Weight : The Reality of Childhood Obesity

by Gwen Marzano, Garden of Life Educator and Certified RAW, Vegan Chef

The reality of childhood obesity inevitably is an emotional and sensitive topic that many parents face today. Having addressed this heart-wrenching topic with parents, I find strength and courage from families who are applying new and creative ways to come out of a dark hole we call "obesity."

The facts are anything but pleasant. Obesity in children has almost tripled since 1980. Approximately 17 percent of children under the age of 18 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Children today are eating an average of 150 pounds of sugar per year (six cups per week). In addition to sugar, processed foods dominate almost every aisle of the grocery store. With an increase in unhealthy food choices and a decrease in physical activity, the consequential result is rising childhood obesity statistics.

Obesity is harmful to the life of the child and is frustrating to parents who want to turn it around, but sometimes don't know how. Parents have the most influential role in the development of their child's eating habits. A child pays very close attention to his parents' actions, including their food choices. Enthusiastically providing a clear example of healthy eating is of paramount importance to every child. If you aren't eating your greens with gusto, chances are your little one won't, either. On the other hand, if you love your fresh garden fruits and vegetables, then chances are your child will, too.

Having been a classroom teacher, I have seen the power of motivation and reward. Affirming and acknowledging our children are highly motivating, whether they are in pre-school or junior high. Additionally, hearing them out in conversations about healthy eating is important and powerful. Allowing them to earn a reward is empowering, too. Rewards can be given for making positive changes and better food choices. As an example, looking forward to a trip to the mall or the movies could motivate your child to make his or her own healthy lunch that weekójust to get that reward! Meanwhile, new and better eating habits are taking shape and, hopefully, permanently taking hold.

As your child continues with your encouragement and example, soon he or she will find new energy and better moods abounding! However, you may be the one needed to take notice of and call some attention to that fact. Relax in knowing that it's all part of the beginning of your child's new healthier life, and rest assured that your entire family will benefit from these efforts that you chose to set in motion.

The truth is that the reality of obesity has met its match in the reality of your influence and example.
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