Is this the wake-up call parents of overweight kids need?

Australian children are getting so fat they are having their tonsils removed so they can breathe while sleeping. If this isn’t the wakeup call parents of overweight children need, then I don’t know what is. We all know our children are fatter than ever, we all know they eat too much and exercise too little, we all know they are the first generation to have a shorter life span than their parents, and still there’s resistance to expert advice to embrace healthier living. Wake up parents!

Flinders Medical Centre head of nose and throat surgery, Professor Simon Carney said, “We take out more tonsils for kids that have breathing and sleep problems than for those that have tonsillitis.” He also made the point that overweight parents were more likely to regard overweight children as acceptable and not address their weight problems.

I can’t think of a bigger health issue for our children than ensuring they can breathe. We go to so much trouble to ensure our children’s health, to put their shin guards on when they play soccer, to make sure their seat belts are on in the car. Obesity is the single biggest health issue our children face today and it’s the easiest one for us as parents to influence.

Professor Carney said, "The problem with sleep-disordered breathing is that it impacts on their energy levels during the day and children then have difficulty exercising.” If my child came home complaining of constant fatigue, I’d be taking them to the doctor for a blood test.

The bottom line is this – if the thought of your child undergoing dangerous surgery so they can breathe doesn’t prompt you to have a rethink about your family’s health, nothing will. It’s not ‘normal’ for our children to eat excessive amounts of unhealthy food and sit idle day after day. It’s the result of our too-busy lifestyles and of our reluctance to acknowledge weight as a real and dangerous health issue. And let’s throw some blame to big business. As parents we are surrounded by ridiculous amounts of junk food. It’s at schools, at the supermarket checkout, at parties, in vending machines. It’s cheap and convenient. It’s a crowd-pleaser and we are consuming too much of it.

Junk food has its place but it was never meant to be a staple in our children’s diets. Healthy food is great but not in excessive quantities.  If we make the right decisions regarding our children’s diets most days, we can turn the tide on childhood obesity.

Biggest Loser trainer Shannon Ponton is clear. “Obesity, and in particular childhood obesity, is at record levels – our health and our weight are out of control. I put a lot of the blame for that on parents. I think it is cruel to raise overweight kids, and it is not only because of the health issues the kids will face for the rest of their lives.”

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Some two-year-olds weigh 36 kilos, three times their recommended body weight. Some kids are having hip operations because they were so heavy their joints gave out.

I’m not extreme about what my children eat. I don’t harp on about healthy eating to them or ban all junk. I just feed them three healthy meals a day, set up my fridge and pantry with healthy snacks, get rid of excess junk food after birthdays and other special occasions, take them to the park and run around with them, don’t force them to finish their meals when they aren’t hungry and I don’t buy sodas or cordial. We chat about which foods are best for them but they aren’t rewarded for cleaning their plates.

The biggest health crisis our children face is the easiest one for us as parents to address. So why aren’t we?

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