother feels such guilt about her not having a father in her life that she gets whatever she wants. Ice cream for dinner, macaroni and cheese for every meal, watching TV instead of being outside playing. The unfortunate side of this is that these choices are being engrained in her little mind and as she grows up she will associate eating and watching TV as those things she does when she is sad and will continue to do this.
The third reason for childhood obesity is simply laziness on the part of the parents. Let’s face it after working long days like many of us do we prefer to pick up McDonald’s than to actually go home and make dinner. We prefer to sit on the couch than to be running our children from this event to the next. We prefer to sleep in on a Saturday morning than to take our kids to a soccer game. Video games are a nice babysitter for our kids…..Are you seeing a trend?
Children that grow up in any of these households find this behavior normal. Many will grow up believing that if their parents lived this way than it must be right. Being healthy is a lifestyle not genetic. Even for those who are naturally skinny, eating only McDonald’s and not exercising will not make them healthy. Children need to grow up in an environment where parents teach them to care about what goes into their bodies and help them understand how important daily exercise really is.
We need to get back to a time where playing outside was more fun for children than playing video games. We need to get back to a time when healthy meals and playing outside as a family are normal activities. Until that time, children who are obese as children will be obese as adults. Only they can break the trend by making lifestyle changes and teaching their own children the healthy way to live.