It was once the case that each new generation was expected to live longer than its predecessor due to medical advances, but the advent of the obesity crisis means this is no longer so. The majority of people who are obese as a child will continue to have a weight problem as they enter adulthood, increasing their risk of developing potentially deadly ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Excessive body fat has also been linked to several types of cancer.
But why are so many children fat these days?
I think that the blame often lies with the parents. In ascending order, the following are what I consider to be the five main ways mothers and fathers are inadvertently bloating their kids:
#5: The ‘Puppy Fat’ Excuse
Although some children do have some extra “puppy fat” (which usually disappears once the child hits puberty as a result of hormone rebalancing), many parents wrongly use the term to describe a child who is actually overweight due to eating too much and doing too little.
Overweight children who are told that they are not really fat will continue to overindulge and spend their weekends being sedentary in front of the television, assuming their fat will disappear with no effort as they approach their teenage years. Parents and relatives will also continue to give these children sweet treats regularly and this is also detrimental.
#4: Heavy Reliance on Convenience Foods
Contemporary life can be quite hectic for mums and dads, especially as an increasing number of women are choosing to return to work after giving birth in order to contribute to the ever-increasing household living costs. This can see many orders placed with the local fried chicken house or Pizza Hut store when dinner time rolls around for convenience and this food is likely to be served to their children also.
Even parents that do manage to avoid regularly indulging on waist-expanding takeaways are still quite likely to fill their child up on microwave meals from time to time. Such foods comprise a low amount of nutrition and a whole heap of preservatives, both of which can skew the body’s ability to digest fat and utilize energy properly.
#3: Being an Overweight/Unhealthy Mum or Dad
Parents often wish to set a good example for their kids when it comes to proper manners and work ethics but those mothers and fathers with a spare tire (or three) don’t often consider their surplus weight to influence a child’s behavior also.
‘Monkey see; monkey do’ is very much the case when it comes to toddlers and so if they see you regularly snacking on unhealthy, fatty foods then they could subconsciously mimic these habits as they age. Any later attempt to limit the bags of crisps and/or chocolate bars consumed by said child is likely to be greeted with a loud tantrum too, due to the obvious hypocrisy. The same theory applies when it comes to levels of exercise. A child from a family of overweight individuals is unlikely to even recognize that they have a weight issue until they experience bullying in the classroom or by the playground cubby house.
#2: The ‘Clearing Your Plate’ Rule
Many generations have implemented the rule that no child is allowed to leave the table until they have cleared their plate entirely of food. There is little doubt that this rule has contributed to the obesity of some children, since doing such trains the stomach to hold more than its standard capacity. This makes it easier for a child to overindulge again in the future.
A healthy child will generally eat as much as they can whenever they happen to be hungry so be conscious of how much food you put on the plate. It is wiser to give a child a smaller meal than an excessively large one, since seconds can always be requested (just don’t allow them to have thirds also!)
#1: No Calorie Consideration
Parents often forget that children require quite a few less calories in their diet than an adult. Whereas Mum needs around 2,000 calories each day (and Dad around 2,500) to maintain a healthy weight, children need significantly less. This is why it is vital that parents don’t simply serve their children exactly the same meals as their own.
Liquid calories are usually forgotten about also – drinks such fruit juice and soda contain much energy. Parents should encourage their children to drink water most of the time, since this is calorie-free and can help to aid digestion too.
Author Marshall Green is a father of three children. He recently installed a wide variety of play equipment in his back garden to help his kids exercise more.
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