September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

By Dr. Justin Taylor, ND

When Ray Kroc took over McDonald’s in 1954, it is doubtful that he had any idea of how the concept he was sensationalizing would be the start of the Nation’s worst health crisis. The concept of fast and delicious became the focus in a country that traditionally reserved restaurant dining for special occasions barely affordable to many Americans. And with the new “fast food”, came TV dinners, frozen vegetables and an epidemic of associated disease.

If there is one thing America does better than any other country in the world, it’s to produce delicious of junk food. It started with “Cracker Jack” popcorn, first introduced at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1896 and has evolved into the sophisticated flavor combination of Doritos chips or cheese curls. Not only did we invent the foods, but we then spent millions of dollars convincing Americans that we had much more important things to do in our lives than prepare meals by creating instant coffee, frozen dinners packaged to fit nicely on TV trays and ingredients that allow these foods to last from months to years, if left untouched.

We created wonderful sandwiches, like the hot dog, and when we became bored with that, we enhanced it by creating the Chili-dog. When the six-inch hot dog wasn’t big enough, then we needed a foot-long hot dog, which of course needed to be washed down with an extra-large soda-pop. But don’t worry, because the cup that holds that soda was refillable and it would niftily fit into the cup holder or your car. And if you wanted something sweet, you could stop at the store and purchase an extra-large package of “fat free” dots. And just so we wouldn’t feel badly about the weight we gained from eating these foods, the clothing industry implemented “Vanity Sizing.”

Now, it’s not like the American diet hasn’t changed over the years. We’ve seen margarine, whole milk, low fat milk, non-fat milk.  We have gone from whole eggs, to egg whites, to no eggs then back to eggs again. We had the “basic 7” food groups, the “four food groups”, the “Food Pyramid,” “My Pyramid” and finally “My Plate.”  We had the “Pritikin Diet”, the low-fat diet, the high fat diet, the low carbohydrate diets, the high carbohydrate diets, the vegetarian diet, the ovolacto diet and the vegan diet. We have had the colorless, odorless, tasteless, salt-less, sugarless diets, all created to help us live longer and healthier and yet American children are living shorter lives than their parents before them.

From 1970-2000, the incidence of childhood and adolescent obesity tripled. Presently for every 10 children, three are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is a disease of technologically advanced countries and the more advanced we become, the larger we become. Childhood obesity is also one of the most avoidable diseases, correctable through diet, lifestyle and, in certain situations, medications. There are many theories as to why this problem has become epidemic in proportion. Some experts say this was caused by poor dietary habits, others say not enough exercise, and yet other experts say that parents who do not take the time to cook for, organize and attend, regular family dinners put their children at increased risk for obesity. The truth is, that all these reasons are to blame. Our children no longer play outside, ride bicycles, sit down to family dinners (without their cell phones).

With all the information out there, what in world is the answer? The answer is…. whatever keeps our children healthy.  As parents, our best legacy is to teach our children healthy habits which will give them the foundation to live as long as they can and be all that they can be. This generation of children may not know how to write in cursive, but they absolutely should know which foods are good choices, and which foods are bad choices. Here are five tips to start you on your way to healthier diet:

  1. Pick a diet that you can realistically follow. Almost anyone can do anything for 3 weeks but for 3 months, you’ll need to be sold. Try looking at the lower carbohydrate diets like the Keto diet, Paleo diet and the South Beach diets. The last two have been around long enough that you should be able to find plenty of free resources for recipes, and dietary suggestions. For those that would like to minimize or eliminate meat, the Plant paradox and plant-based diets.
  2. Find an exercise regimen that you can do and look forward to doing. If you don’t like to run, then don’t. Try rowing, a stationary bike, swimming, biking, 40 minutes of basketball daily. There is some form of exercise out there that you will enjoy and truly look forward to.
  3. Take up a hobby. People that are busy, stay busy and have less time to snack between meals. Become serious about your hobby and learn all there is to learn about it.
  4. Create meals that everyone can eat. Discuss these meals with your family members so that you can eliminate the unwanted ingredients and read all labels on prepared foods.
  5. Don’t be fearful of eating. Eating is necessary for survival but is also enjoyable. Try to follow a strict diet during the week and give yourself a cheating day on the weekend. If you accidentally cheat during the week, pick up where you left off and refocus on diet.

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