Is it time to leave the fat kids alone?

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Roisin Sullivan BSc(OT), Occupational Therapist, The Kids Coach

8th June 2018

 

With a global spotlight on the rising rates of childhood obesity, it’s easy to get side tracked. We’re constantly saturated with confronting images of expanding kids’ waistlines, which is, of course, a harrowing topic. But their average sized peers are also falling through the cracks and heading into being the unhealthiest we have ever seen.

Recent studies show that Australian kids now score below average in general physical fitness, 81% don’t move around enough each day and 90% of our kids show poor development skills. This doesn’t project well for their future health. So how about we leave the fat kids alone for a while and look at the bigger picture? All our kids need us to.

I’m often asked the question, “How do we tackle the kids obesity epidemic?”. There are multiple ideas about how to reduce the obesity rates around the world, including some from many high profile figures lately such as Jamie Oliver and Cindy Crawford. There’s the ideas of introducing a sugar tax, a fast food tax, new apps that regulate screen time, Singaporean commando-style boot camps and even weighing children in schools. While these initiatives are being explored, and while some do hold merit and potential results, they are only looking at the tip of the iceberg. And we all know what happened to the Titanic when it only saw the tip of the iceberg a little too late.

If we are to change the direction of kids’ health in a real and significant way, we need to stop focusing on initiatives that only help those over a certain BMI. Studies after studies are showing that all children need help to improve their declining overall health.

But there is still the perception amongst parents that is if  their child doesn’t have a weight issue, then they are “healthy enough”.

The World Health Organisation disagrees, sighting that health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Not just being an acceptable BMI.

As an occupational therapist, I can tell you wholeheartedly that the majority of children I see with developmental delays, poor physical development, less than average fitness capacities and issues at school are not overweight. In fact, from the outside, they appear completely healthy. These children used to be a handful in each classroom but primary school teachers are reporting in droves that the majority of their students are less developed than their peers were in the past. A recent Australian and American study agrees with them.

So how can we change this? How can we save our children from a life less than healthy?

Helping our kids be healthier doesn’t have to be  complicated. Lets start with small steps. Lets get our children moving a lot more as a priority, both at home and in their schools. Put down the devices, turn off the TV and let children move as their bodies are naturally designed to (and actually love to!). Monitor your family’s nutrition, not in an obsessive way, but simply be aware of the foods you are fueling your kids with, being mindful to make healthier choices for their future health. Give kids the chance to explore their world like their brains are designed to, which includes actually building something in real life rather than on MineCraft, getting out more into nature and spending more time jumping, swinging, catching and all the things that past generations  took for granted.

You can also listen to my chat with Ian Nicholas from Sydney’s Radio Northern Beaches about this topic here.

There’s so many small steps that we can take to help melt that giant iceberg that is declining kids’ health.  How do you help your kids health and development?

The Kids Coach gives all kids the opportunity to do fun, regular workout and fitness sessions, with super convenient videos for kids aged 2-18 years of age. You can find more about The Kids Coach or get a free trial here.

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