Every generation of youth has its fads and signs of “I’ll do it my way” in their clothing, jewelry or hairstyles. But one trend is setting this current younger set apart – obesity. More and more of our children and young people are getting “tummy rolls”, flabby and just plain fat at an age when they should be at their best physically.
Why? I think the answer is obvious. Junk food is too readily available to our young people. Mochas and burgers are usually just a 5 minute drive from the high school so teens have access to empty calories throughout the day. To make matters worse, cafeterias offer fast-food type foods since “they are going to eat it anyway”, not to mention vending machines flash their impulse foods in many nooks and crannies of the school halls.
How do we combat this? How can a parent help their youngsters to avoid the slippery slide into poor health and obesity? Thankfully, we are seeing more and more cooperation in the schools in eliminating vending machines and making better menus for the cafeterias. But the first, best choice obviously is to teach them EARLY to make better choices when eating. Help them to see the benefits of healthy eating habits while they are young. As they get older, talk about heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, etc. and how they are a direct result of regular poor food choices.
When I was young, I remember seeing drunks slumped on the side of the street downtown. My dad would comment that the poor fellow made one too many bad decisions and chose alcohol as a solution to his life’s problems. Alcohol has its way with a man’s life, slowly killing him unless he makes a radical turn around.
So, what does this have to do with junk food? It is so relevant it is frightening. Doctors are finally making some headway both in research and diagnosis of diabetes (and the other biggie: heart disease). It is glaringly obvious that these diseases are a direct result of our regular ingestion of junk calories. Sugar and its white cousins are implicated as the base causes for diabetes and heart disease the second cousins of obesity in adults. Sugar is slowly killing us just as surely as alcohol is killing the drunk – unless we make a radical about face… and STOP eating the food that is killing us.
Why don’t parents do the same for their kids and careless eating choices? Why don’t we take them to the hospital CCU and long-term care wards to see the final results of eating too much sugar. Hey, we don’t even need to go that far. Fat and wheezing folks surround us when we do our shopping. Why not point out (discretely) that they, like the alcoholic, are headed for certain and miserable death.
Why don’t we? Because we as parents are ourselves becoming victims of these diseases and either out of ignorance or carelessness suffer from early or advancing symptoms of these diseases. The junk food, empty calories that are making our children chubby are the same food forms that we are ourselves addicted to. It is hard to admit that we are the cause of our children’s malady; that we are the ones that need to make a change – first.
But we can change! And we must for our children’s sake as well as our own. Let’s begin by making better choices when it comes to eating both at home and when we are away. You know that you will be hungry when you are gone from home, so plan to take some good food choices along. Almonds, dried fruit like raisins, fresh fruit, a small cooler with cheese sticks, bottled water or juices. Even a sandwich or veggies on ice are an excellent option. If you know you want something sweet, plan to take along cookies you made at home or granola bars you bought ahead of time.
Solutions are easy. Discipline is hard. Take it one step at a time toward better food choices. Begin today to take responsibility to improve the health of your children and young people. Give them a chance to live long, healthy useful lives.