The latest stats on childhood obesity make for some uncomfortable reading. In the UK, a third of children are overweight or obese by the time they are 12 years old. In the US, the percentage of children diagnosed as obese has tripled since the 1970s.
Last year, there were 525,000 admissions in UK hospitals that were caused or partly caused by obesity. I don’t really need to go through the health risks that come with being obese or overweight – that’s been covered enough by mainstream media. However, the fact that a significant proportion of the next generation is growing up with weight issues is causing a huge ticking health time bomb in the future.
A combination of our diets and lack of exercise has obviously contributed to the problem, and now we need to find a way to solve it.
But where do we start?
Speaking from experience, it can be very hard to change habits that have been ingrained throughout childhood. I have a close family member, a child, who is overweight. Trying to get her to eat some vegetables, avoid her favourite sweets and foods and do some exercise is an absolute mission sometimes. But that’s exactly what it should be – a mission.
Like any mission, you will have some wins and some defeats. I often find myself beating my head against the wall when the child eats tons of sweets and is asking for more. I wonder if any lesson I teach her is actually going in. However, with every defeat often comes a win. She doesn’t notice that I’ve replaced the majority of her favourite risotto with cauliflower and she’s started actively trying to, well, get active.
We know we have a problem with childhood obesity. But we shouldn’t just identify the problem. We must do something about it. Tackling childhood obesity will take time and baby steps, but it is essential if we’re going to have a healthy and happy population in the future.