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Enough is enough! In this case, enough is way too much and too much is dangerous and deadly.
Did you know that for the first time in history, your child will have a shorter life-expectancy than you? Every generation before boasted a better life for their offspring…except ours.
If you’re looking for someone to blame for the recent turn of events, I’m afraid that we can’t blame big tobacco or manufacturing plants that are dumping toxins into our drinking water or overhead power lines or lead paint for that matter…
Nope, we’re the problem. We, our kid’s parents…
I realize that this may be a hard pill to swallow, but we, the parents, are the “big tobacco” of the 21st century. I’ll explain in a moment…
How I Got Fat…
When I was young, I was fat and didn’t even know it. Every morning, I’d polish off half a box of Fruity Pebbles, half a carton of milk and then top it off with a large glass of orange juice.
How could a child be permitted to eat so much? My parents believed that they were giving me a healthy breakfast because the box announced, “100% of vitamins and minerals” and “Milk does a body good.”
The result? I got fat.
Then, like many adolescents, my world expanded beyond myself. I developed a crush on a girl in the neighborhood named Kelly Harrington who was 2 years my elder, had dark black hair, and beautiful dimples…
One night, at a neighborhood Christmas party, I had somehow gotten hold of Kelly’s shoe and found myself being chased through the house by the girl of my dreams. I don’t remember how I got her shoe, but as long as I held it, I had the focus and attention of the girl who I secretly loved.
Since I was overweight and out of shape, Kelly quickly cornered me. I turned around to face those dimples I had admired from afar. Our eyes locked in a real life movie moment and time seemed to slow. Kelly peered deeply through my Pepsi-bottle-thick glasses into my eyes and I into hers.
Then, her lips parted and she said, “You’re fat. Gimme back my shoe.”
Thunder In December
How strange, I thought, to hear the crack of thunder on such a cool, December evening. But since there wasn’t any preceding lightning, I finally realized it was the sound of my world being torn asunder. In shatters around me was my ego and a gaping hole where once my heart had been.
I gave Kelly her shoe back and walked across the street to my bedroom. Though the surroundings looked familiar, my world would never be the same.
After many tears, I pulled myself together and noticed a weight set resting in a dusty corner of my room. Until then, I hadn’t paid any attention to the equipment but that night, I picked it up and curled that weight until I couldn’t curl it any more. Each night, I picked that weight up and worked out as best I could with no training.
Soon, I heard on the news that we’re fat because we eat too much. So, the next morning I ate one bowl of Fruity Pebbles instead of two.
I then read that we’re fat because we move too little. So, after school, I’d run until I couldn’t run anymore and then I’d do my homework. Eventually the fat began to melt from my body and I started to get healthy and fit.
All these years later, I often wonder what would I be today if Kelly hadn’t given me that gift, those words, “You’re fat. Gimme back my shoe.”
Your Kid May Never Meet Their Kelly Harrington
If you want to guarantee that your child has a healthy future, you have to be his/her Kelly Harrington, albeit with a little more tact and finesse. Wake him/her up to the importance of health. Don’t wait for your kids -or yourself- to “figure it out” on their own, if you do, they could run out of time.
And do it now for their sake! The healthy habits that your child establishes up to the age of 18 sets the stage for how healthy he/she will be well into his/her adult years. For example, fat cells can replicate up to about age 18, when the body settles into its “set point”. A fat child will have more difficulty burning fat as an adult and will be more likely to develop health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
What your child eats, how she sleeps, moves, and handles stress will stack the cards of health in their favor or against them and no one has more control over the cards they’re dealt than you. You must help them focus on health as a priority…
What to Do To Help Your Child Lose Weight and Remain Healthy
- Be An Example Rather Than a Warning – When I was young, my father had a heart attack. Luckily, he survived. I remember my dad eating a bowl of ice cream every night, chomping on potato chips and drinking soda. Guess what I did? I ate a bowl of ice cream, chomped on potato chips, and drank soda. We must be an example to our children, or we will be a warning. I escaped the cycle of eating junk food; my brothers were not so lucky. What you do is arguably the most important determinant of what your children will do. You set the precedence for your family, so let your family see you exercise and eat right, so that they want to take part!
- Begin With Lateral Shifts – You don’t have much control over your child’s eating habits when they’re hanging out with friends at the mall, but you do have control over what goes in their lunch bag. Lateral shifts are a low-shock way of shifting eating habits. In the beginning, focus on better rather than best. By focusing your attention on small improvements, you’ll slowly work towards “best”. If your child is used to getting a soda and cookies with a sandwich, it probably isn’t a good plan to just shift them to a salad and a bottle of water…it’ll be too much of a shock. Start by making a lateral shift, which is a change that improves the current food choice without totally shifting the selection. For example, if they’re used to getting a Little Debbie cake that contains 250 calories, try shifting to a 100-calorie pack of cookies. If they’re used to eating a ham sandwich with mayo, try changing the bread to 100-calories sandwich thins. Then after they’re used to the new change, try another lateral shift. For example, you may then change the 100-calorie pack of cookies to a cup of mixed, freshly chopped, fruit.
- Be An Influence When You Can – Kids are free spirits; they’re that way by design. You won’t be there to help them make good food choices all day long; do what you can, when you can. Start by giving them a salad at each dinner. Make them omelets in the morning with veggies mixed in. Generally, the only rule that you need to live by is, “Give them more REAL food.” “Real food” includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, meat, and eggs. Teach them to eat more of these things. Decrease refined foods as much as possible. Try to limit the pasta, rice, cereals, cakes, candies, etc. Never give your children calories in liquid form; that includes soda, juices, sweetened tea, etc.
- Supplement to Fill In The Gaps – We recommend children take an omega-3 supplement, vitamin D, a bone mineral supplement, and a multivitamin. These supplements will help to keep them healthy and keep the immune system healthy.
- Let Them Sleep – Each day that your child gets less sleep than their body needs, they develop a “sleep debt”. This means that if your child gets one-half hour of sleep less than they need during each school day, they will have to pay back 2.5 hours on the weekend; that’s above and beyond their normal need. Sleep deprivation has been linked with diabetes and weight gain. So, let them sleep in on the weekend if needed. Sleep deprivation is a growing problem among children and is likely a major cause of susceptibility to colds and flu.
- Get Them Moving With Sports & Activity – What roles does exercise play with your child’s weight? Not every child will be a sports star in school, I was not blessed with talent of a physical nature and never played sports in school. Instead, I discovered martial arts and received my black belt in my senior year of high school. You don’t need to get your child involved in school sports, nor do they have to workout in a gym, but you should help them discover an active hobby. The Hobby should be something that will challenge them and something that will help them to develop a routine around fitness. Just make sure that they enjoy the activity!
- If They Are Obsessed With Playing Video Games, Buy an XBox Kinetic, Wii, or Playstation Move. When we were young, if we wanted to play football, we’d grab a football, go outside and get to running and tackling…now, kids just sit on their butts and exercise their fingers as they play football on their XBox and Playstations. The first tip is to encourage them to go outside and play real sports, if you must, make it a prerequisite for playing their video game. The second tip, is to get some of the new video gaming systems that force them to move as they play. My favorite is XBox Kinetic. Make it family time by joining in, let me tell you, some of these games are quite a workout!
- Weight May Be An Emotional Trigger. Be gentle, but be stern. Don’t obsess about your child’s weight, focus on their health. Tell them that you love them often and because you love them that you want them to be physically fit so that they can take care of you when you are old and in need of their assistance. Humor takes the unhealthy emotions out of the situation, but never joke about weight and never let your child joke about it either. Weight is just a number, it’s just information, take emotion out of the situation by not forcing your child to get on a scale every day…just watch their activity level, the food that they eat, their sleep schedule, and their stress level. Always focus on health, not weight!
- Get Your child a Pedometer – Pedometers can be a great way to motivate your child to walk more. I have spoken to many parents who have successfully used a pedometer to instantly get their child on a walking routine. Wear one yourself and play a game with your child to see who will walk more each day.
- Summer is a Great Opportunity to Make a Radical Shift In Your Child’s Routines – Get them to take lessons in some sort of active hobby. Make sure that it’s something that they want, not you. Martial arts, swimming, camping, and, sports of any kind are always good options. Don’t let your child be bored during the summer. Do your best to give them opportunities to be active and healthy. If they are home most of the day, make sure they have healthy foods to choose from.
This coming school year is an opportunity to start anew with your child’s health and fitness plan. Don’t nag him/her; encourage her/him. Be a mentor to your child by first traveling to the land of healthy and then leading him/her along the path that you traveled.
Here’s a tip…Children are attracted to fun and easy, so any way you can make health more fun or easier to pursue will increase your likelihood of success. Besides, fun and easy may just get you involved, too. Getting exercise at a gym is unnecessary if your child gets out and runs, plays, climbs, jumps, and chases other kids like they are supposed to as children! Make exercise and activity time a family event.
At the risk or sounding melodramatic, time is running out for our children, so act now…Help your kid lose weight by becoming a beacon of health and then leading him/her to the land of wellness and vitality. This is an opportunity for you to grow as a person and help your child live an active, energy filled life along the way. What a wonderful, life-long gift.