I was moved recently when an 8-year-old I know was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Since I have known her, she has been obese. She recently spoke to me about her weight, saying that she is worried about fitting into clothes. Some members of her family have continued to give her sweet treats, saying she shouldn't be deprived.
Under recent doctor's orders, she must eliminate sugars and carbs from her diet. Her mom reports that she has withdrawal symptoms, including chills, back pain, headaches and stomach aches, and may require insulin shots. According to government studies, childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 30 years. Why is that? What is so different today? What are we feeding our children, and how much exercise are they getting?
At the risk of sounding like my beloved Grampy, "When I was a young child " I walked to school each day. High school was a mile walk, and it didn't matter if it was snowing, raining or dark outside. We walked to the roller rink on Friday nights and skated for hours. We rode bikes to the store, played running bases and walked the dog. Television was turned on occasionally after dinner or for a special show on the weekend. Cookies, candy and soda were not kept in the house, and meals were balanced with protein, vegetables and salad each night.
The percentage of U.S. children ages 6 to 11 who are obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008.
The percentage of adolescents ages 12 to 19 who are obese increased from 5 percent to 18 percent over the same period.
Overweight means having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water or a combination of those factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.
Overweight and obesity are the result of too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed.
Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease and prediabetes, and are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social or psychological problems.
Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese adults.
Adult obesity can cause heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis and cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin's lymphoma.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/obesity.
Start each new day with the decision to make it a healthy one for your child. This year a co-worker lost about 12 pounds just by giving up fast food. A friend of mine lost several sizes over the summer from running up and down the stairs multiple times every day. Eliminate daily high-carb and sugar-filled snacks and drinks that hold no nutritional value, such as chips, cake, cookies, candy and soda. Replace them with vegetables and fruit.
Serve watered-down juice, or just plain water, flavored with lemons or sliced oranges. Make your own lemonade with water, lemon juice and stevia; a natural, sugar-free sweet plant product. Pack healthy snacks before heading out to avoid fast food chains with high calorie menus. Park at the end of the lot and walk further.
Limit electronic game usage to an hour per day, and limit television. Stay active. Go for a walk after dinner, or turn on music and dance. Find fun ways to introduce nutrient packed superfoods.
Prepare meals for a child with lactose intolerance, diabetes or celiac disease at www.parenting.com/recipes.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting coach who lives in Stark County, Ohio. She is author of "Parenting with a Purpose."
Send questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702.
Find parenting resources at her website, www.parentwithapurpose.com.