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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

We’ve all heard the statistics. America is fat and getting fatter. Nearly 20% of kids under 12 are obese. In 1980, that number was 7%. That’s a 3-fold increase in the last 30 years. Wow. If you’re a parent of young kids, I know what you’re thinking. It’s the same thing I was thinking when I had young kids. We don’t want this to happen to our children. Well, in order to prevent it, you need to first understand a little about why it’s happening.

It’s pretty simple really. Eating more calories than you burn off makes you, and your kids, fat. Problem solved, right? Unfortunately, no. The deck is stacked against us. Highly processed packaged foods wreak havoc on your kid’s metabolism, making them crave more and more of the same. At the same time, kids are inundated with sedentary diversions. Video games, internet games, social networking, television. They are all competing for your child’s time. And your child thinks they’re fun. No wonder our kids are fat. They eat junk and have no reason to get up and play.

Parents need help. When my kids started school, I knew I needed a plan. I racked my brain and scoured the internet. In the end, I came up with 5 pretty common sense ways to help make sure they stayed fit. I’m pleased to say – so far, so good.

  1. Feed them as many natural and whole foods as you can. You don’t have to go to extremes. In fact, if you do, they’ll rebel against it. Just use whole grains when you can, always keep fruit in the house, and try to make white sugar and flour the exception instead of the rule.
  2. Walk with them whenever you can. If you live close enough, walk them to school. If you have a dog, make it habit to walk the dog with the kids every day. If you need to send out some mail, take a walk to the post office. Resist the urge to hop in the car. We’re trying     to develop good habits here.
  3. Dance, dance, dance. Dance parties, dance contests, dance marathons. This one was actually a stretch for me. I’m not much of a dancer. But when you just put on some music and get silly, you and the kids will be moving and laughing for hours.
  4. Invite the kids outside to play. Notice I didn’t say tell the kids to go out and play. That doesn’t seem to work. Tell them you’re going out to shoot some baskets in the driveway. More than likely they’ll come with you. They won’t want to miss out on the fun.
  5. Get them involved in team sports. This works on so many levels.     Obviously, it gets them exercising. It also keeps them busy, and busy kids don’t have time to sit around playing video games. It teaches them to work together with their teammates toward a common goal. It gets them excited. My kids started with soccer. You should have seen their faces the first time their soccer team uniform packages arrived. They lit up like it was Christmas. It made them feel so special to be part of an official team. For me, that memory is priceless.

Joseph Addison said, “health and cheerfulness, naturally beget each other.” Thankfully, I have healthy and cheerful children. Looking at it now, I think it’s mostly common sense. I tried to develop and model good, healthy habits, but in a way that didn’t make them feel like they were being trained, or commanded, or forced. I wanted it to happen organically. I wanted them to want to make healthy choices. Certainly some healthy habits are easier to stick to than others. I don’t think I’ll live to see the day that any of my kids choose a piece of broccoli over a Snickers bar. But they all still play soccer!

About the Author

Melissa Cameron is a freelance writer, a mom, and a soccer enthusiast. She combines her passion with her entrepreneurial spirit by promoting custom youth soccer uniform solutions available online.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to keep their kids healthy.

Image courtesy of stevegarfield via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.