“Medical experts have warned that our children are on track to be less healthy than we are.” – First Lady Michelle Obama
We should be ashamed of that fact.
Michelle Obama is leading the charge against childhood obesity. We’ve already seen her tending the White House vegetable garden and encouraging children to participate in the growing process. Now she’s taking that enthusiasm to a whole new level, with a national campaign.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 12.4 percent of 2-5 year olds are obese; for 6-11 year-olds it’s 17.0 percent; and for the 12-19 year-old crowd, it’s 17.6 percent.
Health risks as a result of obesity include heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and sleep apnea. Obesity in childhood often leads to obesity in adulthood.
Fortunately, little changes in diet make a big difference. Like providing children with fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products; getting back to normal portions; and limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and snacks that are high in calories and empty carbohydrates and low in nutritional value.
Then there’s the matter of exercise. Cutting down on the number of hours spent on sedentary activities and encouraging outdoor play, even for brief periods, contribute toward a healthier lifestyle.
A good diet and exercise will not eradicate every health problem, but it will cut down tremendously on preventable illness. For people who have other medical conditions, a healthy diet can help maintain strength and avoid additional problems.
Speaking of her own circumstances before moving into the White House, Mrs. Obama said:
“Barack and I were like any working couple. I was a working mom with a husband that was busy, so many times I was the one balancing that load and wrestling with many of those challenges. And there were plenty of times, I tell you, that you’d come home tired, you don’t want to hear the kids fuss, and popping something in the microwave or picking up a burger was just heaven. It was a Godsend.
But we were fortunate enough to have a pediatrician, as I’ve mentioned, that kind of waved the red flag for me, as a mother, and basically cautioned me that I had to take a look at my own children’s BMI. Now, we went to our pediatrician all the time. I thought my kids were perfect — they are and always will be — but he warned that he was concerned that something was getting off balance.”
Often, it is most difficult to acknowledge the problems that reside in our own homes. The First Lady challenges us to notice the changes in our own children and to take positive steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Parents are the first and most important line of defense.
Schools also have a role to play, by offering more nutritious meals, providing nutritional information to children as part of the curriculum, and ensuring exercise through recess and physical education.
“And of course parents are ready and willing. We all want to make the best choices for our children. We just need to know how. And if we continue to do that, if we work with our physicians, if we work with our Surgeon General, if we’ve got the government, the federal government, working together, businesses ready to make the sacrifices, then we can tackle this problem. And we can do something really important for our kids. We can hand them the future that we know they’re going to need to be successful.”
You can read the full text of the First Lady’s remarks on childhood obesity HERE.
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