Childhood obesity is a major problem these days, and I’m not just saying that because someone cracked the seesaw in my neighborhood playground. All you have to do is visit any school and you’re likely to spot dozens of kids who have to walk sideways to enter the gym. That’s the only way they can squeeze past the gym teacher’s belly. (If the gym teacher is overweight, you know the kids are in trouble.)
According to the latest statistics, one out of every three American children is overweight –- and the other two refuse to step on the scale. Many of these children are considered “obese,” as determined by a mathematical formula in which a child’s body weight in kilograms is divided by the square of his or her height in meters, then multiplied by the average number of Kit Kats consumed in a day.
Obesity puts children at risk for a number of health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep disorders, as well as back and hip pain, which, in most cases, is not related to falling off seesaws.
Thankfully, President Obama recently launched a campaign to fight childhood obesity. The campaign, called “Let’s Move,” will try to educate parents about the importance of nutrition and exercise. Obama hopes more parents and children will say “Let’s move” to each other, at least half as often as they say “Let’s munch.”
It’s a good campaign and I wouldn’t be surprised if most families do find themselves saying “Let’s move,” especially as part of a longer sentence such as “Let’s move to the dining room and munch.”
That’s not a bad thing, really. As shown by a study published in the journal Pediatrics, three household habits can help fight obesity among pre-school aged children: (1) eating together as a family at least five evenings a week; (2) making sure children get at least 10.5 hours of sleep during the week; and (3) placing a large photo of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inside the refrigerator.
If the Iranian president isn’t scary enough, you might try a habit actually suggested by Pediatrics: limiting your children’s screen-viewing time to a maximum of two hours a day. As any parent knows, this can be a real challenge, because, let’s face it, if your children aren’t watching TV, using the computer or playing video games, they’re lying in bed, staring blankly at the window screen.
Yes, if it isn’t one screen, it’s another. But don’t despair. Aside from the three habits suggested by the journal, here are a few other steps you can take to fight childhood obesity:
- Get your children into a sport –- and I don’t mean the Nathan’s Hot-Dog Eating Contest. If you ever watch the National Spelling Bee, you’ll see that even those kids are in good shape. Why? Because they’re always carrying a dictionary around.
- Add some exercise to your children’s daily routines. If they’re addicted to video games, make sure they get some exercise before they play. This is best accomplished by throwing their video game disc into your neighbor’s yard. It’s a great way to increase their heart rate, especially if your neighbor has a dog.
- Feed your children fresh fruit and vegetables. In case you’re wondering, French fries are not vegetables, and grape isn’t just a flavor of soda. And believe it or not, you can actually eat black-eyed peas, not just listen to them.
- Keep desserts to a minimum. If your children want a Kit Kat bar, make sure they get some exercise first. But please don’t throw the Kit Kat into the neighbor’s yard. The neighbor’s kid is fat enough as it is.