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Fixing Childhood Obesity

Today's children are likely to die younger than their parents will. Why? Because of the chronic diseases associated with obesity. Right now, 66% of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. And the kids are catching up -- 32% of children and teens (ages 2-19) are overweight or obese.

Graph of Prevalence of Obesity in Youth by TV Viewing

It doesn’t take much to get fat. For a growing child, just 100 extra calories a day (the calories in just one cookie a day), can result in obesity in only 3-4 years. The great amount of inactivity spent in front television, computer, and handheld screens is another part of the problem. This graph demonstrates the prevalence of obesity compared with the hours of TV viewing per day. 

Fixing childhood obesity is most effective if it becomes a project for the whole family. Families should sit down and eat together, with meals that are planned and balanced. Choose complex carbohydrates and heavily limit sugars. Use healthy fats. Encourage the whole family to avoid snacking. Don’t eat in front of TV, or at your computer or other screens.  

Engage in leisure time activities that don’t involve TV. Almost any activity burns more calories than watching TV.

Making childhood obesity a family project will pay off in the long run. The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV)  This philosophy works with habits of eating and exercise just like it does with other areas of life. It will prevent childhood obesity, and build a healthier generation of adults, too.

The idea that family eating patterns help children to eat right for the rest of their lives is well-expressed in the words of Ellen White, a 19th century health reformer. “Then, do not your habits of eating and drinking affect others? They certainly do. And you should be very careful to preserve yourself in the best condition of health, that you may render to God perfect service, and do your duty in society and to your family.”  (Testimonies on Diet and Food, 162)

(Graph courtesy of the CDC and Cynthia L. Ogden, PhD, MRP)