By Elaine Wilson, AFPS
Feb. 23, 2010
My pediatrician pointed out to me recently that my 6-year-old son had exceeded a healthy range for his body mass index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
I knew he liked to snack endlessly and his clothes were getting a bit snug, but I chalked that up to a growth spurt and never paid much attention to his weight.
But now I, with as much subtlety as I could muster, took a closer look at my son. His ravenous appetite leads him to dump huge portions of snack mix on his plate late in the evening and he rebels against exercise with the same level of dread and resistance that I usually reserve for a root canal.
It’s an enormous contrast to my daughter, who is tiny and active. She dances and runs, skips up stairs and, to the envy of most, has the appetite of a bird.
I tried to avoid blame, figuring it was genetics that led to his enormous appetite and lack of interest in exercise. But the more I thought about the situation, the clearer it became. As a parent, it falls on my shoulders to teach him about portion control and, while he may equate it to torture, it’s my responsibility to ensure he is physically active every day.
The alternative is not attractive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity in children may lead to heart disease, diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and social discrimination.
Over the school year, my son had, from time to time, told me that other kids called him names. He seemed to shrug it off, but I didn’t. I don’t want my son made fun of because of his weight.
The solution is pretty simple. The CDC recommends parents balance the calories a child takes in from foods and beverages with the calories used through physical activity and growth. This involves healthy food choices, lots of water and reasonable portions combined with about 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week.
The issue of childhood obesity has been a hot topic of late, especially since First Lady Michelle Obama announced her nationwide campaign, Let’s Move, on Feb. 9. The campaign is a comprehensive, community-oriented effort toward combating obesity. One-third of children in America are overweight or obese, the site said.
President Barack Obama also signed a presidential memorandum creating the first-ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity.
The task force will review programs and policies regarding nutrition and physical activity and develop an action plan, also aimed at preventing childhood obesity.
“I have set a goal to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight,” the president said in his memorandum.
I hope these efforts help bring light to a growing problem in our nation.
In the meantime, I plan to take steps in my own house to help. I signed my son up for basketball and soccer and have sat him down and talked to him about portion control and the importance of fruits and vegetables. To me, it’s not about weight, it’s about his health. And I want to ensure he’s healthy and happy for decades to come.
For our military families, the Defense Department offers some great resources geared toward promoting health and fitness.
The Air Force, for instance, has launched a family fitness Web site called FitFamily. I read about FitFamily in a story by Air Force News, “Air Force Services Agency Officials Launch Family Fitness Web Site.”
For more on fitness and other service programs, visit Military OneSource’s Weight Loss Toolkit.