It is hard to go more than a few weeks as a parent in America and not hear something about the childhood obesity “epidemic” that is plaguing the country. Whether it pertains to the desire for schools to make school lunches healthier, the banning of vending machines in schools or other related issues, the weight of our children seems to be a primary focus among the media, the schools and parents alike.
My Personal Perspective
When I was growing up, I was a “latch-key kid.” Both of my parents worked until almost 8pm every night, so the rule was that I couldn’t go out to play after school or all summer long. I had to lock myself away in the house and find something safe and quiet to keep me busy. Usually, this meant reading a book or watching the TV. Of course, back then, we didn’t have 24-hour children’s programming, so the shows that appealed to me were limited to a very short time period. I read a lot.
Likewise, my parents were not exactly healthy eaters. They are a “meat and potatoes” kind of couple, and they stocked the house with after school snacks like cream-filled, pre-packaged “cakes”, sugary soda and potato chips. Needless to say, I spent a considerable amount of my younger years overweight. It was not until middle school when I joined one of the school’s sports teams that I lost weight. Somehow, despite the fact that we didn’t have Internet back then and our house was not filled with health and weight loss books, it occurred to me that the foods I was eating were not exactly healthy. I stopped eating the garbage I was eating, reduced my portion sizes and started exercising. When I wasn’t working out at home, I would be doing situps, jumping jacks or jumping rope at home. The result was that I lost a dramatic amount of weight in a short period of time. I went from being that kid that everyone picked on and teased to the girl that boys actually wanted to date.
Later, with my three pregnancies, I had the not-so-pleasant experience of gaining about 50-60 pounds with each pregnancy. Every mother knows that much of this weight remains long after the babies are born, so I was left with the challenge of losing this weight again on three occasions in my adult years. Was it easy? No. Each time, it took about nine months to a year to lose it, but most of it remains off even today thanks to reasonable meals and a fair amount of exercise. It would have been easier to leave it on, but I had been “big” before, and I didn’t want to relive that experience again. My youngest child is now six, so I can tell you that the weight is gone and is staying off. There isn’t yo-yo dieting involved. My current lifestyle promotes a healthy body weight, and that’s all that is involved.
With My Own Kids
I was never highly athletic as a child, but my husband and I have told each of our kids that they must do one sport. It can be a team sport or an individual sport. We even have suggested that our oldest train on her own and run 3Ks or 5Ks now that she is older and has shown an interest in running. The rule, however, is that you cannot just sit there and do nothing. However, when they are home, we do allow them to lounge around and relax. They play video games and watch TV, but they also get out there and do some type of physical activity on a regular basis.
We eat healthier than my family did when I was a child, but we don’t eat as healthy as other families we know. That being said, however, we also don’t eat out at restaurants as much as other families, as I believe those meals are too high in fat and contain too many calories. All of my kids as well as my husband and I are within a healthy body weight and are in good physical condition.
What I’ve Learned
Weight and health have been focal points in my life, as I’m sure they are in so many other people’s lives. In my experience, the only factors that really made a huge difference in these areas related to the foods we eat and the amount of exercise we get. I’m not a marathon runner. My main exercising involves yoga and walking around the block, but I’m healthy and partake in these exercises regularly.
After losing a significant amount of weight four different times in my life, when I hear that America’s children are overweight, I don’t blame the school lunches or the vending machines. After all, my kids go to those same schools and eat those same lunches, as so many other healthy kids do. Instead, I look to the parents. This may be a harsh view to take, but kids ultimately develop their lifestyle habits from their parents in some way. It isn’t too hard to get your kids to eat healthy meals and to get a decent amount of exercise on a regular basis, but it must be done if you want your kids to be healthy.
Here are a few other articles written by this author:
How Positive is Your Parenting?
Helping Your Kids Through Fights with Friends
Kids and Friend Drama: When to Step In