Facts with Hope
FACT: The journal Obesity Reviews (July 14, 2008), reporting on a study of 367 children’s food products, revealed that nine out of ten foods aimed at children had nutritional deficits due to high levels of sugar, fat or salt. (Even though 62% of them made health claims!)
HOPE: Findings from a study published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal (August 2008) shows that children are more likely to select produce over other, less healthy options, when they are regularly exposed to fresh fruits and vegetables. And a five-year study published in the journal Preventive Medicine (July 2008) found that the amount of fruit and vegetables the children ate directly correlated with the amount their parents ate. So the next time your child asks for an unhealthy snack, put out a plate of apple slices—and sit down to enjoy them together.
FACT: Researchers have found that, at ages 9 and 11, more than 90 percent of children met the recommended levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity recommended for children. By age 15, however, only 31 percent met the recommended level on weekdays and 17 percent met the recommended level on weekends. The researchers estimated that physical activity declined by about 40 minutes per day each year. (JAMA, July 16, 2008)
HOPE: Even walking for as few as 15 minutes a day provides health benefits. If your children do not exercise often, encourage family activities like bike riding, hiking, playing ball, or swimming. Planning active family events keeps your entire family fit and healthy.
FACT: The American Psychological Association reports that children who are overweight feel more stressed than their normal-weighted peers. Most of the children interviewed said they used sedentary activities such as listening to music, playing video games, and watching TV, to manage their stress, and 48% reported disordered eating (either too much or too little) when stressed out, compared with only 16% of children at a healthy weight.
HOPE: Parents can make a lasting impact on the lifestyle behaviors that lead to weight gain by helping children recognize stressors and effective ways of coping. You can also be a role model for your children in handling your own stress in a healthy way. If your children see you talking to others about problems, taking time to relax, and living a healthy lifestyle, your example is likely to rub off.
FACT: A study in the Archives of General Psychiatry (August 2008) finds that children who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight than their well-rested peers. The researchers determined that a one-hour reduction in daily REM sleep nearly tripled a child’s odds for overweight and obesity.
HOPE: Bring back the bedtime story, prayers, and tuck-in time. Establishing a regular bedtime routine can ensure that your child gets adequate sleep and help to reduce their risk for obesity.