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Feb-10-2010 00:56printcomments

Fighting Childhood Obesity in America

When we start with ourselves, our children will catch on very fast.

Overweight girl

(NEW YORK) - With more than a third of our children now overweight and many already diabetic, Americans of all political colors should commend the First Lady for her recently-announced campaign against childhood obesity.

But taking on such an enormous problem is going to require a lot more than praise. And it will require more than heart-healthy choices, limited TV, and “opportunities for exercise”—buzzwords that public health experts have been tossing around for years with no apparent effect.

This will require something very old-fashioned and very unpopular: self-discipline and self-control.

There are many factors which contribute to our current epidemic of obesity: the near-elimination of physical labor by technology; the disappearance of playgrounds and neighborhood ballgames; too few miles walked, and far too many driven. All of these things add up to a soft, comfortable life, which is hazardous to our health. One rather obvious fact seems to be repeatedly ignored: we Americans simply eat way too much food, while millions of other people are starving.

We eat not only once or twice a day, but three or four times a day. And despite what we may think or say, we adults are very bad examples. And so as noble as our intentions to help children may be, they will continue to fail if we do not recognize that we ourselves are the problem. If we want our children to change, then we have to start with ourselves, and start to eliminate our bad eating habits.

I have recognized these bad habits in my own life, and have decided—along with other friends—to change them. This starts with daily exercise. Also, since the recent tragedy in Haiti, we have decided to only eat two meals a day, and quite often skip dinner as well. With the money we’ve saved, we are sending checks to local people who are involved in grass-roots relief efforts: a local obstetrician who is traveling to Haiti this spring, or a couple who support four orphanages.

There is much more we can all do, simply by saying “no” to some of the many pleasures that we take for granted. Then we can give away the money we’ve saved to people who are suffering. Many little steps can make a big difference.

School districts should keep on ripping out vending machines and buying fresh local produce instead of processed foods. But these efforts must be accompanied by a serious debate about the role of personal responsibility. Let’s talk not only about calories and diets and exercise regimens, but about self-discipline, self-control and self-denial. And then we need to turn that talk into action, starting with ourselves.

When we start with ourselves, our children will catch on very fast. We will be surprised how happily they will follow our example.

Johann Christoph Arnold is a pastor and author of ten books, including Be Not Afraid: Overcoming the Fear of Death, which are now available as free e-books at

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randu November 5, 2010 3:22 am (Pacific time)

god be with u

someone else March 11, 2010 2:43 pm (Pacific time)

i think that knowing how to rationalize and eat alittle at a time throughout your day could help a lot. also working out an hour after you eat so that you balance what you did. i think that doing this will help with peoples daily life styles if they know how to live their lives. or if they change their life styles.

Terlene Terry-Todd February 11, 2010 8:20 am (Pacific time)

Obviously the need is great to raise the consciousness level in the fight against adult and childhood obesity in our communities. There are many small strategies we can do with our children, such as eliminating sodas. Sodas account for one of the biggest and easiest ways to curb sugar for kids. Parents should encourage their children to switch to water since it is the best drink for our bodies and helps to eliminate toxins. Cutting down on fast food meals is another much needed strategy to curb obesity in both adults and kids. Although it’s “fast” it’s also very fattening and a great contributor to obesity. The research clearly demonstrates a correlation between what children see in the media and how it affects their nutritional knowledge. Many children cannot discern what is healthy from what is junk food. The need for more parental controls and influence on healthy choices is very sound advice for combating childhood obesity. We must continue to raise the consciousness level on the fight against childhood obesity. As the author my new children book, “Sweetie’s Healthy Start” the main character, Sweetie, and her very overweight family learn the lessons of the need for good nutrition, making better food choices and how fitness can be fun. Family support is the greatest way to lose the weight and maintain good fitness throughout youth and adulthood. More parental control over food choices and providing daily physical activity is paramount for healthier children. “The family that plays together, stays together”, is a cliché of sound advice. Family support is the greatest way to lose the weight and maintain good fitness throughout youth and adulthood. Terlene D. Terry-Todd, author “Sweetie’s Healthy Start” Blog: Creative Health and Fitness T. Terry-Todd - Wordpress

Jeff Kaye~ February 10, 2010 5:06 am (Pacific time)

Great advice. Now, if we'll just take it and run with it - literally. At least walk. Show your kids that health starts at home. Turn off the tube and go to the park, if their is one near you. If not, invest in a good treadmill, and challenge each other's daily gains of distance, time, incline, pace, etc. A good example is the very best gift we can give our children... It trumps any amount of lecturing on what they "should" do. If YOU do it, they're much more likely to follow your advice. Also, cutting out (or at least limiting) red meat not only has immediate health benefits, but long-term environmental impact. America's cattle contribute significantly to greenhouse gases. Cutting (way) down on processed sugars and bleached flour products also have immediate health benefits. These nutrient-deficient products are the main contributors to early-onset diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Drink plenty of water too, and fiber up!

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