A lot of articles and studies have been written on the rising levels of childhood obesity. I’m not going to try and analyze each of those studies, for people far wiser than myself have done excellent jobs. I wanted to bring it down from the academic level to the practical, and get your opinions and thoughts on the subject.
When we lived in Florida there was a young family who sometimes sat in front of us in church on Sunday mornings. They were very nice people. Pleasant, happy, and friendly. They appeared to be the model family, except all three of them were morbidly obese. The mom, the dad, and the 10 year old little girl. She was a beautiful little girl, always smiling and talkative. Our church, like most, had a time of singing that lasted for approximately 15 minutes. But by the end of the 15 minutes, the mom and dad were hanging onto the pew in front of them, and the little girl ended up sitting down about mid-way through the singing time. One time the mom turned to her sweet little girl and said, “What are you doing?” The little girl said, “I’m resting.” The mom nodded knowingly, turned back around and hung onto the pew for dear life.
Every pore of my being ached for all of them, but the little girl in particular. I wanted to show them a picture of how I used to look and tell them, “Look, you can change your life.” But of course I didn’t say a word about weight. It wasn’t my place.
Or was it?
As I was writing this morning, this wasn’t the direction I intended to take, but it’s where I keep drifting back to. What are your feelings concerning personal responsibility and childhood obesity? Do we have any responsibilities as functioning members of society?
I am not an advocate of the government regulating every detail of our lives. So often they have good intentions, but somewhere along the way, the path to good intentions gets political. And sometimes, the good intentions get watered down and derailed. So I keep coming back to personal responsibility. What is my responsibility to help overcome the epidemic of childhood obesity?
For me, realizing that I can’t save everyone, and that not everyone wants to be saved was the first step. No matter how my heart ached for that family, and their daughter, I couldn’t change the fact that they were morbidly obese. But I could work hard on communicating healthy eating to the people I have in my circle of influence. And when I got to thinking about it, my circle of influence is larger than I thought.
Of course my little immediate circle is large because of the seven children I have, but I also have extended family, friends, acquaintances, facebook friends, email buddies, blogging friends, and more. And many of those people have children in their lives. Every opportunity I have to set a good example is another chance I have to influence my circle in a positive way.
I work hard at teaching my own children how to prepare healthy meals, find healthy snacks, and be mindful of their activity levels. I don’t always succeed, but I try and model healthy living. But how do we influence people outside of our immediate family, or can we? Here’s one thing I’ve decided to do differently. When I’m asked to bring a dessert or dish to a function, I’m going to bring something that is healthy and delicious, rather than just making my favorite cake. That way I can show other people that healthy food isn’t tasteless and boring, but rather delicious and fun! I often have to bring a dish for one of my children’s activities, so I will have the chance to show children and teen-agers that healthy food is “cool!”
It’s a small step, but often it is many small steps that add up to big change. Behind every overweight child is a family. To change childhood obesity, we might need to influence the family as a whole, one small step at a time. Is there anything you can do to influence your circle? Any thoughts on the solution to this very real problem? Diane