How Parents Can Take Charge of Childhood Obesity

African American father and daughter cookingdAmerica is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world by many reports. We’re out of shape and our life expectancy lowers with each plate of fried glory. This national issue spirals down to low income communities in a devastating way. Food inequity in the Black community is deeper than access to better tasting food, it’s a serious health issue. The inner-city is filled with fast food, local corner stores with no fresh produce and billboard ads selling the next “4 for $5” in just about every zip code we inhabit. All factors that contribute to our Black children being more obese and overweight than White children, according to the State of Obesity report.

The CDC defines “childhood overweight” as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) at or above the 85th percentile and less than the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.

Childhood obesity is defined as having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.

Dr. Clarence Lee, author and motivational coach, believes strongly in communicating to your child about what healthy lifestyle choices look like.

“You have to communicate with your children how to make healthy eating choices. If you teach them the disadvantages of eating a certain type of food then you can associate pain with that type of food. When you see a bag of chips you can associate weight gain and the pain of them not being able to do the activities or have the energy they want. We need to start having this conversation at an early age.”

Even our youngest children are affected by obesity before they reach kindergarten. Childhood obesity is more prevalent amongst pre-schoolers in low income communities according to reports. Dr. Lee makes sure that even his own son doesn’t succumb to such statistics.

“I don’t buy chips. My son is two years old and doesn’t know what candy is. He loves fruit and gets the sugar and sweetness from that.”

A child has a relative amount of control over what they eat. After school runs to the corner store for candy, chips and soda are frequent. And the choices inside of the refrigerator at home contribute to their diet regimen. But diet is often a matter of learned familial behavior patterns.

“Most people aren’t very intentional about what they eat. A lot of diets are passed down through your family. People look at these studies and see African Americans at the top of them and many of them will say, “Is it just bad genes?” And many of the situations it’s not. So genetics isn’t whats really going, it’s lifestyle.”

Dr. Lee’s Tips On Overcoming Childhood Obesity

Portion Control

“You don’t have to be strict. You just need to do things in moderation. Instead of having a whole slice of bacon, cut it in half. The reason why we eat three meals a day is because we’re really made to have small meals every few hours. These larger meals hold us for longer and it takes longer for the body to digest it. We do it because it fits into our lifestyle. I also recommend drinking 10-12 ounces of water before eating. Often times when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty.”

Increase Activity

“Activity for a person is based on peer grouping family, friends and neighborhood. When I moved from the south to California it was a jolt of healthy living pressure. You see healthy lifestyles a lot more. With our kids it’s about putting them into sports and getting them outside to do physical things. When you look at it population wise most kids are playing video games for hours at a time and it’s affecting our kids. We have to be consistent with this healthy lifestyle living trends are moving away from being intentional and moving more towards sedentary activity level and lifestyle. Also make physical activity a part of the family culture. I encourage one health [activity] as a family thing per day. Make it about lifestyle and not something I have to do.”

Start The Conversation

“You want to talk with your child about what health conditions run in your families. And pose the question, “If I continue to live this lifestyle then I’ll get these results”. The child will become more aware of the lifestyle choices they make as a result.”

Eliminate the Excuse that Healthy Food is Expensive

“Many people tell me they can’t afford fruit, so they buy chips. I say cut out the obvious things first. Cut out things like soda. Water is cheaper than soda. Don’t buy them and your wallet will open up. You don’t have to change everything you eat. It’s not what you eat, it’s how you prepare it. Eliminate the obvious things and don’t buy something in place of it.”