Have you ever heard a parent say, "Look at that child. He is overweight. It's sad their parents don't care."? Whether one wants to admit it or not, a good majority have or do make this type of observation on a fairly regular basis. But if you were to ask this same parent if her own child was obese, how would she respond? Does she know what truly defines a child as obese?
A team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the UCL Institute of Child Health conducted a study focused on whether or not parents could identify their child as obese or not. According to the experts who reviewed the results, "the study showed the 'enormity' of the obesity epidemic." The findings should create more than concern, they should create a strong motivation for parents to become more aware and establish healthier eating habits.
In this study, parents were given a questionnaire asking whether they thought their child was obese, overweight, a healthy weight or underweight. As a parent reading this, how would you respond for your child or children? Once all the data was collected, 31 percent of parents who completed the questionnaire underestimated the weight of their child. That 31 percent represents nearly one-third of the almost 3,000 who participated. Not surprising, it was only those parents who had children that were at the end of either side of the scale who were more accurate.
The Blame Game
Why would such a large portion of parents not be able to identify clearly the weight issues in their own child? According to what the researchers gained from these results, parents stated their misdiagnose was due to the reality that the world we live in has become obese, and thus a new norm has been set. This is such a dangerous and slippery slope and, as parents, there must be an accountability and dedicated effort to turn this around. This cannot wait.
As a parent, are you confident in your ability to correctly assess your own child's weight? If we are being honest, it can be difficult to realize that our own child may have a problem, any type of problem. This is especially true when it comes to weight. Parents have to take accountability for this and that, in and of itself, is a difficult thing to do. Parents cannot turn a blind eye when it comes to the health of their children. The more parents accept the reality of the situation, the better chance there will be for a successful turnaround and a chance at a better, more healthy, life.
It is important to understand the health consequences when preventative measures are not taken. Some of these may be easier to detect than others, but they all have a devastating impact: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, restless or disordered sleep patterns, bone and joint problems, depression and low self-esteem.
There is one other impact that cannot be overlooked — bullying. The news and social media broadcast stories, on a regular basis, of kids being bullied. Often, weight has something to do with it. What a sad state our society is in, but if we take a stand by working to understand and prevent childhood obesity, we can truly minimize these impacts. Parents can make a huge difference in preventing a child from becoming obese. The first step is in identifying whether or not your child is obese or in danger of being obese. Once identified, there is a need to determine what changes can be made to help your child achieve a healthy weight.
Become more educated
Learning how to determine if your child is on a path of obesity is key to helping parents become proactive in turning things around. Many use what is called The Body mass index or BMI in determining the current status of one's body weight. This can be a good indicator but is not a perfect measurement, especially during times when a child might be growing at a rapid rate. Parents should do all they can to get the most accurate information in determining whether their child is obese or overweight.
An essential part of achieving a healthy weight is understanding the need to eat healthy. The best place to start is helping your child eat more fruits and vegetables. The benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables are well documented. There are vital phytonutrients and nutrition in fruits and vegetables that will provide the body with what it needs to sustain a healthy weight.
The best teaching tool is by example. Create an environment of prevention by making healthy eating a standard family practice. Does healthy eating impact a family's budget? No. Eating healthy creates an upside on a family's financial budget because there is less being spent on medicines, hospital visits and programs needed to remedy a health problem. An investment in eating healthy is a proactive way in prevention.
This study clearly shows there is work to be done in creating more visibility in our own children when it comes to their weight and overall health. Now is the time take ownership of the healthy habits of your family. By adopting preventative practices and making healthy choices today, you and your children can enjoy the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight and a lifestyle that will carry them through to a happy and healthy future.
Seth Saunders is an executive business consultant and leadership coach. Seth has been married 20 years to his amazing wife, Amber, and is the proud father of three wonderful sons. He is passionate about helping others succeed.