There’s a lot of controversy over the hit TV reality show, The Biggest Loser. Regardless of your opinion of the show or their methods, one thing I think we can agree on is their approach last season to the problem of childhood obesity. If you don’t watch the show, let me fill you in on what’s been going on. Last season there were 3 kids who participated from home. Each of the three trainers had a kid to work with and the kids had regular updates and some appearances on the show.
I recently heard that 1 in 3 children in America is over-weight or obese. WOW! That statistic is sad, but not really surprising. All you have to do is walk through the local Wal-mart to see it. It’s quickly becoming a real health care crisis as we have children facing what used to be adult diseases and health issues. At some point, we have to stop the don’t hurt anyones feelings, protect their self-esteem, don’t be mean attitude when dealing with kids and weight. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed and, interestingly, The Biggest Loser has done a pretty good job doing that – from what we see on air.
It’s not the day care’s job, the school’s job, the coach’s job, the media’s job, and certainly NOT the president’s job to train our children. It’s the parent’s job to be tough, honest, and a living example.
The problem is complicated but boils down to 2 things: exercise and nutrition.
Exercise – Just Get Moving!
When I was a kid, I think I knew one or two “fat” kids. In fact, I could name them by name to this day. They stood out among their peers because kids as a general rule just weren’t fat. That was about 30 years ago. Now, I can go anywhere and see over-weight kids, it’s not the exception any more. We can blame any number of causes, but the lack of physical activity is right there at the top. We’ve become a society that doesn’t move! Rarely do you go into a neighborhood now and see kids playing in the yard or in the street with other kids. We lock ourselves behind our privacy fences, in our homes, in our schools, and we don’t move. I’m not talking about organized sports, I’m talking about daily activities as part of our LIFESTYLE! We don’t walk places, we don’t ride bikes for pleasure or for transportation, we don’t jump, run, climb trees, explore, work in our yards, clean our own houses. We simply don’t move.
I don’t know about you, but I am shocked at the number of people I know who have children, preteens, and teens who don’t clean house, mow their yard, or do any other physical, household activities. It’s easier to pay someone to do those things while our kids get rushed off the next organized activity or sit and play on the computer or any number of things. From the time kids can walk, they are put in very sedentary situations from day care to preschool to school to ….! We have a generation of kids who don’t know how to go outside and play. We have a generation of preteens and teens who don’t know how to work, who think physical labor is beneath them, and whose parents are promoting these attitudes. News flash: chores are good, physical labor is good, work is good, and LIFESTYLE activities are good for so many reason, we NEED the incorporation of physical activity in everyday life!
On The Biggest Loser, the trainers approached the kids on the show with a LIFESTYLE change. They learned to incorporate physical activity in everyday life and to find activities they enjoyed. They helped the kids see the value and joy of being active. It was not about attending a fitness class, it was about having fun, engaging with other people, and getting their rear ends off the couch. It was about them taking personal responsibility for the changes they needed to make. Their self-esteem grew as they tried new things and found activities they enjoyed. Their interaction with their peers and their parents improved and their attitudes changed. From what we saw, it was a very positive change.
Nutrition – Get Rid of the JUNK!
Another big shift we have seen in the last 30 years is in the area of nutrition. When I was a kid, most moms fixed breakfast for their children, packed a sack lunch, and cooked a meal for their family at the end of the day. They prepared real food and food was enjoyed. We ate desserts and treats and we didn’t worry about counting calories, or low-fat, low carb, or whatever else we get hung up on today. We ate real food at home and eating in a restaurant was a treat. Now, the majority of what kids eat comes out of a wrapper or a box, is loaded with sugar, is nutrient poor and calories dense. Eating out where food is often very high fat, high calorie and in huge portions happens multiple times a week. And shock of shocks, when we played hard and worked up a sweat, we drank water, not sugar filled sports drinks that we now treat as some kind of nutritional magic. Is it any wonder our kids are fat? Not to me.
Not only do we make really poor food choices, how we eat is a real problem. We need to become a people who take time to cook, eat real food, and then enjoy that food. I’ve read it takes about 20 minutes for the signal of feeling full to get from the stomach to the brain when eating. How often do you take at least 20 minutes to enjoy your meal? I would guess not very often if ever. We rush, rush, rush, eat, eat,eat and never feel satisfied. Those habits we establish as children are very difficult to break as we move into adulthood.
Again, The Biggest Loser trainers hit this head on with the kids on the show. They went into their homes, got rid of the prepackaged junk food and sodas and helped them make better choices. They helped the parents see how these convenient foods were impacting their kid’s health. They gave the families help finding new foods to enjoy, easy, practical tips for sharing meals together and focusing on real food. They didn’t promote a diet mentality, rather a healthy eating LIFESTYLE.
Take Off the Kid-Gloves
It’s time to take off the kid-gloves and deal with the real problems behind childhood obesity. It’s not a disease, it’s a matter of lifestyle choices. It starts with parents being willing to be an example of hard work, physical activity, fitness, and good eating habits. It’s not the day care’s job, the school’s job, the coach’s job, the media’s job, and certainly NOT the president’s job to train our children. It’s the parent’s job to be tough, honest, and a living example. If you want to foster good self-esteem in your children, teach them the value of physical labor and making good choices, to value health, and let their success breed success and their failures teach them to make changes without guilt. Childhood obesity is not about lazy kids, it’s about much more! It’s about our work ethic, our family life, our values, our personal responsibility. It’s about LIFESTYLE!
Have you been watching The Biggest Loser? Share your thoughts with about how you think they’ve handled this issue of childhood obesity.