Harsh title? Toughen up buttercup, it's nothing compared to the brutal realities of the childhood obesity epidemic.
Over the last 30 years, the rates of childhood obesity have more than tripled in the United States.
Over 13 million of our children are now obese, with many millions more classified as overweight, their expanding waistlines inching their way towards the chronic health conditions that are associated with obesity.
The healthcare burden on our medical system from childhood obesity stands at 14 billion dollars per year. In this age of colossal government debt, I will forgive you if you can read this number without arching an eyebrow in disbelief. Here is another number that as a parent (or concerned friend, family member or citizen) that puts this epidemic in more immediate perspective.
Overweight kids can expect to live 14 years less than kids that are at a normal weight.
If these trends continue for another 5 years (and they show no signs of changing), the childhood obesity epidemic will drag down the average life expectancy in the U.S. by 5 years.
No matter what side of the recent vax debate you fall on politically, republican or democrat, we all love our children, and we should be asking ourselves why we are not mobilizing against this threat on a level that approaches even just 1% of the response we have given Covid19.
The blame game.
There is a lot of finger pointing going on when it comes to childhood obesity. The usual suspects have been lined up, the lack of physical activity, physical education budgets being slashed or defunded entirely, too much harmful and addictive screen time that is being peddled out to our kids by big tech companies in the way that big tobacco targeted youth with cigarettes a generation ago.
While all of that is a significant challenge, parents are ultimately responsible for the health and wellbeing of their children and must assume the majority of the responsibility for the current state of affairs.
Overweight kids are significantly more likely to needlessly suffer a laundry list of chronic medical conditions that can lead to a poor quality of life and premature death including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Cancers - breast, colon and kidney
This is the gauntlet that our overweight and obese children will have to huff and puff their way through. Many will not make it.
Not as much ink is given to the emotional and psychological impacts of life as an obese child, but it’s often scaring and leads to a lifetime of emotional struggle and pain. Low-self esteem, a negative body image, and prolonged bullying is not something that you can grow out of or get past, without doing years of therapy.
For the first time in our nation's history, children will not live as long as their parents.
Where is the outcry over the lost years and decades that our children will not live?
For the Adults in the room.
Kids that are born to just one obese or overweight parent have a coin flip chance (50/50) of becoming overweight or obese.
If both parents are overweight or obese, their child has a 80% chance of being overweight or obese. The gravity of an overweight or obese, 2 parent household is almost inescapable. Your kids are more than likely heading to a future that is going to be robbed of 14 years of life.
Kids learn by example.
Who is setting the example in your house? Who is teaching your kids about healthy eating, portion control, and the life sustaining value of exercise? You can’t expect to offload this responsibility to the education system - the stakes are just too high to outsource your child's future.
If you are currently obese or overweight, and inherited these traits from your own childhood and family dynamics, it’s not too late to break the cycle.
It’s easy to want to lay the blame on family genetics, but the truth is that the environment that your children are raised in is to blame. The majority of obesity is caused by poor eating habits and a lack of movement and exercise.
The central causes of childhood obesity.
A piss poor diet.
Too many of our kids are gorging themselves on processed foods that are high calorie, low nutrient foods.
- High sugar ‘candy’ cereals
- Fast foods
- Juices that are loaded with sugar
Who is in control of your children?
Parents have largely ceded control of their children's food choices to their kids. Faced with a screeching child in the backseat in midst of a hunger melt down who refuses to eat the packed lunch that was prepared at home, how many parents will opt to give in and swerve into the fast food drive through and toss a bag of McDonalds at the problem?
Many kids in the United States are now eating fast food everyday.
These kids are often blowing through their daily calorie allowances by hundreds if not thousands of calories per day, sometimes consuming 2 or 3 days worth of calories per day.
Tasha, a single mother of Jackson, 7 shared the following:
‘My son Jackson has an absolute meltdown when he’s hungry, but he usually refuses to eat anything that I’ve prepared for him. This. Happens. Every. Time'.
'He digs his heels in and has a hairy canary. I don’t always have the time between work or his activities to have it out with him. I’m also going to just be straight with you - I’m exhausted. Sometimes I just don’t have that fight in me every time he needs to eat something. I feel like crying most of the time, but I know everything depends on me so I have to keep my shit together. This went horribly wrong at some point, and now it just feels like it’s too late. I hate feeling like a failed parent, but that's what it feels like - I’m failing him in an attempt to survive my days’.
Do you have any advice for Tasha? Please leave it in the comments below.
80% of our kids are simply not moving enough.
How often do your children have a device in their hands?
Video Games, apps, youtube, texting and the internet have become our digital babysitters.
Tasha explains. ‘Sometimes when I just need a minute to make a call, make dinner, or just have a minute to collect myself and recharge my batteries, I will hand him my iPad. I won’t hear from Jackson for as long as I allow him to have a screen in his hands. I feel guilty when it goes much longer than 15 minutes at a go, but it's the only way I can get 15 minutes of unbroken time to do anything around the house’.
Our kids are spending 5 hours per day on screens.
All of this highly addictive screen time is time that previous generations of children typically spent moving around and playing. Couple this lack of exercise with terrible eating habits and you set the stage for the epidemic of obesity that threatens to shorten the lifespan of our children.
The Parents Role in Preventing Childhood obesity.
At the time of writing, 71% of the adult population in the United States, is either overweight or obese. Kids are inheriting their parents poor eating habits, and almost total lack of exercise and movement.
Obesity is being passed down from generation to generation.
Kids Mimic their Parents.
To break this inherited cycle of obesity, parents have to be the living, breathing example for their children. Your kids can idolize professional athletes, but Tom Brady or Lewis Hamilton is not in charge of your kids' health - you are.
Children need to see their parents consistently working out and making healthy food choices. Even if you are obese yourself, you can demonstrate to your children that exercise and fitness is important, and you can show them the value of dedication, courage and consistency when it comes to your own weight loss efforts.
If you don’t care about your body, and your health, chances are, your kids are heading towards a premature death.
There is a reason that here at BodyRock, we choose to workout in our living rooms (or other exercises spaces in the home). It’s so that the kids of our community members can experience and normalize having fitness as a part of their home life. We encourage our members (BodyRockers) to stream their workouts in front of their kids and families so that mom and dad become a living, loving example of the importance of working out. Your kids might dance around you while you train, they might mimic your movements. Don’t get annoyed by this. Let them mimic you. You are imprinting habits on them that will lead to a much greater quality of life.
- Set the best example that you can when it comes to making healthy eating choices in front of your kids.
- Try to start the day with a healthy meal. Then move on to lunch and dinner.
- Start cutting off your reliance on fast food, processed foods and sugary drinks.
If you have an established pattern of your child controlling their food choices, this is going to likely feel like a knife fight. It’s going to be a battle, and you might not always have the time or energy to shift the dynamic. But retreating and giving in to save your sanity is being bought at the expense of the years that your child won’t live. As hard and unpleasant as that is to hear, those are the stakes.
- Look into what they are feeding your kids at school. Lunch and after school food programs are often operated by companies who offer the lowest bid, not the best food. Get informed.
Make sure that your kids are getting enough exercise. Team sports can be great, but so can activities like bike riding, walking or hiking. Get involved.
The Good News.
Childhood obesity is preventable. By taking back control of your family's diet, limiting screen time and being the living example of the importance of exercise in the home, you can reset the narrative and avoid being one of the terrifying statistics in this article. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile is, and I think that we can agree that your kids are worth the fight.
Come and train with us at BodyRockPlus.com
Our fitness platform, BodyRockPlus, has dozens of workout programs that you can do at home. Our equipment has been specifically designed to be safe for home use. We deliver better than gym quality workouts, led by trainers that are parents themselves. We have workouts that have been specifically designed for beginners - workouts that will deliver results, but that you can actually do. We pride ourselves on being inclusive of beginners and people who might be restarting their fitness journeys after a prolonged break.
Try our Introduction to Strength Training, our Intro to HIIT, or one of our Beginner Bootcamps. Stream them proudly at home, and be the example that your kids need.
If you need some fitness gear, we are running a 30% off promotion that includes free gifts. You can check out our home fitness gear and get 30% off here.