Did you know that 31% of men and 68% of women in South Africa are obese? Being overweight or obese not only affects your self-esteem, but also leads to heart disease and potentially an early death. This is a big problem, not only in adults but also in children. 13% of South African children are obese.
We chat with Dr Joseph Mercola, founder of health website Mercola.com on how parents can help their children maintain a healthy weight.
The obesity epidemic is claiming ever younger victims. When children are overweight or obese, it puts them at an increased risk of serious diseases that can cut their lives short. Research calculations indicate that by mid-century, the growing risk of serious obesity-related illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, could lower the current average life expectancy by as much as five years. If this epidemic is not reversed we will, for the first time in history, see children living shorter lives than their parents.
What is really making your child fat?
The modern-day food system has become exceedingly reliant on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), refined grains, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners, all of which are part of a recipe for big-time weight gain. If you understand this, then you’re on your way toward understanding what the real answer to the problem is.
Fructose converts to fat far more than any other sugar
Most fructose is consumed in liquid forms, such as soda, and this significantly magnifies its negative metabolic effects. It should be obvious then that limiting or eliminating fructose from your child’s diet is of primary importance if you want to protect your child’s health and wellbeing.
The dangers of processed foods
Processed foods are yet another major source of HFCS and other health-harming substances such as MSG, while providing very few natural nutrients. Most South Africans spend 90 percent of their food money on processed foods, which promises to make you pack on the kilos by interfering with your body’s ability to regulate insulin and leptin.
A word on fat
Many families have been deceived into thinking that all fat is bad, but rather than making you thin, low-fat diet foods actually cause weight gain in the majority of people.
The challenge of making good food choices
School lunches make up a significant portion of your child’s diet, and the good news is that some school systems are taking the bull by the horns when it comes to student access to poor food and drink choices. However, simply removing temptation doesn’t necessarily teach your children to make healthy choices on their own. It’s important to remember that children learn most of their health habits at home. As a parent, you must lead by example and teach your child the importance of good nutrition, physical activity, and emotional health.
6 Tips for creating a healthy eating environment
Ultimately, teaching your child the importance of healthy foods and exercise is the key to maintaining health. With that in mind, here are some tips to foster a healthy view of food and self-esteem in your child.
- Lead by example and seek to maintain optimal body weight for yourself and your spouse
- Refrain from making jokes about your child’s weight, even if no harm is intended
- Explain the health risks of being overweight to your child, but avoid comparing your overweight child to other children, including thinner siblings
- Cook healthy meals for your family, and let your child be involved in making dinner, but avoid making your child eat different foods to the rest of the family
- Encourage your child to make healthy food choices and praise them when they do instead of putting your child down about weight or eating habits
- Instead of using food as a reward or punishment, have healthy snacks available at all times, and explain to your child the benefits they’ll get from eating these fresh, whole foods