We hear about the increase in childhood obesity in some way almost daily. Kids today are faced with many chronic diseases that were virtually unheard of in children and adolescents 20 years ago! This is not a pretty picture of our future. It is not much of a surprise when we consider that children model their parents! And we know the rise in Adult obesity is out of control.
I’ve just finished a certificate of training in childhood and adolescent obesity, and I attend numerous symposia each year on the issue of weight management. There is so much research on obesity and many factors that we know are NOT the problem. Genetics being one of them! However, every bit of research points to a few consistent choices that can make a huge difference in the rate of obesity for ALL Americans, but it will take time. Time is part of the problem. We want the “fix” yesterday, and are looking for the quick and easy way out.
Today I’m going to give simple ways to see big change! Whether your focus is weight loss or weight maintenance, the simple tips will make all the difference. I’m focusing on Americans 20 years and younger, although the “older” Americans will benefit as well.
First, I’d like to share some interesting information.
• The average weight of children and adolescents has increased 11 pounds in the last 40 years!
• (The average adult weight has increased 25 pounds in the last 40 years!)
• In 1969, 40% of American kids either walked or biked to school. Today less than 13% do so.
• On average, the American youth spend 52 hours per week in front of a screen for recreational purposes! And screen time impacts food choices more than it does physical activity!
• Most schools offer physical education twice each week IF that! Physical education and recess has a strong correlation with improved test scores and less attention and behavior issues. Should be simple!
• When schools replace the high sugar and high fat foods and beverages in vending machines, school stores and carts, and a la carte lines, afternoon referrals for discipline issues dropped dramatically, to almost none! Simple!
• In the past week, several school districts took out the climbing ropes and chin up bars for fear of injury to kids! Editorial, if I was in those districts I’d get a lawyer and sue for injury related to lack of physical activity! The evidence is MUCH stronger than the potential for a fall.
• September 24 is National Eat Dinner with Your Family Day. This activity, eating as a family, has been linked to lower rates of overweight and obesity-simple!
• When people become knowledgeable of the foods they eat, the consume at least 100 fewer calories- simple! The internet is a plethora of information waiting to be found.
• Americans spend half their food dollar on meals eaten away from home compared to 26% in 1970. Eat at home more- simple!
• Value meals provide “value” for only 29 - 49 cents. That value equals 400 additional calories which equates to almost 10 pounds per year if you “value” size your meal once per week.
• 93% of kids meals provide a calorie and fat overdose, often containing more than 1/3 of what kids should consume in a days worth of meals and snacks!
Choose smaller portions by using smaller utensils, plates, bowls, and glasses to provide the visual “fullness and quantity” but with less food. SIMPLE! Changes in portion sizes are the one consistent factor that has changed over the past 20 to 30 years. This fact is presented at every conference and workshop I attend on overweight and obesity. If the portions were enough food to sustain and satisfy us 20 to 30 years ago, when we were LESS sedentary, why do we think the same is not enough today?
• Bagels used to weigh 2-3 ounces where today they are 5-7 ounces!
• A small soft drink used to be 8 ounces, not the 20 ounces of today. Watch New York this week to see how the vote on soda size availability comes out!
• Average size movie popcorn used to be 3 cups; today it’s 16 cups!
• In 1957 a hamburger was slightly larger than 1 ounce. Today, the hamburger is 6 ounces of meat!
Besides the simple steps above, what else can you do for your family and yourself for long term weight maintenance? Nothing earth shattering or sexy, but doable and works for virtually everyone!
• Serve and eat lots of color and flavor in the form of fruits and vegetables. How can you flavor your meals with color?
• Move more throughout the day. It’s not enough to be active for 60 minutes (amount recommended for our kids) when we are completely sedentary the rest of the day. Turn off the screens, including the small hand held ones and see what happens when you ignore the whines.
• Replace sugary beverages with no calorie water, limited amounts of 100% juice and milk.
• Eat breakfast.
• Limit fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats.
Simple, but still challenging? Perhaps you would benefit from the value of consulting with a professional, not a been there done that professional, but someone truly trained to help you make the changes for you and your family.
What will you do this week to make healthier choices for you and your family?