Childhood obesity can be fought by example

Weight loss, healthy eating — we are bombarded by these lifestyle changes almost as much as we are with fast food ads.

Weight loss, healthy eating — we are bombarded by these lifestyle changes almost as much as we are with fast food ads.

Television tortures those who are susceptible to the images of hard, toned bodies and miracle weight loss strategies, followed by flashing images of cheap and delicious fast food.

Meanwhile your children have caught sight of those French fries and are begging you to take them out for lunch.

As adults struggling with their own fitness and nutrition, it could be easy to look the other way when it comes to children.

It’s easy to say that their extra weight is just baby fat and they will grow out of it, unfortunately that is usually not the case.

Most obese or overweight children carry their weight into adulthood and that’s why it is so important to change our way of looking at food and getting away from a sedentary lifestyle.

A quick search online will reveal that this hot topic has and is being studied throughout Canada.

An Environmental Scan of Childhood Obesity in the Calgary Region, prepared for the Southern Alberta Child and Youth Health Network by Petra O’Connell, was published online in October of 2005.

The scan uses data from 2004 collected by Statistics Canada, and one of the findings is that 22 per cent of children and adolescents in Alberta are overweight.

As if the social stigma, bullying, teasing, and issues with body image and self confidence weren’t bad enough, O’Connell (and many other researchers) say “obesity is strongly linked to the development of chronic diseases like diabetes Type 2, cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, respiratory problems and musculoskeletal problems including osteoarthritis.”

In a summary of obesity control entitled Childhood Obesity Epidemic: How it can be controlled, by Sheila Harvey and Laura Parks, they say that after smoking, obesity is the most important preventable cause of death and disability.”

From a parent’s perspective, this means it is within your control, as you are the one doing the shopping and meal planning.

If you are concerned about your child’s weight, consult your family doctor. They will be able to measure your child’s body mass index (BMI), a measurement based on height and weight that is compared to the average height and weight of children the same age.

Healthy eating and physical activity go hand-in-hand; they support one another for a balanced lifestyle The Childhood Obesity Foundation, www.childhoodobesityfoundation.ca, suggests using the 5-2-1-0 rule: five fruits and vegetables daily, two hours or less of screen time, one hour of physical activity daily, and zero sugar sweetened beverages daily.

The Canadian Food Guide is also a great tool to healthy eating.

The guide provides serving information and how much of each food group an adult, child or youth should have.

Turn your kids onto fruit; consider it to be nature’s candy. Clementine oranges are a great alternative to the larger oranges, and are sweeter and smaller.

Pineapple, kiwi, cherries and mangoes are a nice change from apples and oranges as well.

Set an example for your children by eating and preparing healthy meals, and living an active life. Take your children on a family bike ride or walk after dinner, or play catch in the yard.

Activities don’t need to be complicated to be fun and physical.

The best part is you will get in quality time with your children while you’re helping them to lead a healthy life.

Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Jesseca Johanson with Family Services of Central Alberta. Johanson can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or www.fsca.ca.

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