The Educator Is Finally Educated

How to make small changes to combat obesity.

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As a teacher I am always concerned about my students' all over well being, not just their academics. As they have watched me become healthier and lose weight they have been encouraged and want to learn more about how to live a healthier lifestyle. 

Many parents today are not much different from my own parents while I was growing up. In our busy hectic lifestyles pre-packaged and fast foods are the norm with little to no time for physical activities, and many parents don’t understand what these foods do to our bodies. I, too, was one of those parents.

So, being the lifelong learner that I am I decided to do a little research, and I discovered the following statistics regarding children in America.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children (over 9 million) 6-19 years old are overweight or obese—a number that has tripled since 1980. In addition to the 16 percent of children and teens ages 6-19 who were overweight in 1999-2002, another 15 percent were considered at risk of becoming overweight. ("Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002"; Oct. 6, 2004)
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the past three decades the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years. ("Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002"; Oct. 6, 2004)
  • Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese. (United States Department of Health and Human Services)
  • Exercise: Experts agree that inactivity and poor eating habits contribute to obesity. While national guidelines recommend 150 minutes of physical activity each week for elementary children and 225 minutes for older children, only Illinois has a statewide requirement for daily physical education. (That’s only 22 to 32 minutes per day 7 days per week.)
  • Nutrition: Nearly one-third of U.S. Children aged 4-19 eat fast food every day, resulting in approximately six extra pounds per year, per child. Fast food consumption has increased five-fold among children since 1970. ("Effects of Fast-Food Consumption on Energy Intake and Diet Quality Among Children in a National Household Survey," Pediatrics, January 2004.)

These statistics are alarming, and even I have observed and experienced these problems. For example, last year I had a student who nearly died after going into a diabetic coma for two days. She was completely unaware that she even had Type 2 Diabetes, and as the statistics show, she was also overweight. 

With so much debate going on today concerning our health care why don’t we just try to do something about our health? Then we wouldn’t have to worry so much about our health care.

Eating healthy is really no more difficult or more time consuming than eating pre-packaged foods. For example, what could be faster than grabbing a piece of fruit for breakfast as you are running out of the door in the morning? Or for a more filling treat try a peanut butter and banana sandwich (no jelly—too much sugar!) 

Cooking by baking or broiling may take a little longer; however, one doesn’t have to stand over the hot stove. While your meal is baking take a short walk, do some sit-ups, or the ever dreaded housework. As little as 30 minutes of brisk exercise a day can make a big difference.

Read, read, read the labels! Stay away from foods enriched with high-fructose corn syrup or monosodiumgludimate (MSG.) Eat as close to the natural form of the food as possible. Additionally, count your calories!

Can it really be that simple? I am living proof that it can! A year ago I weighted 249 pounds and could barely walk a mile. Today I am a healthy 185 pounds and can run five miles

I feel better than I have in 20 years, and all of the pre-symptoms of diabetes and high-blood pressure are gone. We can change the world, America, by making small healthy changes in our lifestyles. After all, we owe it to our children.

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