America: Land of the free and home of the overweight
So most of the blog posts that we do here at Heroes Journey Fitness talk about a situation, whether fitness related or life related, and the solutions that we have found. This article is much different. For this topic, I don’t have all the answers, to be honest I have very few, but I felt the need to write this article to spark a very important conversation. The conversation about how hard it is to raise our children in America with a healthy lifestyle.
Earlier this week I saw a commercial on Facebook that was produced by strong4life.com and it scared the crap out of me. I’ve linked it here.
This commercial brought into perspective for me, the father of a 20 month old, that the decisions Tiff and I make for him now will affect him into adulthood. Now to be fair, we are very stringent on feeding him healthy foods. He has had sweets maybe once in his life, doesn’t drink juice, and sees unsweetened apple sauce as a “desert.” However, what scared me the most is all the snap shots in that commercial that are things outside of my control. Like him receiving candy from a teacher, overeating on cake and ice cream at a birthday party, or staying at a friend’s house and eating nothing but pizza and McDonald’s. How do I educate my son that indulging every once in a while is not necessarily a bad thing, but eating like that on a consistent basis is not healthy for him? How do I manage the potential power struggles of him going to a friend’s house and wondering why we never eat McDonald’s or let him eat ice cream every night? How do I battle against what the American culture has deemed as “normal?”
To put things into even more perspective, according to the CDC 17% of children and adolescents are obese. That isn’t overweight, that is obese! Finding an exact definition of obese is hard, but Webster’s defines it as, “the condition of being extremely fat or overweight.” So 17%, or 12.7 million, people between the ages of 3 and 17 are obese. They don’t even provide a definition or statistic for number of children who are simply overweight. So obviously this is an uphill battle when children on average sit all day in school, have 5-7 hours a day of screen time pre day, and it is accepted for children to have unhealthy eating habits.
So as parents, what do we do? I’ve thought about this and although I don’t have hard answers, because children are all different and they don’t come with manuals, I have some ideas…
Step 1 is BE THE EXAMPLE. Children, especially small children, follow the examples of their parents. That’s why so many people find that they parent similarly to how they were parented. It’s the nurture side of nature vs. nurture. I want my son to see that not only does daddy talk the talk, but he WALKS THE WALK. He exercises and ENJOYS exercising. He spends time outside playing and going for walks instead of always being in front of the TV. He drinks water instead of always soda or beer. He eats healthy foods and ENJOYS those healthy foods. He ENJOYS deserts and sweets, BUT is able to LIMIT the amount he eats and how often he east those things. In my mind, this is step one.
Step 2 is to keep junk out of the house. Be firm in what I believe is right and be willing to be the “weird parent.” I would take being called the weird parent EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE to prevent my son from having the life experience of the man in that commercial. Don’t put yourself or your kids in the situation to be tempted by sugar because, like a drug, it is addicting and addictions are hard to break.
Step 3 is to be ready and willing to have a conversation. Be on alert and be ready to discuss with your kids how they feel after eating such foods. As adults, we all know how it goes. When we eat like crap, we feel like crap. Whether that is jitteriness with a crash, extreme fatigue the next day, a “belly ache,” headaches, etc. We experience those symptoms not because we are adults, but because we are humans who have treated our body poorly. So my point is that our children at some point will experience similar symptoms and the key is to then discuss why they may be feeling like that and that it might be because they had 3 brownies, candy, and 2 slices of ice cream cake at Johnnies birthday party. This then creates a healthy connection that “eating like that makes me feel bad. I don’t like feeling bad so I don’t want to eat like that.”
Step 4 is to be ready and willing to have this conversation with each other among our community and with others outside of it. If you decide to fight and be the change like I want to be, you will get questions. So within our community let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about how hard it is. Let’s talk about the annoying questions and faces that Sally’s mom gives us when we pack our kids lunch instead of giving her pizza. Let’s talk about how tiring it gets to fight that battle. Because if we talk about it within our community we can build each other up and let other people know that they are not fighting that battle alone. And then, be willing to engage the parents of those other kids. Be willing to explain to them why you do what you do, AND do so in a way that isn’t condescending. This is the key. Most people won’t do this on purpose, but if you speak down your nose at someone where you’re the healthy person and they are the unhealthy person, then you have lost that battle. Work extra hard to be compassionate and teach, rather than reprimand. I think if we do these things, we may just have a shot at making a difference.
If anyone has any other suggestions or questions on how to help raise a healthy family, please reach out to me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Combating Overweight America
2017 04 27