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Setting Your Kids Up For Success

Infant and childhood obesity numbers are reaching record highs, especially in Western countries. Between increasingly sedentary lifestyles, budget cuts in school systems leading to a reduction of physical education classes and extracurricular opportunities, and poor nutrition habits being established as early as a few months old… well, it’s really no wonder!

Fortunately, if kids are given the proper support from a variety of sources, this can be a problem that can be solved.

Pregnancy and Infancy

Yes, obesity can begin long before your child has entered the world. During pregnancy, it is crucial that mothers take care of their bodies, not just for their own well being, but for the well being of what’s getting cooked up inside! You may notice that the foods craved during pregnancy later become favorites of that child—would you want that favorite to be something unhealthy? It’s equally important that mothers are surrounded by people that can give them the support they need to make healthy choices—what’s the point of taking great care of yourself if your family is eating McDonalds around you all the time?! A healthy weight for a newborn is in the 7 lbs range, and their weight will yo-yo for the first few weeks while they adjust to consuming food from something other than the umbilical cord, so don’t panic just yet!

Breast feeding is vital to helping newborns and their continued development. In fact, many fundamental body functions- developing proper bone density and lining the GI tract so that harmful bacteria cannot cross in the blood stream- will occur after birth. The mother’s milk will be the best source of the necessary nutrients. Breast feeding is not only great for a developing infant– helping strengthen the immune system, building against allergens, and keeping a consistent healthy weight—it’s also great for the mother! Many new mothers report losing their pregnancy weight much more quickly if they stick to breast feeding for as long as is practical. Since ½ the calories needed to produce milk are pulled from fat stores, a new mother can get back to their original weight in ½ the time! Breastfeeding can burn anywhere from 500-1500 calories a day!

What Are Your Kids Really Eating?

Many schools have to take sponsorships from soft drink companies to get additional funding for programs, which mean that sugar-laden beverages are around practically every corner. Fortunately, many communities have taken action at the local level, and changed their district’s policies when it comes to nutrition. Those organizations, such as the Colorado School Nutrition Association, make it their mission to get state funding for programs like Smart Start and the School Lunch Protection Act. In fact, programs such as Pueblo’s “Breakfast in the Classroom” have received national attention through major news outlets.

http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20100914/1aschoolbreakfast14_cv.art.htm

While this particular program started with its intent on helping the other extreme– child hunger and poverty– it’s been proven that eating a healthy breakfast is one of the easiest ways to stay full and focused all day. One program addressing two issues! Job well done!

Making Kids Move

Usually, the first things to be cut whenever education funding is reduced are advanced placement classes, fine arts education, and sports. Sports do more than just provide activity; they provide opportunities for teamwork and bonding, traits that are highly valued throughout life. They give those that participate in them higher levels of self esteem, which does wonders for keeping healthy habits. Write to your governor and congressional representative and demand that our schools restore many physical education classes and after school sports programs that have been sacrificed over the last few decades. The correlation between rising levels of childhood obesity and the decline of such programs is beyond obvious, and if these programs are restored, it could be the “silver bullet” to a variety of issues: immediate ones such as better health and higher self-esteem; and long-term ones such as lowered health care costs and medical expenses (the US spends more money per person on disease management than every other country), economic issues (imagine if the money spent on obesity could be devoted to paying down the national debt or funding school systems), and environmental issues (higher levels of obesity are leading to higher levels of oil consumption, which is altering the global landscape significantly).

What Can I Do?

If you have kids, or have a direct impact on kids in your community (teacher, coach, mentor, working in a business with a family-based clientele), the most impact you can have is by being the best role model possible. Take care of yourself, and give those impressionable kids an example of what being healthy really is like. If you have time and want to participate in your community, look into joining existing programs centered on getting kids active and healthy… or start one yourself! Sources like http://www.healthiergeneration.org/uploadedFiles/For_Parents/winter_tips.pdf will give suggestions on how to keep activity levels high during the winter months when it’s just too dang cold for a baseball game or a pool party.

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