Our rights as Americans include freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom to eat whatever we want. O.K., maybe that last one isn’t directly in the constitution, but it’s definitely true.
It’s no secret that over the past few decades the average weight of Americans has increased about 20 pounds since 1990, according to the Center for Disease Control. With this weight gain has come an increasing amount of obesity-related issues such as heart disease and type two diabetes.
While these problems are nothing new, what has become alarming is the rate at which children are developing these same problems. The CDC stated that in 2003, about 3,700 children were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and while that figure may not seem too problematic, it has surely grown in the past decade. This goes beyond being bullied for being overweight and enters the stratosphere of serious health problems.
So, what are the causes? Children become obese for the same reasons that adults do – too much food and not enough activity.
But, most often, children are not in control of their diet. They simply eat what they’re given. Parents have the responsibility of being a good role model and providing a healthy atmosphere for their children. It’s the responsibility of the parents to feed their children properly, not only for their immediate health, but also for developing good dietary habits.
We often develop most habits, good and bad, during our youth. Diet is no different. It’s hard to blame the overweight 10-year-old when his mother is feeding him McDonald’s and TV dinners every day for years. Many parents just don’t understand how important it is, and until they do, I don’t see the childhood obesity problem turning around.
Although I do think parents are the main culprit and have the best opportunity to turn things around, there are a few other factors worth noting. School lunches now give students options like pizza and burgers for lunch, and these are usually the first pick for most children. This goes back to parenting and educating children on proper nutrition so they can make better choices when given this freedom.
Speaking of education, there is a lack of simple nutrition classes in elementary schools and throughout. This is often overlooked just as physical activity. Every individual in America eats food, yet nutrition is a rarity in most teaching plans.
Finally, parents and schools both have to fight against advertising. It’s not hard to notice the ratio of fast food to fruit commercials. We are constantly bombarded with food and, typically, with the ones we should be consuming the least.
There are a dozen other factors I could mention, but at the end of the day, it comes back to parents’ understanding while, yes, they have the freedom to eat. However they choose, they shouldn’t forget the old adage, “Monkey see, monkey do.”