Parents are to blame for what obese kids eat

It's time for some tough love, with almost 30% of children now considered obese. But it's the carers of these kids who need to take responsibility for allowing their precious ones to make such poor food choices, Vani Naidoo writes

LAST Sunday I took my little girl to a birthday party at an indoor trampolining centre. It was a fairly typical affair.

The venue, much sought after by parents looking for a fun-filled activity, was filled with hundreds of loud kids growing louder still as they took full advantage of the jumping surfaces. No surprise there.

A number of parents sought solace in cushy armchairs with a prized cup of coffee. Hmm, no surprise there.

Puffed and happy children made their way off the trampolines in a steady stream to enjoy a cold drink, chatting animatedly about their must-see tricks. No surprise there.

Yes, most of the red-cheeked out-of-breath children were seriously overweight. No surprise there.

It is the latter that has stoked my ire, creating a rumbling volcano of anger deep in my belly.

You should be angry too, and ashamed, because we are digging our kids into a hole from which they may not be able to escape, and confining them to a life filled with poor health, uncomfortable social situations and ridicule.

Almost 30% of Australian children aged two to 16 are obese. Not carrying some puppy fat, not slightly chubby, not just overweight - obese.

Obese children not only have a 50% chance of becoming obese adults, but also suffer from a range of social, physical and emotional problems.

Medical practitioners point to weight-related issues including stress on the bones and joints, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and blood fats as well as sleep apnoea and a fatty liver.

Obesity makes heavy demands on our health system, costing almost $70 billion in direct and related illnesses last year.

For the obese child, there is also the reality of social stigmatisation, low self-esteem and bullying.

It's such a burden to add to a child who is trying to find their way in the world.

Aside from those children whose uncomfortable weight is a result of a pre-existing medical condition, the cause of this obesity epidemic, and it is an epidemic, is simple: more energy in than energy out.

Many social commentators point to the increased use of technology, the increase in sedentary activities and the long hours worked by time-poor parents who are unable to monitor the eating habits of their children.

While all these factors have some merit, we should also be questioning the manufacturing processes of our foods, asking questions like why reformed frozen and junk foods cost so much less than fresh, why foods on supermarket shelves have so much added sugar, and just who gave the nod for trans-fats to be a staple in everything from cereal and breads to burgers, biscuits and ice cream.

We need to turn the mirror on ourselves. The harsh reality is that if your child is overweight, especially if they are under 10, then it is your fault.

I have yet to see a five-year-old driving themself to McDonald's and buying a super-size meal.

It is you that is making poor food choices, allowing your child to make sometimes foods everyday foods, and ruining the future of that child you love so much.

Why is it that you never see an overweight child with an apple in their hand?

Healthy options take some thought and planning, but are possible for even the busiest parents or families on a tight budget.

Allowing your children unchecked amounts of sugar and fat is not a way of showing you love them.

Saying no to that second biscuit or to that chocolate milk to go with a meat pie is.



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