Childhood obesity. Two words that in my opinion should never be together and yet a new study released this week by the Australia and NZ Journal of Public Health claims that, “One in five Australian children are overweight or obese by the time they start school, with about 5 percent of children aged between two and four years classified as obese.” This is costing the public health care system a measly $17 million per year.
But I am not here to talk about the government or how they spend their money. We know that with obesity comes great risk, we know this for adults, so you can only imagine how huge the risk is for children. In case you don’t remember, I am more than happy to remind you….heart attack, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, etc. In Alela terms, it is an absolute fricken disaster for your body!
Hearing the statistic that 5 percent of children aged 2-4 years old are obese was enough to bring me to tears. Obese, not overweight, not baby chubby but obese. It is at this age that these tiny humans are meant to be learning, growing, playing…without risk of being sick. Obesity at this age is truly a tragedy.
What fires me up is that emotional and physiological trauma this causes to a child. We know, as adults, how being overweight or obese can affect our lives. Things like depression, anxiety and many other social disorders, at the very least feeling overweight makes us feel uncomfortable and unhappy. Again two words that we would never want our children to be.
Vicki Brown, a researcher at the Centre for Research Excellence in Obesity Policy at Deakin University, suggests that if parents knew how much of an impact can be made during this time, so much benefit could be gained. She mentions “the unique window of opportunity” we have to teach our kids about health and food is especially great between the ages of 2-4 years old.
But as much as I am a health professional, I am also a realist and a mum. I know trying to get a 2-year-old to eat broccoli can be worse than negotiating with the UN! So what are we doing wrong? What has changed in the last 20 years to have us as parents feeding our kids what is convenient over what is best for their health? In my opinion, it is our lack of time to BE parents compared to 20 years ago. 80 percent of mothers used to stay at home and now 80 percent of mothers are back to work within the first 12 months of their child’s life. Stress and financial pressure surely has something to do with it? The lack of time to be out with the kids playing, running, chasing…using up energy and of course, how convenient is it now to go to one of these great play centres and McDonalds for a
Ms Brown goes on to say, "The research suggests there is an immediate benefit in trying to reduce this rate of obesity in young children, but we also know there are many long-term health benefits of reducing risk of conditions like diabetes, heart conditions, stroke and all those other conditions that we know can happen later in life – it's really twofold, the benefit there. I think it’s a really important time – it's one when children are first experiencing their tastes of food, first experiencing their attitude toward physical activity – they're learning so much during this time that I think it does present this unique opportunity,” she said. "It's an important area to try and give our children the best start in life that we possibly can, [especially while] their tastes, preferences and habits are still being formed. Obviously it's an issue for all ages and genders, but it is really important when we are seeing such alarming statistics in young children, that we direct some resources to understanding how we can make a change."
So what do we do as parents to ensure our children have the best start at life nutritionally? The best you can. Incorporate health into your life, make YOUR health a priority and in my opinion the children will follow. Lead by example, BE the example. I agree completely with the researchers that aged 2-4 is a unique window of opportunity to educate and teach. If we are showing our toddlers what exercise is, what good healthy food is, teaching them about whole fruits and vegetables then not only are we creating a healthy environment for ourselves, but we are creating a healthy future for our babes.
And isn’t that all we can ask for?
Health & Wellness Coach
Source: James Lemon Herald Sun 24th January 2017