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Mom's Time Out

Childhood obesity

Mary Angel

(10/2016) In a country that is in the top five for childhood obesity you would think there would be more options to help these children. As the mother of a child who is extremely obese I have looked everywhere for something or someone to help. So, I guess you have figured out that this month is going to be written on a bit of a soap box. I apologize ahead of time but I am desperate and slightly frustrated. How can we top the list of countries that have childhood obesity and yet we donít offer enough to help the families who are struggling.

I am not sure it matters though. Most childhood obesity is simple the result of children sitting around playing video games. If they would just get up and move then they would be the size they are supposed to be. Donít get me started on what they are eating. All these kids eat is junk food and fast food. If their parents stopped taking them to McDonalds for every meal then the problem would be solved. REALLY! I canít tell you how many times I have heard these kinds of statements about children I know or worse yet about my child (usually not realizing who they are sitting next to). Is childhood obesity affected by all of the screen time our kids have, YES! However, to say that removing screen time would obliterate childhood obesity is absolutely ridiculous. This is the same for fast food. There are many factors to childhood obesity. Exercise and nutrition are big factors in the fight against childhood obesity, but you cannot overlook heredity and other biological factors.

Over the past two years one of my children has progressively gained weight. We have tracked her food and documented her exercise. She has made amazing food choices even when her siblings have not. We have seen the family doctor and had blood work. We have been referred to a pediatric endocrinologist who would not see us. We have been referred to a pediatric weight loss clinic that our insurance wonít cover. We feel like we are doing what we are supposed to. Our hearts break on a daily basis as we watch our daughter turn down foods she would love to have, exercise when she has had her fill, and avoid the kids who make her feel bad about her size.

I have gone to local gyms and Rec Leagues to find out what might be available for her to join to add some more cardio into her day. All the Rec Leagues offer are your basic kidís sports, i.e. soccer, basketball, etc. So if you have a child who is not athletic these options are less than appealing. When I asked at the gym I was told the same thing, "We have basketball and soccer depending on the season". So I inquired about exercise equipment or maybe fitness classes and received a shrug and an apology. There was one class offered to children 14 and up, and as for equipment another apology. One place did point out that they did have a location with a child friendly room, which is more than most. That location is out of the way and much smaller than the one I was at, and it didnít offer the things that appealed to the other kids.

My daughters recently started with a homeschool P.E. group and they love it. Everyone in the group is super supportive and encouraging. They have also started gymnastics. This was a bit more of a challenge, because of her weight and joint issues I knew she couldnít do most of the things the other kids could do in a group class. She would become more and more discouraged and eventually want to quit and consequently have her self-esteem shattered, again. Then I found out that the cost of semi-private lessons was almost the same as group, if you had the right amount of girls. My girls started last week with the most amazing lady. She managed to give instructions to anyone who had a specific skill, while still helping my daughter to try harder and harder to attain that skill. She managed to make my girl sweat like never before and all the while with a smile on her beet red little face!

So although I found a couple of needles in the haystack of the battle against child obesity, there is still so much more that could be done. It could start at home with parents. The parents of children who donít struggle at all could talk to their kids about the struggles these children go through on a daily basis, they could explain that obese children donít want to be that way and in some cases it is out of their control. I donít want to in any way remove responsibility from the parents of the children who struggle with their weight. By all means seek medical advice if the problem seems to be out of control. Also try to add activity into their schedule, activity that just seems like fun and not a punishment. Above all be careful not to focus so much on their weight and what they eat that they develop an eating disorder or a horrible self-image. This truly is a fine line we are walking, but what ifÖ

What if we did more and offered more to help children struggling with their weight. What if they could walk into a gym and find a yoga class, or a Zumba class, or better yet an aerobics class (set to Disney Radio songs)? What if local Rec groups got together and decided to come up with offerings that would help kids get healthier. What if there was an after school program designed to teach kids to make healthier choices and also incorporated some sort of aerobic activity. What if every town/school offered a walking club geared to help children who just need a non-competitive healthy activity options? What if we didnít give up?

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