A few short years ago child obesity was a rare thing but today it is all too common around the world and especially in the United States, which now has one of the highest rates of child obesity of any country in the world. There are of many reasons for this problem, but here are the three main causes:
1. A lack of exercise. When I think back to my own childhood it was common for kids to spend most of their free time out of the house running around all over the neighborhood with their friend on their bikes or skateboards or playing games like basketball and football. We rarely spent any time sitting around at home and it was a case of getting home from school, dropping off your schoolbag, grabbing a quick glass of milk and perhaps a cookie and then heading out to play.
Today however we have seen two major changes when it comes to the level of activity of our children. The first is that we have become extremely protective of our children and restrict where they can go to keep them away from danger and what they can do to prevent them from getting hurt. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is something which we can argue in its own right but, as far as we are concerned here, there is no doubt that this has resulted in a dramatic drop in the level of physical activity of your children. The second major change has been the arrival of such things as home computers and video games which have turned a whole generation of kids into couch potatoes.
2. The availability of junk food. Hate it or love it junk food in the form of such things as hamburgers, pizzas, ice cream and potato chips are everywhere today and, while we used to eat such things as an occasional ‘treat’, these foods have now become the staple diet for many children. When I was a kid my mom used to send me off to school with a healthy packed lunch of perhaps a sandwich on whole wheat bread and an apple or orange, but today kids are given money to buy lunch in the school cafeteria and more often than not choose something like pizza and french fries.
Junk food may be convenient, and certainly tastes good to a kid, but it is invariably greasy, high in salt and extremely high in sugar and it adds up to a lot of calories very quickly. Vending machine are everywhere today selling chocolate bars and bags of chips and, perhaps worst of all, high sugar soft drinks (which make up as much as twenty five percent of the daily calorie intake for many young adults today) and also available at every turn.
3. Busy parents. We all lead busy lives these days and that often means that the practice of sitting down as a family for a healthy breakfast before starting the day and for a home cooked meal in the evening has all but disappeared in many households. Indeed, in a lot of cases, parents no longer know how to cook anything other than scrambled eggs and so it is often a case of picking up dinner on the way home from work or ordering in. And what do you pick up or order in? You guessed it, pizza, hamburgers, fried chicken or some other high fat, high salt, high sugar junk meal.
But the problem goes even further than this of course because not only are we no longer cooking healthy meals for our kids, but we are also not taking the time to educate them about food choices or to supervise what they are eating. We send them out in the morning with money in their pocket to buy food during the day but leave it entirely up to them to decide what they spend their money on.
The problem of child obesity is already at epidemic proportions and is getting worse by the day but the real problem is that we as parents are often causing the problem, or at least doing little if anything to solve it. It doesn’t take a genius to find the answer to the problem of child obesity and it is time that more parents started taking more responsibility for the upbringing of their kids.