Obesity has become one of the most important public health problems in the United States (1) and other wealthy nations across the world. Stop. Reread that first sentence. Obesity, a commonly PREVENTIBLE health problem, has become one of the most significant health issues in our country (or yours). Our country – the one where our precious babies are growing up. When I say obesity, I mean excess fat. I realize that there are many different ways to measure fat. A common one, Body Mass Index (BMI) can often be misleading. I realize that and want to address this. Go to a public place and just sit and watch. It doesn’t take calculations, BMI measurements, a scale or whatever else for you to know that a large amount of our population is obese – carrying an excess of fat. So, yes, I realize BMI isn’t the best measurement for obesity, but I’m not talking about that here. I’m talking about adults and CHILDREN living with a large amount of excess fat on their bodies.
OK, I think you get my point by now. We, as a country and as a world, are generally overweight and the population of overweight people is growing exponentially daily. While this is certainly sad and scary, all I can truly do is do my best to prevent this within my family and, especially, our children. You may or may not have listened to the Mark Bell’s Powercast where my husband and I were guests. We talked about our growing family, how it affects my husband’s training/career and our views on raising children in today’s society. I literally made the comment, “When did mac and cheese become a meal?” when discussing kids’ menus at restaurants. Well, long story short, you can guess my reaction when day one of our son’s new “healthy” school lunches began and mac and cheese was served as the main course. Additional lunches included meals such as cheese sandwiches and bean burritos.
As a teacher myself, I never wanted to be ‘that’ parent that was a constant nag to my children’s teachers. I lasted about a week with the new meal plan until I started getting concerned. Braxton refused to eat lunch every day. He learned the word ‘no’ and would tell his teachers ‘no’ when he was served lunch. His bowel movements were messed up, his sleep schedule was off and he got sick. Truly, within 5 days, we saw all these changes in him. We had to take Braxton to the doctor and discussed our concerns with his doctor. Knowing how we feel about health and fitness, the doctor was quite frank with us (and apologized for his bluntness). He told us that recent studies suggest over 90% of babies born in 2017 will be obese or morbidly obese by age of 30 and will die early due to complications from obesity. I was furious with myself for trying to force my son to eat the lunches his school provided because I wanted to avoid conflict or didn’t want to be a pain. Our doctor provided a ‘prescription’ that Braxton will bring lunches to school from that day on. He is the only kid, but I don’t care, and he is eating lunch again and back on track health-wise.
The truth is, our son loves whole foods. At one year old, he eats better than pretty much any person I know. His diet includes foods such as salmon, bison, eggs, fresh vegetables – tomatoes are his favorite, and fruit for dessert – he can’t get enough blackberries. I used to think we were just lucky to have a healthy eater. I’m not going to deny that 100% considering I’m pregnant with another little one and expect ALL things to change when the second one arrives. However, we worked really, REALLY hard to teach him a healthy diet. As an adult when I decided I didn’t want to be uncomfortable in my own skin, teaching myself to enjoy a healthy diet was hard. Choosing grilled chicken over pizza was hard. Choosing eggs over pancakes was hard. However, we have taught Braxton from an early age to love healthy foods and he now truly chooses them over things such as cupcakes and cookies.
I realize this isn’t going to be the most popular of blog posts. Change is hard. I just want to provide you a few facts, a few experiences and remind you that you need to be your child(ren)’s number one advocate. Especially if you have a baby or a little boy or girl that doesn’t have a true voice of his or her own. Advocate for your children – healthy diet or whatever else you feel you need to do. But I urge you to do some research and read the facts. The future of our country’s health is scary, but I refuse to let my children become obese due to my own laziness or fear of conflict.
Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Lawman HG, et al. Trends in Obesity Prevalence Among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 1988-1994 Through 2013-2014. JAMA 2016; 315:2292.