By Brett Klika
Much of what we know and do, we learn from watching others. Our close friends, frequent associates, neighbors and communities are fairly influential in shaping our thoughts, beliefs, and habits. What we learn and observe in our own home, however, is going to be the most significant factor in shaping our behaviors. When we look at the “behavioral epidemic” of childhood obesity, it’s important to take note of this.
10 years ago, I was a counselor at a nationally renowned weight loss camp in San Diego. We had “campers” age 7-adult who would come for 10 weeks to lose weight and get in shape. I worked with many kids under the age of 15 that were over 250 pounds. Many were from wealthy families, and were generally left at home every day with a credit card for food and a mountain of video games. We would spend the summer teaching them portion control, the benefits of being active, and proper food choices. The average weight loss was anywhere from 20-50 pounds in 10 weeks, with some of the more extreme cases being even more. At the end of the summer, the parents would come to pick them up and I would have a chance to meet with them. I would sit down and listen to an extremely overweight (100lbs+) parent tell me how “their 10 year old child didn’t make good food choices,” and they wanted to know what they can do at home to help. I was quick to recommend the following:
- Take away the child’s car keys so they cannot drive to the store to get bad food
- Decrease the child’s work hours or pay rate so they cannot afford a plethora of junk and fast food
- Blindfold them at dinner so they can’t see what the rest of you are eating
- Being utterly powerless as the child’s parent, call in a 3rd party corporate negotiator to discuss cookie, ice cream, and other junk food allotments.
Well, I was thinking it at least.
Statistics show that most overweight parents are going to create overweight kids that will someday become overweight parents, etc., etc., etc. The blame is being put on video game companies, fast food restaurants, processed foods, and many other “evil” corporate machines. After all, they do market to kids with colorful packaging and fun loving mascots. The question is, how are young kids provided the means to acquire these products? Who are these evil companies “middle men” that allow these products into the home in such large numbers?
The fact is kids will “choose” from what is in front of them. Young kids can’t make reasonable “big picture” choices (“Fellow Americans, President Hannah Montana”). It’s our job as parents and mentors to provide a palate of good choices. That may mean that we don’t buy loads of junk and fast food for the kids to “choose” from. We may have to demonstrate moderation when it comes to these things. It may mean that we cook meals at home. It could suggest that we become educated as to basic proper nutrition. It may even mean that they see us being active, getting off the couch, going for walks, family bike rides, anything (we are actually introducing a class through our gym called “Family Fitness Hour” for entire families to exercise together).
Now, as you may be feverishly loading “But you don’t have kids!” bullets into your excuse gun, hear me out. I agree; it’s not that easy. It’s actually very hard to provide a good example when it comes to proper exercise and nutrition. I know many frustrated parents that do provide this environment, but due to a variety of factors, it just isn’t absorbed by their kids. Let’s face it, kids spend plenty of time away from home with friends, etc., and no one is able to “police” their children 24/7. At a certain age, kids do acquire the means to obtain things on their own. In addition, parents are very busy with their careers and the family’s various activities. If I asked a parent, however, if they would like to play a role in preventing childhood obesity, nearly all of them would say yes. This article has outlined some pretty basic suggestions. We have to take accountability as parents and mentors. We can’t rest on excuses when it comes to committing to the health and well-being of our youth.
Coach Brett Klika is the Director of Athletic Performance at Todd Durkin’s Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA. He specializes in youth fitness and athletic performance, overseeing a staff of 8 strength coaches developing programs for over 300 youth per week, both athletes and non-athletes. He presents around the world to both trainers and corporations with Todd Durkin Enterprises on a variety of health, wellness, and athletic performance topics. Brett contributes monthly to the award-winning “TD Times” newsletter. If you would like to sign up, you can do so by visiting FitnessQuest10.com, ToddDurkin.com or use the contact form below: [easy-contact]