Just as Newton’s laws state that an object at rest stays at rest until an unbalanced force acts on it, the habits we pick up in our childhood tend to stay with us for the rest of our lives unless we make an effort to change them. One habit that many picked up in childhood without putting in much thought has to do with what they eat. As we grow older and more conscious of how food affects us, we learn to eat healthier, exercise, and watch our weight. As children, we don’t care about these things. We didn’t necessarily make healthy food choices, because there’s usually someone else who made our meals for us.
As a result, someone who was overweight as a child is more likely to remain overweight throughout their teenage years and into adulthood, because children become accustomed to the eating habits they are taught in their early years. We consider what we grow up with to be normal, so someone who was an overweight child probably has overweight parents or other family members with weight issues. Growing up in this environment, they could begin to consider both overeating and being overweight as nothing out of the ordinary.
A recent health magazine article featured a success story highlighting one woman’s weight loss journey. She mentioned that throughout her childhood and teenage years, she always ate a lot because that was how everyone ate in her family, with heaping plates of food and multiple portions and servings per meal. She also said that her mother was always busy working and never had time to cook healthy meals or even educate her children about healthy meal choices.
I used to volunteer at a preschool for children from low-income families where we tried to teach the children healthy eating habits. Some of the children who were overweight were used to eating junk food as a snack instead of the apples and milk provided at the preschool. Other children who were underweight said that they didn’t have much food at home at all. Interestingly, neither of these dichotomies is necessarily better or worse. Studies show that being underweight and malnourished early in life could still lead to obesity and diabetes in later years.
Nurture influences many aspects of your life. One reason children become overweight is by way of unhealthy eating habits transferred from their parents, who probably also didn’t have proper nutritional education. This is a sad cycle: unhealthy eating habits early on lead to unhealthy eating habits later on, which can cause a variety of health issues.
First Lady Michelle Obama has launched an initiative to combat childhood obesity. To her, the obesity epidemic is a public health crisis and certainly an issue that deserves our attention. Being overweight may not seem like a big deal to those who don’t realize that the problems associated with it go deeper than just appearance. Obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and even sleep apnea. Additionally, the extra weight your body is forced to carry can put a lot of stress on your joints, which could result in arthritis.
Obesity isn’t just a problem in the United States. Modernization and globalization have led to an increase in the consumption of processed food. Coupled with the fact that children aren’t receiving enough nutritional education in their schools, we find that the cheap, easy solution is for kids to eat snacks that are high in sodium and fat and low in nutritional benefits. Education is definitely a good thing, but it certainly isn’t enough. Parents also need to learn more about health and nutrition in order to help their children stay healthy. Lately, there’s been an increase in governmental intervention with programs like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, but in the end, there’s only so much that the government can do for us. This is a problem that needs to be dealt with on an individual level, through better food choices and exercise. It is up to the individual to decide and to make the first step towards a healthier lifestyle.
Article by Loreen Atallah
Feature Image Source: Learning Care Group