What is a convenient epidemic? It is when you can find your vice on every street corner, see it on every TV channel, hear about in on every radio station, and it is displayed on every social media avenue. It is an epidemic that makes you see it and crave it everywhere you go, and is easily accessible and so hard to refuse…because you need it to live. So, what is the convenient epidemic that we speak of?
Childhood obesity. That’s right, childhood obesity.
This is a national epidemic that is plaguing the youth. Not only that, these obese children are turning into obese adults. Two percent of children are eating healthy according to the Department of Agriculture. That means 98 percent are eating unhealthy. Either way you say it, those numbers are outrageous and preventable.
Childhood obesity is a trigger to many community issues. Bullying, anxiety, depression, ADHD, early on-set puberty, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, student drop-out rates, crime rates, skin disease, healthcare costs, cancer, decreased life expectancy, and more.
How does childhood obesity and the unhealthy eating cycle actually start? Let’s think about that.
Remember when you were a child and visited the doctors’ office for your shots? What did the doctor give you? A lollipop? When you do well in school, did you get a pizza party in class? When you have a birthday, do you celebrate your day with cake? Do you bribe your children with cookies and ice cream or offer it for good behavior? Well, if you can relate to any of those things, you are “feeding” the problem. No pun intended.
Food associations are real, and can become extremely serious. From childhood, people associate good feeling with bad foods. Food as reward can be very dangerous. If bad foods are fueling good behaviors, you start searching for those feelings with every aspect of life. Since food is required to live, food becomes a pivotal part of your happiness and turns into a deadly habit.
A deadly habit may sound harsh, but some foods are proven to feed disease. The good news is, not all foods will kill you. You can eat to fight disease as well. Most foods that are sold in boxes and bags tend to be a sneaky source of unhealthy fats, sugar, sodium, and excess calories. Drinking milks and eating meats with hormones and antibiotics should be avoided. With that being said, fruits, veggies, beans, and lean meats should fill your plates. When it comes to the breads and rice, the darker the better. Brown rice, whole grain, or Ezekiel bread and quinoa are the healthier options. Planning to be healthy takes practice. Learning how to prepare your meals in advance will help you eat healthier. Making larger portions of healthier foods and store them, this will ensure healthy meals when you are on the go.
Furthermore, since nutrition is paramount to the health of our children, shouldn’t it be taught and encouraged in school? Children should learn how to read nutritional labels and understand what different foods do to your body.
According the CDC, nearly half of U.S. deaths are directly related to nutrition. It is our responsibility to make a conscious change in our communities and in our families. We must break the cycle. Grow fresh fruits and vegetables, and make healthier choices. Join the fight against childhood obesity by educating yourself and your children on good nutrition.
Debra Tendrich is the founder of Eat Better Live Better, a non-profit organization that battles childhood obesity. Visit www.EBLB.org.