Obesity is on the rise. You don’t have to look far to know that. The scary thing, is that it is starting earlier and earlier in life.
Back in 1982, 7% of Brits were classed as obese. Now it is 24%. If you think this problem is limited to adults you are in for a shock.
University College London researchers have found that children born since the 1980s are up to three times more likely than older generations to be overweight or obese by the age of 10.
Latest figures for England suggest a fifth of children joining primary school are now obese or overweight.
By the time children reach year 6 (aged 10-11) 1 child out of every 3 is classed as obese or overweight.
More Obese Parents = More Obese Kids
Eustace De Sousa, national lead for children, young people and families, at Public Health England, says: “Evidence shows that children of obese parents are much more likely to have weight problems, which is a major concern when almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.”
Whilst it is easy to point the finger at overweight parents and suggest they are to blame for their children also being overweight or obese, I’m not sure it’s as simple as that.
I believe something else has been happening since the 1980s that has a much greater impact. What am I talking about? The belief that children eat different food to adults.
Think about it, when you go into a restaurant with children are you not automatically given a different menu for the children to choose from? And, when you walk around the supermarket are there not foods that are specifically packaged for, and targeted at children?
I have a big issue with this. There seems to be a belief that children simply won’t eat the food that adults do. In particular, there appears to be a belief that children will not appreciate good quality food, will not eat fruits and vegetables and that the easy option is to serve them another plate of fried or processed crap.
I’m not claiming to be a saint here. My children sometimes eat off of those kids menus too, but why do kids menus even exist?
My favourite restaurant doesn’t have one, it simply offers small portions of the dishes on its main menu. Where did the idea for a kids menu come from and why do almost all kids menus seem to have exactly the same things on them?
The Death of Family Meals
I was recently in a restaurant with my family. We ordered our meal and within a relatively short space of time the waiter came to the table with the food we had ordered for my six-year-old daughter. Several minutes then passed and there was no sign of the other food that had been ordered. We beckoned to the waiter, “excuse me, is the rest of food coming?”
The waiter then explained that it was company policy to serve the children first, telling us that “many parents prefer their children to eat first so that they can then play and be less restless when the adults are eating.”
Hearing this broke my heart.
I love spending time with my children and indeed, I love spending time eating with my children. Where did the desire to have children sit staring at smartphones and other gadgets during mealtimes come from?
For me, family mealtimes are a real treat. Conversing with my wife and children, hearing about what excites them right now or helping them with their challenges gives me immense pleasure. It saddens me, when I see adults keen to silence their children so they can focus on themselves.
As parents it is our responsibility to set an example. I wasn’t always an example to my kids, or at least not the right type of example. I guess you can say the old me was more of a warning. Even when I wasn’t looking after myself though, I always wanted the best for my children (as I believe, almost every parent does).
If we want to stop the rise in childhood obesity, we need to educate our children on real food. We need schools to serve real food in the lunch breaks. We need restaurants to offer real food for the whole family and not to offer some substandard processed junk for our kids.
Most of all, we each need to take responsibility for helping our children understand how to be in control of their own health.
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