Going from Fat to Fit
Childhood obesity is at an all time high and poses a serious threat to the health of today’s kids. Obese kids are at risk for a number of health problems not usually seen until adulthood including hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Overweight kids tend to grow into overweight adults, further increasing their chances of suffering weight related health problems. Fortunately, being overweight or even obese is completely reversible – with a sound plan of action, kids (and the rest of us) can go from fat to fit, enjoying the benefits of robust health, increased energy, and the sense of pride that comes from tackling and conquering a problem.
Formulating a PlanBecoming overweight takes time, so it stands to reason that getting fit won’t happen overnight, either. Many people try (and fail) repeatedly when trying to lose weight and improve their fitness, mostly because they get discouraged when they realise that it takes a long term commitment to truly make a difference in their fitness level. Kids who are overweight need the support of their families in order to become healthy. Often, overweight and obese children are members of families who do not understand the importance of eating well and staying active or have parents who themselves struggle with unresolved weight issues. The best solution is for families of overweight kids to decide that they will, as a group, make the necessary changes in their everyday habits to be healthy and fit.
Eating RightMost experts agree that children should not be put on “diets” for the purpose of weight loss. Instead, they should be retrained to eat healthy, well balanced meals made up of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Sweets are fine on occasion, but should not be a regular addition to the menu. Parents should never single out an overweight child, but should instead serve healthy meals to the entire family as all members will benefit from eating right, even those who are not carrying excess weight. It also helps when families sit down together for meals. Not only does this encourage talk and bonding, but eating relaxed meals rather than gulping down fast food allows kids’ bodies to register that they are full before they’ve quickly polished off too much fat, sugar, and calories.
Get MovingWhile dietary changes are necessary for optimal health, exercise is perhaps the most important component in long term fitness. Active people feel better, are more energized, and experience fewer health problems that those who are sedentary. Even small changes can make a difference, so taking a brisk family walk or bike ride each evening is a great first step toward fitness. Ultimately, all kids (and adults!) should get at least an hour of vigorous activity every day, but for those who haven’t been getting any exercise, starting small and gradually increasing their workout time is the best way to keep on track.
UnplugTwo major contributors to the growing obesity problem are the television and the computer. Kids today are far more likely to spend time indoors sitting motionless than any generation in the past. It’s no coincidence that this generation of kids is the fattest in recorded history, as well. One of the most common excuses that people offer for not exercising is lack of time. Many of these same people, though, manage to find time for their favourite television shows and to keep up with their online friends. More often than not, that time would be better spent exercising, participating in a sport, or simply playing actively with family members and friends.