You look at a little child and want to pinch his pudgy cheek because he’s so cute, or grab her chubby little leg. As that child grows older, our parents make excuses for the “baby fat” that has yet to disappear. College life adds more pounds because pizza seems to taste better late at night while cramming for an exam.
That same child, now an adult, looks in the mirror one day and can’t believe what he sees. Where did the time go, and why can’t I button my pants up? The harsh reality is that too many of us have become fat. We need to call it what it is.
I WAS APPALLED after reading an article a couple of months ago that said not only do we have an epidemic in this country, but Georgia ranks No. 2 in childhood obesity. I realize youth have become too sedentary, due in part to computers, video games, cell phones and texting. Schools have practically eliminated physical activities from curricula, and politicians are cutting back on important public health-related funding.
A British study not long ago revealed that only 25 percent of kids play outside. A Care2.com article titled “The Dirt on Dirt” was most fascinating. The childhood obesity problem has doctors trying to figure out ways to encourage kids to spend time outdoors, exercise more and change their lifestyles. This article reveals that kids are not getting enough exposure to germs. Yes, that’s right – germs.
THERE ARE NOT “enough germs – impairing their immune systems, fostering allergies, and causing asthma and other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type-1 diabetes during adulthood,” says the author. It goes on to say that kids need to go outside more so they can get dirty and come in contact with all the healthy microbes and germs that will help prevent illnesses.
Parents may fuss when their children run in the house with mud all over themselves, but experts say that playing in the mud and dirt also increases happiness. Studies show that there are bacteria found in soil that trigger a release of serotonin that uplifts moods and decreases anxiety. Playing in the dirt also can alleviate attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has taken this chronic childhood obesity problem seriously and established efforts statewide to combat it. The campaign website is georgiashape.org.
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and its national website is healthierkidsbrighterfuture.org. Both of these websites have so much valuable information. There are more than 23 million children and teenagers in the United States ages 2 to 19 who are obese and/or overweight. That also means that nearly one-third of America’s children are at risk for type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke – conditions usually associated with adulthood.
Do these statistics disturb you at all? They got my attention, and that is why we added health and fitness sessions with weight-loss specialist T.J. Simmons of Champion Fitness & Nutrition to our monthly Unlikely Allies Emerging Leaders Conference series. We have created a unique approach in building healthy
leaders that affects middle- and high-school students in the
I have to admit, I am a late bloomer when it comes to really taking a more concerted interest in my health. It wasn’t until about five months ago that I decided to take charge of my health. I’ve made a healthy lifestyle change that has me pretty amazed at times. In four months, I’ve lost 20 pounds and 30 inches, with changed eating habits and three-day-a-week, 5 a.m. workouts at Champion and two days of cardio exercise.
AS AN ADVOCATE for young people and the growth of our youth leadership development program, and now the addition of a health and fitness component, it is important for me to lead by example.
In other breaking “fat news,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion ranks Augusta fifth on the list of top 10 fattest cities in the nation. Twenty-seven percent of Augusta’s citizens live a sedentary lifestyle, and only a third have a body mass index under 25. A BMI between 19 and 25 is considered healthy.
THIS ALARMING statistic shows me that our children are fat because adults are fat. Yes, we can argue about one’s genetics; environment; the Southern culture and lifestyle; lack of recreational infrastructure; and many other things. There is some merit to all of those variables. The fact of the matter is that we have a problem – a chronic problem that affects and will affect our lives, our children’s lives and health-care costs. We really should stop making excuses.
More adults should take charge and lead in the effort to become better role models for healthier lifestyles. Our children are depending on us. So with that in mind, let’s use the month of September as a catalyst to educate about, and bring awareness to, childhood obesity, and at the same time take a physical assessment of our own health – and get moving.
(The writer is a radio talk-show host, published author, life coach and mental-health advocate.)