On a Sunday evening, the multiplex closest to my home was swarming with people. As I waited 45 minutes to get my popcorn, one thing that struck me was that most kids walking around the space were, well to put it kindly, bulky (confession: I used to be a chubby bordering toward obese teenager myself). The queue for the healthy salad and sandwich counter was sparsely populated with 3-4 30 somethings while the fried chicken stall saw a massive gathering. I try not to judge the obese kids’ lifestyle choices, but the fact that these kids are oblivious to the hazards of the food they are enjoying given their body structure, is alarming.
The burden on children is heavy. The pressure to ditch playtime in the compound for studies or tuitions is high. The constant need to excel at studies and all things academic could lead to emotional eating. Then there is the need to spend some time on Facebook and get some research done for the school project with the help of the internet and after all this, if at all any time is left, the mentally exhausted child unwinds by watching TV or playing video games. Where is the time to play?
So while their obesity and the food they choose to eat worries me, I don’t think it is their fault. Somehow, we need to put a childhood back into being a child. And while it might be okay to find childhood in playing a video-game or toying with the computer, children need to love and appreciate physical activity and eating healthy because Asians are more susceptible to Diabetes and obesity at a young age can increase the risk of Diabetes, heart trouble and other health complications at a later stage. And the little coincidence that makes World Diabetes Day fall on the same day as Children’s Day in India, could mean that it is never too early to start living healthy. And from personal experience, I can say that little things done as a family go a long way. Here are some things that have worked for me as a 20-something obese girl when I tried to lose weight.
-Instead of going out to eat, organize a family game in a nearby park every week.
-Make breakfasts a family activity. Instead of sugary cereals and jams, opt for hot Indian breakfasts or sugarless cereal.
-Make better choices. Get brown bread instead of white. Salads should be integral to lunch and dinner.
-The road to eating healthy is long and we encounter many distractions. For our house, it was the food in sight at the moment of weakness. If fruits, nuts and healthier snacks are accessible and fried, unhealthy snacks are slightly out of reach, you will find yourself satisfying your hunger pangs with a fruit or a few nuts.
-Encourage eating fruits between meals. Also, reduce breakfast portions and include a fruit if possible. Eat whole fruits instead of juices and drink sugar free fresh juices instead of carbonated drinks. And small meals every 2-3 hours works wonders (provided they are really small meals and smartly chosen)
-Take the stairs, walk small distances and help kids find a physical activity they enjoy.