Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity has gone wild! In fact, it has gone so wild as to be called an epidemic in the United States. I’ve recently gotten hooked on this summer’s reality T.V. show entitled Shaq’s Big Challenge. Any of you heard of it? Well, NBA basketball star Shaquille O’Neal has taken it upon himself to select six middle-school-aged children who are suffering from childhood obesity in order to help change their lives through eating a better diet and getting more exercise.

If you have been watching the show at all, you will quickly see he really did take on a Big Challenge! Not only is he dealing with trying to motivate these children into losing weight, he is also dealing with adolescent attitudes, laziness, and the daunting task of breaking some bad eating habits. When I’m watching the show I feel stressed for him. Not only is Shaq trying to change the lives of these six kids, he is trying to implement a new curriculum for our schools. His goal is to make his challenge nationwide and to help kids fight back against obesity, so they have a chance at a healthy long life, free of life-threatening diseases that can be caused by obesity. According to NBC, “Shaq’s Big Challenge was designed to be a wake-up call — to prod us into taking action against one of our nation’s most critical health issues: childhood obesity.”

When my husband and I were on our vacation a couple of weeks ago, we got a bird’s eye view of childhood obesity in action. We were at dinner one night at a family restaurant, making small talk waiting for our food to arrive. Across the room from us we noticed a family having dinner too. They seemed like your typical family; mom, dad, and a couple of kids. The first thing we noticed was that each family member was quite large; I would classify them as obese. The second thing we noticed was the little boy at the table. He was making such a racket pounding his fork and knife on the table demanding his food and drinking down large glasses of soda. Finally, his appetizer arrived (mozzarella sticks). He was so thrilled with his food that he shoved a whole stick into his mouth. What was humorous about the situation was that before he devoured his food, he would look at it on his fork and talk to it like it was his best friend. Soon the appetizer was gone, and he was pounding on the table again demanding for more food. At first my husband and I found the situation quite comical, but then we found ourselves very somber at the sad realization of the possible serious consequences.

How is it that parents don’t realize the serious condition they’re putting their children into by not monitoring and training in proper eating habits? Have we really become so desensitized by the media and by daily exposure to obesity that we have forgotten the severe and devastating effects it can have on our bodies––not to mention that of our own children? Wikipedia states: “Over 15% of American children are currently considered obese, and the number is growing. Without a change in diet or exercise patterns, childhood obesity can lead to life-threatening conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep problems, cancer, and other disorders.”

So, how do we begin to stop this nationwide epedemic? Prevention is a first step. As parents we have to first train ourselves in good eating habits and exercise routines. Then, by example we can train our children. My personal view is that it all begins in the home. Whatever my daughter sees me eating, she wants to eat. Since I’m a diabetic most of the foods I eat are sugar free and consist of lots of fresh fruits and veggies. She probably won’t feel the same once she hits the teenage years and decides pizza and ice cream are the foods for her, but hopefully the training I’m doing now will impact her with good eating habits in the future.

In the end, I have to say I really respect Shaq for giving kids a Big Challenge. It’s a hard task, but it’s nice to see someone who is willing to make the effort to change our future generations. Because let’s face it; our children are the future. So, I want to leave you this week with some quotes from the show that I hope will motivate you and, in turn, will help motivate the children in your life, too.

“The only person who can really motivate you is you.” — Shaq

“We’re not just helping kids lose weight — we’re saving lives.” — Dr. Carlon Colker

“Smell that fat a-burning.” — Tarik Tyler

“This isn’t about competing with anybody else — it’s about competing with yourself.” — Dr. Carlon Colker

In addition, here are some resources that may help you in your efforts to fight obesity.

1.2007 Vibrant Life special issue entitled “Diabesity”
2.SuperSized Kids: How to Rescue Your Child from the Obesity Threat, a book published by Florida Hospital

These and other similar products can be purchased through

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