Our industrialized society of sedentary jobs and high-calorie, low-nutrient convenience food has created an epidemic of obesity. Since the mid-1980s, the number of overweight children ages six to ten has doubled. For teens, the number has tripled.
The result is a generation of children battling diseases that were once thought to belong to adults: diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
To battle the epidemic, families must improve diet and exercise together. Set a good example. Children will naturally want to eat when they are hungry, but eating because they are bored is a learned behavior.
Be careful to avoid giving food a role in behavior modification. It should be neither given as a reward for good behavior nor withheld as punishment for bad behavior. Consider rewarding kids with outings, or activities, and make punishment relevant to the crime, not the dinner table.
It is also important to monitor the scrutiny you give your child’s eating behavior. Not enough attention can lead to poor habits, but too much can lay the ground work for eating disorders.
Discuss health and fitness, but try to build self-esteem by being positive, not critical. Focus on attainable fitness levels as goals, such as the number of laps to swim or miles to bike. Celebrate achievements, even little ones, but not with food.