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Sunday, 10 July 2011

National child obesity week - lets get started

My good friend Mumonthebrink told me it was Childhood obesity week this week and although I think it is a wonderful thing to bring awareness to what we can do to keep our children healthy, I cringe at the same time because I am going to hear so much of the eat less and exercise more motto which I have heard all my life and which I have not found helpful at all.

First of all, I think our children are born to be slim. Yes, let me repeat "born to be slim". Obesity is a learnt habit that happens one bite at a time or should I say one thought at a time. Let me explain. If you observe babies and toddlers, they do not need at all to be encouraged to eat healthy and to exercise, it is the parents that do. And guess how children learn? Through example. They do not listen to your words, they watch what you do and they copy. So instead of telling them what to do, why don't we listen to what they have to tell us. They know how to be slim, whereas we have unlearned how to be slim.

On Childhood Obesity Week let's tackle our issues with food and do everything we can not to force our children to repeat our mistakes:

- let's eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full
- let's drink water when we are thirsty (and not fizzy drinks, squashes or soft drinks - and let's not be fooled by the no sugar added squashes which are packed with artificial sweeteners)
- let's not eat food just because it is served and let's not finish our plates regardless of whether we are still hungry or not
- let's learn to cook and enjoy home made food and take the time to cook with our children
- let's enjoy more raw food (this way there is no excuse if we don't like to cook)
- let's not add salt or sugar to our food
- let's ditch the processed foods that are riddled with sugar and salt
- let's show our children where fruits and vegetables come from and eat plenty of... so they want to imitate us
- let's slow down so that they can get out of prams, cots, bouncers, rocking chairs, and all the things that make them not interrupt our very important adult activities and let them run around free to explore and use their wonderful little bodies and let's us adult play the game of trying to keep up with them. How is that?

No one should need to go to a gym or to an artificially organised activity that costs money. If you get to that point, it is because you are repressing the natural need and desire to move that children have. We start when we strap our children in push chairs... and continue when we force them to sit down in a class for hours on end. And then, without taking any consideration of whether it feels fun for them, we force them to do PE where physical activity is competitive instead of being a pleasure and a joy. Is this crazy? Thirty hours of the week in school we request that they sit down when they want to move and then force them to move when they might want to rest and compete with other children so they feel humiliated if they are not the best of their class.

What if, for once, we let them move freely as nature has intended them to do? What if we didn't interfere by telling them how they are supposed to play with a ball or how they are supposed to dance. Let's just put the music on and boggie. What if we got our children out of classrooms? What if children took part of their parents lives and were not parked in "children customized activities" and just were part of real life.

We are tackling childhood obesity from the wrong angle when the damage is already done. Let's take a step back and look at us instead of looking at the children that we have created. We can't say "do what I say not what I do". It's about time we walked the talk. No excuses. No short cuts. And it's also about time we celebrated as adults the diversity of our children's bodies. Isn't it amazing that kids come in all sizes: round, square, long, short, thin, rotund, sturdy, chunky... and I could probably go on for more but not being a native speaker, I might have to get my dictionary out. Let's celebrate diversity instead of advertising images of bodies that are not realistic and that make our bigger kids totally inadequate? Let's chastise advertisers for the damage they do to our children's body image. Pressure to be thin... only makes people bigger. Why? The pursuit of an unrealistic goals of slimness makes you feel like a failure and then you reach out for food for comfort. Tada.... it's called reverse psychology.

Let's all learn about reverse psychology and realise that if we don't walk the talk, then it would be best not to say anything at all.

To your children's health and natural slimness

Anges de Lumiere

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