Archive for the ‘Childhood obesity’ Category

G3 Working to Help Solve the Obesity and Hunger Crisis

Many years ago, as a newspaper reporter in New York, I wrote a series about living conditions among migrant laborers on Long Island. These people and their families lived in squalid labor camps in communities that were right next to the Hamptons, where some of the wealthiest people in America spent their summers. Although the workers passed their days picking potatoes, tomatoes and other vegetables, they had little access to a balanced diet and no decent kitchens in which to prepare meals.

I thought until recently that this problem had been solved in our country. Then I became active in G3 Health and Fitness, a New Jersey not-for-profit organization dedicated to reducing obesity in children, especially in Burlington and Gloucester Counties.  I learned that one-third of children in America are obese and that the numbers for the counties where G3 does most of its work are hardly better. For example, 37% of non-Hispanic black children in Gloucester County are obese.

Particularly shocking is the fact that, in the middle of this epidemic of obesity, there is a parallel epidemic of hunger. One in four children in our country don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Many of them go to school without breakfast, which has a major effect on their ability to learn. Don’t think that there aren’t plenty of these children in the communities right around us.

If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend that you watch a new documentary film called “A Place at the Table,” which tells the story of several American families and their struggle to give themselves decent food. This movie is available for free at Xfinity on Demand and I strongly urge you to see it.

As I said, obesity and hunger are actually related problems. Buying healthy fresh ingredients is actually more expensive than buying sugar and salt-filled fast food and snacks. Even for middle class families, and especially for working parents who have little time to prepare healthy meals, a diet almost guaranteed to make the family fat is difficult to avoid.

G3 has been working on this problem in many ways, with exercise classes, health and nutrition talks and other programs. Most recently, G3 instituted a 10-week program at the Kennedy Center in Willingboro to teach children and their parents about a healthy lifestyle. Most important, the program is designed to be fun, including dodge ball, kick boxing, Zumba, cooking demonstrations and other activities that all participants will love. The classes are taught by a registered dietician and a personal trainer.

Working together, we can solve the obesity and the hunger crisis, here and throughout America. Let’s get started.
 

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. 

President Obama, in a joint action with Congress, signed a proclamation naming September “National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”.  Obviously inspired by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move”  initiative, the President says:

“Each of us can play a role in ensuring our children have the opportunity to live long, healthy lives, and by joining together in pursuit of that mission, I am confident we can build a brighter future for America’s youth.”

The statistics on soaring obesity rates in the US over the last four decades are sobering. Google “childhood obesity” to see the staggering number of children who are obese and the escalating toll it is taking on their health in terms of diabetes and hypertension. Further research will tell you about the relationship of obesity to bullying, educational malaise and the burden on our health care system.

It’s no coincidence that September was chosen as the month to raise awareness for Childhood Obesity. September marks the beginning of the school year and the season that we have the opportunity to help our children “Fall” into learning. So as they pick up pencils, binders, books and iPads, why shouldn’t they pick up some strategies to help them eat better and get some exercise? Just as we want their educational learning to last a lifetime it’s important that the lessons of healthy eating and active lifesytles last a lifetime too.

It is said that it takes a village to raise a kid, right? I would go a step further and say  that everyone in the village has a role to play in raising healthy, active kids. If we commit some energy to this, we have a unique opportunity to turn the epidemic around. This September, let’s focus on our kids, our families, our communities and our schools  and some easy, creative strategies to promote health and get kids moving.

 Here’s what we can do:

At Home
* The Food Pyramid is out and the healthy plate is in! Put a copy of the healthy plate on your refrigerator and together with your kids meet the challenge of preparing healthy meals everyday. Find the healthy plate at ChooseMyPlate.gov .
*Use ChooseMyPLate.gov as a resource for healthy eating
*Limit tv and video game time to 1-2 hours a day. Get your kids walking the dog, or going to the playground. Get in on the fun and take a jog or throw a ball with them!
*Talk with your kids about what they eat outside of the home.
*Use “the method of the Grandmother”. Encourage your kids everytime they tell you about making a healthy food choice.
*Give your children chores. Sweeping, mopping, mowing the lawn and dusting burn calories too!

At School
*Teachers and administrators be  role models by leading an active lifestyle.
*School staff have lunch with the students and let them see your healthy food choices.
*Use a period to tie your teaching subject to nutritous eating.
*Use a period to take students for a walk or engage in some form of exercise.
*Introduce a fruit or vegetable in class, have the students do research on why that food is good for them.
*Check out the Healthier US School Challenge and plant a school garden.
*Challenge your school to provide healthier and more satisfies food choices for the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs.

The Community
*Host nutritional seminars in places of worship, youth centers and YMCA’s. Once again using ChooseMyPlate.gov for building healthy menus.
*Offer weekly exercise programs in your congregation, community centers and health facilities.
*Organize people and solicit organizations to create a community food garden. USDA has a People’s Garden Website that can help. www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden
*Nudge your local elected officials; they have a unique ability to act on our behalf when they know we exercise our voting rights!

* People and organizations build relationships with grocery stores and retailers for better access to healthy food in underserved areas.  

The challenge in fighting this epidemic lies in the partnership between children and their parents or caregivers, their schools, and their communities. We all know that implementing changes and breaking unhealthy habits is not easy! Let’s start, this September, helping children understand the importance of making healthy choices and staying active. Our collective actions will ensure a healthy future for us all. 

References:

letsmove.gov
redOrbit.com
ChooseMyPlate.gov
healthierkidsbrighterfutures.org
www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden

Childhood Then and Now

Childhood Then and Now

I spent my childhood in the 1940s and ‘50s half an hour from Manhattan in a neighborhood that was made famous years later by the TV character Archie Bunker.

It was certainly no one’s idea of country living, yet my life was nothing like that of a suburban child today. After school, we would throw our book bags in the house and head for the streets for games of stickball and punchball, broken up every few minutes to let a car pass by. Or we would go to the nearby woods (later to become an apartment project) for bike rides and wrestling matches. All this would end at dinner time, when our mothers would yell for us to return for a home cooked meal.

There were no computer games. Life on the streets was probably less safe than our parents thought, but no one required us to stay within sight. McDonald’s and the other fast food places didn’t exist yet, so our portions weren’t supersized and calorie laden.

One result of all that was that very few of us were overweight. It’s amazing to realize that 65% of children and teens in New Jersey today are overweight or obese .The health implications of this problem are enormous. Type 2 diabetes, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes, is now a common condition of childhood. Most people of my generation can expect to have longer lives than their parents, thanks largely to better health care. Our children and grandchildren, unfortunately, are likely to have shorter lives because they eat worse and exercise less than us.

We aren’t about to re-create the woods and open spaces of my childhood. But we can encourage our children to get away from the computer games, go outside and maybe learn how to run a bit wild, how to invent new games, how to play with their friends. That, after all, is what being a child is about. And we can prepare nutritious food for them and try to get them to actually like it.

Bob Uris

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Challenging Childhood Obesity

When I was approached to join G3 Health and Fitness I immediately accepted.  I personally have several family members who suffer from adverse health conditions due to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.  The fact is that one of every three children in America is now considered overweight or obese, and childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The results have been an increased potential for obesity-related diseases that include type-2 diabetes, asthma, hypertension, high cholesterol, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea. It is also linked to a range of social and psychological issues including poor self-esteem, depression, withdrawal and poor peer relationships. Children and adolescents who are overweight are more likely to become adults who are overweight.

What can we do?

Encourage a healthy lifestyle

By highlighting the positive turn bike riding, walking, running into family outings.   G3 Health and Fitness has found that kids who exercise often have a healthier body weight than kids who don’t exercise. Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity at least 3-5 days a week. Remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your children to join you.

Some examples of moderate intensity physical activity include:
•    Brisk walking
•    Playing tag
•    Jumping rope
•    Playing soccer
•    Swimming
•    Dancing

Encourage healthy eating habits.

Help your children and family develop healthy eating habits:
•    Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
•    Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
•    Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
•    Serve reasonably-sized portions.
•    Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
•    Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
•    Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.

Remember that small changes every day can lead to a recipe for success!

Susan Ball

G3 Health and Fitness
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