Why Are Our Kids Fat? Children and Obesity


Did you know that in the United States...
- 30 billion dollars a year is spent on dieting

- 1/3 of children under the age of 17 (~25 million) are overweight or obese

- 24% of the total US population (~72 million men, women and children) are considered obese

- 46.1% have high cholesterol

- 8.8% have diabetes

- 58.3% are not physically active

- Because of these trends, and if habits don't change, this children's generation will be the first that becomes sicker and dies younger than their parents

- 14 billion dollars a year is currently spent in medical care to treat overweight children (Thanks to Jayson Hunter for these stats)

A good question to ask would be "Why are we seeing these trends in the younger generations, and what can we do about it?"

The truth of the matter is most kids have little control over their diet. They pretty much eat what mom and dad put in front of them (except maybe lima beans). "Food in a Box" is generally much easier to prepare. It doesn't take much effort to pour milk into cereal, and with today's busy lifestyles frozen dinners and the drive-thru is more common than not. But at what price?

It does not take long for kids to develop a taste for high-carbohydrate foods. Face it, sugar tastes good! I realize Arizona Home In Phoenix is unrealistic for most people to never allow junior a cookie, but do we really have to feed them "Frosted Crunchies" for breakfast, hot dogs and chips for lunch and pizza for dinner?

I can hear the protests now - "But that's all he will eat!". That may be the case, but I would submit that tastes can be changed over time. If we try to change everything at once in our kids diets we are fighting a losing battle. Most will find the constant struggle too much to take. Small changes made over time is probably a better strategy.

What might some of these changes look like?

- Add a hard boiled egg into the mix at breakfast. Most people (including kids) eat no protein until much later in the day; not good.
- A piece of fruit in the lunchbox. Ask your kids what kind of fruit they like and start there.
- Same thing with veggies. Most kids I know will eat carrot sticks if they have an option. My kids love salads at dinner as well.

Realize these are just a few ideas to start. The truth is minor modifications such as these will not make a long term impact if the rest of the diet consists of garbage. Soda, twinkies and anything other than the occasional sweet treat should be eliminated. As unrealistic as it may be for many, the general rule in my house is if it comes in a box, it ain't good for you! I have six kids, and I can attest to the fact that kids will eat good food; the earlier you start the better. My kids will eat just about any vegetable (even mashed rutabega) you throw at them without complaint. Chicken and fish are A-OK! They absolutely love fruit, even the economical frozen stuff.

The other factor in the equation is movement. We as a society just don't do it enough! Long gone are the days when kids ran out the door after breakfast, came back for lunch and were out the door again until dinner. I realize for many reasons this isn't possible or even wise anymore, but do we really have to let our kids plop in front of the TV or play video games all day? The human body must move or it will degenerate and lose function. Who would have thought 30 years ago that so many kids would need an exercise class? Is there something you can do to get the children in your care more active?

We are at a crossroads in this country when it comes to our health and the health of our kids. Waiting for the government to "do something about it" is not going to solve the problem. If there are children in your life, what action can you take to change these trends? If you are a fitness professional, what are you doing to get the word out to make a difference?

If not now, when? If not you, who?

About Dean: Fed up with the way he looked and felt, Dean Carlson decided enough was enough. After wading through the conflicting diet and fitness information, and through much trial and error, he found himself 80 pounds lighter and with a new outlook on life. His desire to help other people get healthy and fit without going it alone led him to start Cr8 Health & Fitness, where he shares his knowledge and passion for fitness with others looking to get off the diet roller coaster.

Dean is a Certified Professional Fitness Trainer with the National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association.

Sign up for our free "Get Fit" newsletter at http://www.cr8health.com/

The well-worn maxim reminds us that to be the best, you've got to be the best. The natural extension of this, of course, is that to beat the best, you've got to play them. Playing in CONCACAF, the United States has the decided disadvantage of having only one true world footballing nation to call its rival. So, in order to bolster the overall level of its competition, it has to schedule top competition for friendlies, else wait for the World Cup.

In the past, European football fans would look down their noses at Americans, dismissing their presence in the World Cup by disdainfully asking, "who did they play to get here?" Setting aside the fact that there are Ente Regionale Diritto Studio Universitario many minnows in UEFA as in CONCACAF, the new more aggressive scheduling strategy by the United States will help to alleviate this concern. Consider: in the eighteen months before qualification starts in earnest for the USA, the Yanks will have played Brazil, Argentina (twice), Mexico (three times), at England, at Spain, Colombia, and Sweden (twice). Add to this at least two more games against Mexico in qualifying and the USA's participation in the Confederations Cup where it will play some combination of the South America, European, or Asian champion, along with host South Africa, and we see that the young American squad will certainly be tried and tested by the time they (hopefully) arrive in South Africa in the summer of 2010.

Whether this approach is prudent is a matter separate from whether it is necessary given the American aspirations of winning the World Cup by 2014. As you might expect midway between World Cups, the American national team is looking at a number of young players, many of whom seem extremely promising. But, as much skill and moxie as Adu, Altidore, Bradley, and Edu have shown, they all need seasoning, and the only way to get this seasoning is playing football at the highest level. Of course, playing a friendly against Brazil is not nearly as valuable as, say, playing consistently for an elite club like Manchester United or Barcelona, but it certainly does have value.

One must keep in mind, though, that aggressive scheduling is not a positive thing in itself. In sports, confidence is an extremely precious commodity, and as we saw when the United States had an extended period of poor performances in Europe (still not clear that that era is over. After all, how many times can we schedule Poland?), bad results against good teams can still have a detrimental impact on the psyche and performance of a team. When, for example, the United States played Brazil and lost this past summer, by all accounts team USA played quite well against a team stocked with superstars. That said, they still lost... at home. At some point, to take the next step in its development the United States must begin winning these matches.

In boxing, for example, trainers rarely expose talented young prospects to other highly talented or cagey fighters early in their careers. Instead, they build their confidence and hone specific skills against lesser or tailor-made opponents. Some might argue that as an approach to international success, the USA needs to follow a similar path. Rather than take on the Argentinas or Brazils of the world, feast on Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and second tier South American and European sides like Venezuela or Israel. In the end, whatever confidence one gains beating these teams would be more than offset by the feeling of dread that would come over Team USA the moment they realized that there were teams with decidedly more talent and ability than them.

Now, this line of thinking presupposes that the United States will not get results against these world powers. Obviously, one would think, if Team USA is able to get wins or draws -especially in difficult locations such as Wembley or Azteca- it would be a complete boon to American confidence and it would bode well for the future performance of the American side. For the most part, this is true, but one must also remain cognizant of history. The United States has gotten impressive results against top teams; the win against Brazil in the Gold Cup comes to mind. That said, it is telling that US fans remember this game more than a decade later while most Brazilian fans would have to be reminded that their team even participated in the Gold Cup. This is ever more so the case with respect to high profile friendly wins. Friendly matches can be fool's gold; managers test new lineups, stars often don't show up to play, and when they do they are often unmotivated and tired from their club teams. In other words, supposing that Argentina sends its B+ team, and the USA gets a result sans Messi, Mascherano or some other high profile Argentines in the lineup, what should American fans make of it? Not nothing, but at the same time it shouldn't serve as a predictor for World Cup success.

So, as Team USA prepares to begin its rather ambitious summer schedule, American fans should look forward to it with a sense of cautious optimism. There is no doubt that these matches present a real opportunity for Team USA. That said, fans should remember that a great summer does not guarantee future success, nor would a bad one portend coming disaster. Of course, American soccer fans are a small but rabid bunch, so asking them to take these matches in stride may be asking too much.

Please discuss your thoughts on the http://www.spotlightsoccer.com forums.


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