Why It Has To Start From The Beginning - Childhood Obesity
When I see confrontational ads like the one below which highlight the reality of what many of us eat as the typical Western Diet - it reminds me again why I do what I do. These scare-tactic ads should strike home that we are simply not eating well. This 'normal' lifecycle of eating is not good for us. Yes the individual has a choice, but it's also the environment they are surrounded by - teachers and loved ones using take away and junk food as "treats" and 'bribes", growing up believing rubbish food is something to strive for - that you'll be rewarded with, is not a healthy approach to food. We are not dogs - we should not be rewarding ourselves with food, especially junk.
The impact of being overweight/obese for a child is huge.
Here are some stats:
In 2011-12, around a quarter of all Australian children aged 5-17 years (24% of boys and 27% of girls) were either overweight or obese.(source)
The most important long term consequence of childhood obesity is its persistence into adulthood. Once a child is overweight or obese it is unlikely that they will spontaneously revert to a healthy weight, predisposing them to the health concerns such as musculo-skeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, sleep apnoea, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.(source)
Other problems associated with excess weight in children and adolescence includes the development of sleep apnoea, heat intolerance, breathlessness on exertion, tiredness and flat feet. Some research suggests that obese children (particularly older girls) also tend to exhibit decreased self-esteem and a significant proportion of children use unhealthy dietary practices for weight control.(source)
- Children are also expressing dissatisfaction with their body size as early as 8-9 years old and the majority of 10-11 years old are trying to control their weight, according to a new research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). Boys and girls who were dissatisfied with their body image were less likely to feel fit, full of energy or enjoy physical activity.(study)
In addition, children who were experiencing dissatisfaction with their body were more likely to report difficulties with their peers as well as high levels of emotional and behavioural problems.(study)
- On the basis of present trends we can predict that by the time they reach the age of 20 our kids will have a shorter life expectancy than earlier generations simply because of obesity.(source)
I am proudly in support of Dietitians who believe in a wholefood based diet and get their clients to eat as wholesome as possible (which is incredibly difficult job to do considering the individual's health, income, access etc), but I also agree with Chef Pete Evans when he says that we need a dietary overhaul. If our dietary guidelines aren't sexy enough to get people to change to eating a more wholefood based diet, and the paleo style can help people do that - then this is not a bad thing! In fact it's brilliant.
I'd much rather see more people eating more vegetables and salads, quality meats, full fat nothing-unnecessary-added foods, and unmodified oils, than someone eating:
- Breakfast: Low fibre cereal and milk
- Mid Morning: A couple of biscuits for morning tea
- Lunch: A ham cheese tomato sandwich on white with margarine
- Afternoon: A commercial muesli bar
- Dinner: A bowl of pesto pasta
For the average Australian desk-worker, this is quite a lot of carbohydrate. It's also a diet based pretty much on wheat. Wheat at breakfast, wheat as snacks, wheat at lunch, wheat for dinner. Too much of anything isn't good for us! And this isn't want the dietary guidelines are recommending either!
My version of a healthy paleo day would be something like:
- Breakfast: Eggs, avocado, tomato, spinach/kale, mushrooms
- Mid Morning: A handful of mixed nuts
- Lunch: A chicken roast vegetable salad
- Afternoon: A chia seed pudding with almond milk and berries
- Dinner: A piece of crispy skinned salmon with salad
This is not dangerous. This is delicious, and incredibly healthy! Packed full of nutrients, variety, and importantly - lots of veggies - which 93% of Australian adults fail to get enough of each day!
Yes you can have a similar veggie rich diet without being paleo. I get that. But if the paleo diet gets across that more veggies, more wholesome simplistic ingredients, back-to-nature eating is a good thing - then I hope this 'trend' lasts!
Back to the video:
Full disclosure: I don't have children. But the research that I've done and the links between what parents eat and what their children eat, (even before they're born!) is very much linked. It is so crucial to get our children to eat well from the beginning.
Extremely fussy eaters and unwell children are incredibly difficult to provide meals for; care and nutritional guidance from professionals is often necessary. However, just like teaching respect, discipline, manners, and general knowledge, educating children about healthy food choices is essential. Empowering parents to make better dietary decisions for themselves and to lead by example for their children is critical. Yes they'll still swap some lunch box items for lollies, or buy a pie occasionally, or enjoy chips at a kids birthday party. They're children. They want to do what they want, eat what they want, and be just like the other kids. As do we from time to time as adults. But creating a steadfast healthy home, and being a role model for health will have such a great impact on their long term health and wellbeing. You just can't turn a blind eye.
Take a look at the video.