Monday, April 5, 2010

How to Support First Lady Michelle Obama in Overcoming Childhood Obesity

I want personally congratulate First Lady Michelle Obama on her initiative to fight childhood obesity. It is a big undertaking but it certainly does not only concern our children. I believe as a whole society we are on our way to be more conscious of our food choices and a more healthy lifestyle.

In the face of this national crisis we have to look at our culture as a whole and be willing to make not only some adjustments to how we live, how we eat, and how we play. Unfortunately, our unhealthy eating habits have spread to other countries as well. But we can’t blame the problems of childhood obesity only on the fast food companies nor can we make junk foods responsible for our weight gains. Overly processed and starchy/greasy/sugary foods are not healthy for anyone, let alone kids.

Another issue we have to look at is the physical inactivity most of us face on a daily basis. Technological advances have made easy for us to stay inactive for whatever time we chose to. Unlike our ancestors who had to work for their food, physically being active outdoors for most of the day, many of us spend their days indoors.

During the agriculture age, sedentary activity and obesity were rare, maybe only common among the affluent. The children worked along with their parents at home and in the fields. Their food came directly from their gardens. Children could play on the farm, in the woods, and the fields. Even city children had more outdoor activities and playgrounds to protect them from the dangers of the streets.

This being the Information Age, we need to take advantage, and become educated about our health and wellbeing. Most of all we need to be responsible and make the right choices for “our health and wellbeing,” and that of our children.


"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 text of the president's memorandum reads. "The first lady will lead a national public awareness effort to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity. She will encourage involvement by actors from every sector -- the public, nonprofits, and private sectors, as well as parents and youth -- to help support and amplify the work of the federal government in improving the health of our children."


I am sure there are many reasons for childhood obesity. Let’s start with many unwanted pregnancies. When a baby is conceived under emotional turmoil, this little creature will be insecure with low self-esteem. Other health problems arise when the expectant mother is smoking during pregnancy.

Most babies today are not breastfeed. Breastfeeding not only creates an extra immunity for the baby but also creates a special bound with the mother, giving the baby security and protection. Some health concerns arise when the baby gets solid foods too early, or is constantly encouraged to eat more or clean their plates.

Obviously, children learn from what they see their parents do. Creating a peaceful atmosphere around the dinner table, providing healthy balanced meals for the children at home, getting plenty of sleep, will give them a great start for life. We are such an instant society, everything is convenience and fast. Children can adjust to any lifestyle and any kind of foods. The overpowering advertisements on TV and the enticing toys at the fast food places have many parents confused. There is a knob on the TV for a reason and food at home is much healthier and cheaper, too.

I appreciate Mrs. Obama’s initiative to educate the American public about childhood obesity. We all have to become accountable for our choices for ourselves and for our children.


I was very surprised when I heard that many of the playgrounds at our public school are not used for recess anymore; that in many cases recess has been completely taking out of the schedule. The reason being, that the educators want to give our children a greater chance for “education.” The “No Child Left Behind Act” has some educator confused about balancing education and recreation. Children need a balance of the left and right brain stimulation to advance technologically and stay creative. Studies have shown that children can study better after taking regular breaks even as short as 10 minutes.

Even adults have only a certain length of attention span and need to take a break every couple of hours. Children need free play, need run and free their minds from structure for short periods of time. Free and imaginary play does good, for the morale and social skills. The argument, that legal matters of safety are just not cutting it. So what if a child gets their knee scraped, or maybe doesn’t get their turn in jumping the robe. Life learning comes in many packages, and children need to learn social skills as well as intellectual learning. And hopefully recess will not be completely unsupervised; a bully needs to put into place.


When our leaders in the agriculture department of our government created the food pyramid, they had our health and wellbeing in mind. After 20 years of having carbohydrates at the bottom of the pyramid, which means that these nutrients are most desirable, we have to question its value to say the least. Especially, since most of our carbohydrates are so refined and denatured that there not many nutrients left.

Sugars are also carbohydrates and they are the greatest detriment of our eating habits. Cereals, breads, pastas, unless they are made from whole grains (complex carbohydrates), don’t have much nutritional value. I believe the vegetables and fruits should be on the bottom of the pyramid and eaten the most. Or we should get rid of the pyramid completely and implement a food pie.


I was really inspired when I read that the First Lady and some school kids planted a garden last year near the White House. It is not only a good idea to get kids out of the house, but also to teach them that the foods we eat don’t grow in the supermarket. When kids participate in planting a garden, putting in their sweat and efforts to cultivate fruits and vegetables, they are naturally more inclined to eat them.


Along with bad eating habits our kids are growing up with their heads and eyes on computer screens, video games, cell phones, living in a virtual reality. When they get hungry, their snacks are soda pop, chips, and candy. Their heroes are in the ball games, on a screen. Many kids are so deprived of fresh air and sunshine that they are always tired and therefore don’t get enough exercise.


We don’t need any more statistics unless we really go to the grassroots and become responsible citizens. Let’s stop blame the government or the fast food industry for our childhood obesity. We all know it’s not cool to be fat but that has not prevented an obesity epidemic from occurring among America’s youth. Childhood obesity increased from 5% in 1964 to about 13% in 1994. Today, it’s about 20% and rising.

Other statistics prove that kids are watching TV, using computer or playing video games for 5-6 hours a day. On top of that, kids are bombarded with well-crafted TV ads from fast food chains, cereal makers and junk food corporations which promote their denatured, sugar and fat laden meals and snacks. Again, statistics tell us, that “the amount of overweight kids” have doubles since 1971 which means that one in three children in this country is overweight: about 17% are considered obese. To make matters worse, a quarter of all kids from 5 to 10 already have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. Thank goodness for statistics.

I believe in Michelle Obama when she promotes educational awareness. Like the decade-long education on the effects of smoking finally led to the banning of smoking in all public places. Public awareness of childhood obesity has to be promoted everywhere and every cereal box and every soda can has to have a warning sign on it on how much refined sugar is in each serving. Food labels are not enough. Put a warning label next to it: WARNING: X AMOUNT OF SUGAR IS HAZZARDOUS TO YOUR CHILD’S HEALTH AND CAN LEAD TO CHILDHOOD OBESITY AND DIABETES.


• Get the whole family involved and create a plan of action, to be more active, etc. Changing habits takes a certain discipline. You can’t just tell your child to change by themselves.

• Consult your pediatrician regarding overcoming obesity. Let him recommend a nutrition based program to get your child started. Even better, do the program with your child.

• Look at your pantry and refrigerator and get rid of all the sugar-laden foods like soda, candy, cereals, etc. Also eliminate potato chips and high-glycemic snacks.

• Be there when your child gets home from school, or have a neighbor receive the kids from the school bus.

• Love your kids, show them love and support by spending time together, either in play or in helping with homework or school projects.

• Make a goal plan; reward your children when they reach a certain goal, either to buy some new clothes or take them to the movies, or prepare for a special outing, etc.


In all the discussion about health care reform I haven’t heard one word about being rewarded for leading a healthful lifestyle. Why don’t we get “browny” points for all the times we don’t need a doctor; every time we eat an apple instead of a candy bar, or drink a glass of water instead of soda.


I was reading some columns where the young students were involved in making better choices for their health and fitness. Here is an account from:

In Royal Palm Beach, FL, student council members worked with their P.E. teacher to create a fitness trail around the school. The trail is open to students and faculty alike and easy to use because of its convenient location on school grounds. As a part of the P.E. curriculum, students will maintain the trail, keeping it clean and accessible.

Young people have a good mind and should be consulted about their circumstances. We just always have remind ourselves that we the adults and have the long range wellbeing in mind for our youth.

There are many accounts where young people get involved in volunteering in their communities. With the guidance of some adults, young people can be moved away from self-indulgence like playing video games, and find opportunities in self-learning, raising their self-esteem in doing good for others.


Americans spend $33 billion annually on weight-loss products and services. It is not only our young people who suffer from obesity. When we look and ask for change today, we have to ask ourselves: What can I do to make a lasting impact on food choices, fitness and lifestyle? And maybe, we just have to look a little deeper, than convenience and keeping up with the Jones’. Maybe, we have to reconsider some core values. It is difficult to go against the mainstream, but if the lives of our kids and families depend on it, it is worth it. Most junk food is eaten either alone and/or in secret because one feels lonely.

• A family who eats meals together can create security and protection for each member.

• A family taking walks together or going to the playground together, can be more fun than if everybody disperses to their video game or computer after dinner.

• A family who goes on a bike trip, camping outing or some other family activity can share simple foods and healthy snacks together.

• A family who takes time to do volunteer work in the community can create wonderful memories for the kids.

• A family who talks together and shares their feelings and experiences approaches a healthy lifestyle where they address all aspects of their children’s development: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Although Mrs. Obama has the best intention, she cannot solve these problems only from the top. It takes the whole population to become aware of the dilemma and support our leaders by being proactive.

No comments: