Ever year of practice, I see children becoming more over weight, more sedentary and being sick more often. Even the children that are not overweight are suffering from more compromised immunity and being set up for an adulthood impaired by illness. Many children see even come into my clinic eating countless packets of tiny teddies, crisps, lollies and all sorts and mum and dad are trying to tell them that the children eat a balanced diet, or they cant understand while their child is sick all the time. Some children quite literally have not eaten vegetable, or fruits and only eat small selections of packet and highly processed foods.
We have gone from letting children climb trees, play in the streets with friends, climb on play ground equipment and hovering over their every move, for fear they may be in danger, or hurt themselves. Thus the term “Helicopter Parent” is born
While we have gone from over protect them in the playground, we have gone to under protecting them in the lunch box, breakfast bowl and dinner plate. While being over concerned about how they may, or may not die in the playground, we are actually starting to slowly lead them to an early grave through the kitchen and their bellies.
Before we go any further, I do know that there are parents with children that do have genuine special needs and how hard it can be for them to make changes. But, even so, I have seen many of these parents make small changes for the better of their children. So if they can, we all can. Plus, there are always circumstances that are contrary to what I am talking about, I get that, but this is more about other children and other parents, who actually do have a choice in what they are putting in a child’s mouth.
Children are now eating more refined foods, more inflammatory grains, more junk foods, more sugars, more sweet drinks, more processed foods that every before. What once was a treat a few times a year, is now a staple foods source for many children and adults. While children once rode bikes and played in the playgrounds and streets, they are now sedentary and the only exercise they get is with their fingers on the controller of the play station, or X-box. Because of this, children’s muscles aren’t being moved properly, they are developing properly, they are more immune compromised and many just are not getting the vitamins, amino acids, proteins, good carbohydrates etc, needed to maintain proper health. Many children are now eating over 100gms of sugars in their diet daily.
Parent’s seem to come up with all sorts of excuses as to why their child eats the way they do, yet never seem to be taking control and actually doing something about it. Denial, defeat, blame and just not wanting to deal with the cries and demands of a child that hates change is all too much and thus the cycle continues. We bury our heads in the sands, the wine glass, the TV, the social media scene and pretend that life is grand. Many parents will even try to convince you that their child will eventually shoot up, lose the puppy fat, grow out of their fussiness and be OK. But, all the while each year their child has grown more overweight, had more illness and cant even walk to the end of the street and back. We are quite literally failing our children, by giving into them and their every demand. Like I said before, if parents with special needs can make changes to a child’s diet and lifestyle and make the effort, often under difficult circumstances, then we can make those changes for other children. It is a choice. But this isn’t about judging parents either. This is a point of saying that they need help, they need to change and educating them on what they need to do to help their child’s future. Help is always here, if you want to receive the help that is being provided.
Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic that not only puts children at risk for a lifetime of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, infertility and many other health issues, but it also creates a huge financial strain on our health system as well. According to a new study published in the journal Obesity, one out of every four children in Australia is overweight, or obese by the time they start school, and it’s costing our health system millions of dollars each year.
In this study, researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia collected all of the medical tests, diagnostics, medicines, and hospital admission data from 350 children in Australia at ages 2, 3 and a half, and 5 years old. They found that the health care costs for obese and overweight preschoolers were 60 percent higher than costs for healthy kids. Obese and overweight children were also nearly three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for respiratory disorders, ear conditions, nasal issues, colds, flu’s and other disease states, due to poorer immune systems.
The study’s lead researcher Alison Hayes, associate professor of health economics at the University, has stated, “Childhood obesity is a serious public health issue, and is becoming an increasing problem in children under five years old. In addition to the health impacts of childhood obesity, there are major economic impacts, which may occur earlier than previously thought.”
She also says, “We know that children who are obese, or overweight, in early childhood are more likely to be obese, or overweight in later in the their childhood, adolescence and adulthood, which can lead to serious chronic diseases that have a huge impact on our health care system. This can also have impacts on families and future generations too. Early prevention of obesity is important to improve children’s health, but we need to be having more prevention and education to ease the costs and burden on the healthcare system too. We really need to get serious about this crisis in our nations health and start to take our heads out of the sand about an increasing worrying epidemic.
The researchers also noted that throughout the world, 6.9 percent of children under the age of five are either overweight or obese; however, countries such as Australia, America, and the UK have rates as high as 23 percent. According to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention, over the last 30 years in America and countries like Australia, obesity has nearly tripled among children and quadrupled among adolescents.
Children are now being raised in a world that is very different to what it was in our parents generation, 40 to 50 years ago. Parents are now feeding children more refined foods, more junk foods, more sugars, more grains, more fast foods, more sweet drinks, more sugar drinks etc, than every before. What once was a treat to a child 40-50 years ago, is now an every day occurrence, with many children consuming processed foods, sugary foods, grains, and junk foods with every meal. It is really out of control. Some children are not getting fresh foods and sustainable foods in their diets at all. Some children do not even know what some of the basic fruits and vegetables are.
We have become all too lazy when it comes to feeding our children. Childhood obesity is a disease of the environment. It’s a natural consequence of normal kids with normal genes being raised in unhealthy, abnormal environments and this was one of the findings of this landmark study.
According to the Obesity Society, overweight and obese preschoolers are five times more likely to grow up to be overweight and obese as adults. The most recent estimated annual medical costs for obese adults were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight adults. In order to lower the rates of obesity in future generations, we really do need to be looking at preventive measures and better education for children and their parents. We do know that many obese, overweight and unhealthy children have parents that over also overweight, obese, or have unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles.
This ever-growing issue might seem complex, but we need to start really looking at ourselves as parents and we also need better education in schools and the educations systems. The solution to lowering obesity rates and soaring healthcare costs is teaching adults and healthcare professionals what a healthy diet. We need to be looking at preventative measures and being more proactive, rather than reactive.
We need to get parents of overweight or obese children to consult with a qualified nutritionist and show these parents on ways to improve their everyday diet, which includes cutting empty calories and foods high in bad fats and added sugars. We need to educate parents what an actual good diet looks like and start following more of a clean eating, grain free, lower GI, primal based diet. When parents often question the use of grains and refined foods, I often ask them “How do we fatten up cattle???? ….. We Feed them grains”
Besides teaching adults and children to be eating better, we also need to teach them to be healthier on the inside, as well as outside and also the importance of exercise and also accessing healthy vitamins, probiotics, prebiotics, omega oils, amino acids and drinking water. Good education about eating starts at home and we can’t keep blaming others for all of our problems. These days we have more access to online education about our health than we ever have. It is time we take our heads out of the sand and start admitting that we have a big problem that every parent needs to recognize along with all our healthcare providers as well. We also need some of the organisations promoting health care to get with the program and stop promoting out of date education that is actually increasing the health crisis, not helping it.
At Shen Therapies, we can help parents with diet and lifestyle choices and help keep their children healthy into adulthood too.
Source: Hayes A, Simpson J, Chevalier A, D’Souza M, Baur L, and Wen LM. Early childhood obesity: Association with Healthcare expenditure in Australia. Obesity. 2016.