It’s no secret that the U.S. has a weight problem—and our children are no exception.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 12.5 million American children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese.
The question is, who is ultimately responsible for this problem? Do you think parents are to blame for overweight kids? How much liability should be put on our children’s doctors and schools? And lastly, how do you keep your kids active?
Our local Moms Council weighs in.
Jennifer Zeglen: The first thing I think when I see an overweight child is that there might be a medical or behavioral reason for the weight gain. The next thing I think is that I don't want to reduce anyone down to their physical looks alone or make them feeling badly about themselves for being overweight.
The majority of these kids are simply consuming too many carbohydrates—especially simple carbs—and their metabolism is breaking down. Many parents think it is only about sugar, but things like sweetened drinks or even fruit juice can be a problem. Exercise is certainly important for everyone (and many kids don't get enough), but it won't entirely compensate for an inappropriately high carbohydrate diet.
The growing obesity and diabetes epidemic is a problem for both kids and adults. The blame can be shared between parents, health professionals, advertising and the misguided nutritional policies of the current and past decades. The solution needs to come from more than just one place.
Stacey Ross: I read in the American Academy of Adolescent Psychiatry that unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year! Also, obesity in adults very often begins with kids as young as 5! I believe that keeping kids fit, trim and healthy is primarily the parents' responsibility, but the schools also would be wise to have strong PE programs, offer less junk food and intervene when children's health risks are highly elevated.
In the end, do I blame society or schools? Do I blame commercials or peer pressure? Not so much.
Our numero unos are our responsibility and their habits as children will likely hugely impact their quality of life in their adult years. We as a family keep our kids active by enrolling them in team sports. We regularly run, ride bikes and go on hikes together. We also eat and plan our meals together. When we help kids to think that being active is fun and that eating well is about making responsible choices, we have helped them with a head start in life which likely will lead to them having better self-esteem, self-discipline and overall well-being.
Ray Pearson: I was an overweight kid from 7- to 13-years-old. My parents did not monitor my junk food, exercise and food intake; therefore, I became an overweight kid. The discovery of girls and playing sports helped me change my diet.
When I see overweight kids, I empathize with the child but recognize each overweight child has his or her own individual story. All three of my children played organized sports from the time they were elementary school age as long they were having fun. In their teenage years, they chose sports or other cardiovascular activities. Once they no longer played organized sports, much of their activities revolved around friends—dancing, playing basketball or walking the dog.
I think teaching a child from a very young age the value of exercise and good nutrition is the parents’ responsibility. I miss seeing the schools having required PE at all grades, but understand the academic requirements. However, I think health education should be integrated into all grades because of the mental and physical importance to our young people’s lives.
Judy Halter and Edie Sanchez: "Blame" is a big word that causes much angst. I would rather say that most parents really are trying their best and may not realize which foods are best for themselves and their children. It is all about education and making sure the parents are well informed on nutrition so they can best serve their children.
Schools cannot be blamed. According to a recent Rand report, schools are only 20 percent responsible for a child's success. Parents are role models—if they are eating well, their children will eat well. If you educate the parent on nutrition, the domino effect will occur. How best to do this? Through the parents’ work, media, grocery stores, and some education at school and parenting classes.
Yes, keep kids active. Yes, keep adults active. Kids need exercise and brains need exercise. Parents would benefit in offering their children as many different opportunities to learn about different sports as possible when their kids are young. One hour of exercise a day for a child is very beneficial and will help the child establish a very good habit.
Meet our moms (and dad):
Genevieve Suzuki has one 2-year-old daughter. In addition to having her own law practice, she writes feature stories for Encinitas Patch. She is also the author of "The Original Poi Cats on O'ahu," a children's book published in Hawaii.
Carol Yeh-Garner is the mom of a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl who are constantly teaching her how to be a better person. She is also a local HypnoBirthing instructor and HypnoFertility practitioner.
Jennifer Zeglen is a mom to two imaginative girls, ages 4 and 6. She is also a local naturopathic doctor with a family medicine practice.
Ray Pearson is the father of three children, ages 26, 23 and 17. He lives with his wife in Carlsbad and devotes most of his nonwork time to young people and the Rotary Club.
Stacey Ross has one 7-year-old boy and 8-year-old-daughter who remind her daily how precious life is. In addition to running two websites, she writes feature stories for the Carlsbad Patch as well as shares local and national deals for the "Frugal Family" column.
Judy Adams Halter and Edie High Sanchez are certified Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB) instructors with a combined 50 years of parenting experience. Halter is the mother of four children, ages 21, 19, 17 and 14. Sanchez has two grown daughters and three grandchildren; two girls, ages 1 and 5, and a boy, age 7. Both women live in La Jolla.