Children grace the world with tremendous beauty. They naturally possess a sense of wonderment, innocence, joy, high energy, charm, and a unique knack to speak their mind and make us laugh. Every child deserves an opportunity for a bright and healthy future. Sadly however, in several parts of the world, children are suffering terribly due to severe conditions of poverty and malnourishment. It’s equally disheartening to observe what’s happening on the other side of the spectrum—children who become obese increase their risk of developing cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea. Not only does childhood obesity come with a host of issues such as joint problems, limited mobility, low self-esteem, and social discrimination, it leads to a shorter life expectancy.
In April 2015, statistics from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) indicated that the obesity rate of children ages 6-11 has more than doubled in the past 30 years, and quadrupled for adolescents in the age group of 12-19. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm. Several factors have contributed to this widespread dilemma including a child’s home environment, poor eating habits, lack of physical activity, side-effects of particular medications, plus a great deal more. Although behaviors are influenced by many sectors of society, parents play a huge role in their children’s upbringing and overall health. When parents practice what they preach by eating healthy foods and making exercise a priority, they’re doing far more than just setting an example of healthy behaviors. Health-conscious parents are providing their children with a tremendous psychological and social advantage which helps them evolve into adulthood with a strong sense of well-being and confidence.
Consider Rachael, at the age of ten, she observed that her parents were always in a better mood after going to the gym. Rachael asks her Dad if she can tag along and experience the same mood-lifting perks of exercise. Dad says she’s too young to go into the free weight section or work out with any machines. She pleads with Mom and gets a similar answer. Luckily however, the next time Mom goes to the gym, she hears about super Summer Camp for kids, ages five through twelve. https://www.lifetimefitness.com/en/programs-and-events/family/kids-fitness.html. This program (offered through Life Time Fitness), includes a weekly field trip for kids to learn and explore while promoting physical activities and healthy life skills. Mom signs her up and Rachael absolutely loves it! Although Rachael wasn’t lifting weights like her Mom or Dad, she emulated her parents by welcoming the challenges of physical activity and reaping similar benefits. Summer Camp helped Rachael to develop sharp mental skills, build physical stamina, increase self-esteem and make new friends.
At home, her parents reinforced a healthy lifestyle by cooking nutritious meals and enjoying family time together. In school, Rachael excelled in sports and became very popular. The next school year, Rachael witnessed Donna, an obese peer, get harassed by a classmate bully. While other students were too afraid to befriend Donna, Rachael had the courage to defend her. Not only did Rachael exchange some sharp words with the bully, she struck up a friendly conversation with Donna. Later, Rachael learned that Donna’s parents are divorced and she lives with her Dad who rarely cooks meals at home. Donna eats fast food almost every single day. Disturbingly, even if Donna increased her physical activity, her efforts to lose weight would be derailed by poor eating patterns. She is a victim of her Dad’s unhealthy lifestyle.
It’s unfortunate that many parents have never been educated properly on how to develop healthy behaviors. To complicate matters, when parents go through difficult circumstances in life, taking care of their own health is often the last item on their agenda. Consequently, when their health goes on the back burner, this has a spiral effect on their family. Yet, the long-term solution to this battle is not simply a nutrition and exercise program. It’s about education that teaches the development of healthy behaviors to both parents and children alike. For many generations, the health education arena has been missing a comprehensive, uniform model to pilot behaviors that promote all dimensions of health and well-being. For instance, if we teach individuals how to eat healthy, but fail to address the root causes behind emotional eating, we’ve only focused on a partial remedy that is temporary at best.
Any feasible system that supports the development of healthy behaviors must encompass all dimensions of well-being—the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. The strategic approach to combat obesity entails a collaborated effort between families, schools, health clubs, wellness centers, holistic treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, faith-based institutions and other community organizations. Our endeavors and programs would work more efficiently and make a far greater impact if they were connected to a larger scale. Is it possible to get everybody on the same page? YES!!! The Proactive Health Solution provides a fundamental process to teach healthy behaviors and promote all dimensions of well-being. It’s an integrated, educational model that can empower us individually and link us collectively. Isn’t it time we progress into a new era of enlightenment? What’s your role in preventing childhood obesity?
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