What I am about to write in this post is definitely controversial and I daresay will ruffle a few feathers. To be honest I hope that it does, because that means it will get peoples attention. Despite any potential backlash, I am going to write my thoughts on something I am very passionate about and put it out into the big world anyway. If you are one of those people that instantly get offended by this post, I would ask first that you take a step back and see it for what it is and perhaps take something from it instead of instantly becoming offended.
I truly believe that allowing your children to consume unhealthy, processed, sugary and fatty foods on a regular basis and not encouraging them to engage in some form of physical activity is a form of neglect, a form of abuse. I'm fully aware that most people view abuse as physically or emotionally harming another person and probably do not think that what I am writing about is a form of abuse but my personal opinion is this: If you choose to allow your children to become unhealthy, you are neglecting and abusing them.
Now, before you get upset, I’m not saying that children need to be perfect and should always eat healthy foods. In this day and age it just seems to be impossible. There are birthday parties, friends, school canteens etc etc. What I am talking about are those children that consume these foods on a regular basis. I also understand that kids love their iPads and video games. But they also love to run, play and jump if given the opportunity, and if they feel comfortable in their own bodies. If they are carrying excess body fat and lacking energy, they probably won’t enjoy these things, because just like you and I, when we are overweight, everything feels so much more difficult.
It really makes me sad (ok, I’ll be honest, it makes me so angry and this post is a bit of a vent) when I walk through the Food Court and see children and their parents lining up at the fast food places or eating them at the tables. Especially when the children are already overweight or well on their way to being so.
Why do I believe that it is a form of neglect and abuse? For so many reasons! Allowing your children to eat processed, sugary and fatty foods and not be physically active will set them up for a wide array of medical conditions later on in life. This will increase the chances of them having to go on various medications which will also be costly, not just for you as their parent but for them when they become adults. I'm talking about blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, anxiety and depression medications etc.... It also sets up the beginnings of self-hate because of the way they then feel about themselves. Combine this with the bullying that they can potentially be exposed to and you’re setting up a potentially disastrous chain of events. I’m fully aware of the fact that children are often bullied for reasons other than being overweight and these days it seems virtually impossible to avoid this horrible thing. What I am saying though is to reduce the chances of it happening wherever you possibly can, especially when we are seeing an increasing rate of tragic events happening as a result of continued bullying.
As a child is developing and growing, if they are consuming unhealthy foods, they will also end up developing a greater number of fat cells than their healthy counterparts. Later in life, this will make it far more difficult for them to lose body fat and it will mean that their body will be predisposed to gaining body fat more than those who have followed a healthy lifestyle. Unhealthy foods also affect the brain in negative ways. High fat, processed and sugary foods will increase the chances of developing behavioural issues and will reduce their ability to mentally focus when at school. By feeding them these foods and not encouraging exercise, it will also affect their education and potential ability to gain employment later in life. Nutrition is also very closely linked to mental disorders, anxiety and depression, especially sugar, which is a highly addictive substance and produces similar chemical reactions in the brain as cocaine.
It is not more expensive to feed a family a nutritious and healthy diet. Claiming this is a cop out and a poor excuse for failing to show care for your children's health. In fact, it is far more affordable than feeding them sweets, take-away and buying video games. Going for a walk as a family and going to playgrounds is absolutely free. If your child has been consuming unhealthy foods for a great deal of their life and/or you consumed those types of foods when you were pregnant, it is highly likely that their taste buds have adapted to prefer these types of foods. They may dislike the taste of vegetables and other healthy foods. The good news is, you actually have the control over what foods you buy and put on their plate. There are also so many different types of vegetables and flavors of healthy and nutritious foods. In time you will also find that their tastebuds will change and they will eventually like the taste of the healthy foods. If not, it's too bad! It is never too late to make these changes. Once they move out of home, they have the freedom to choose what they do and don't do. By that time it is their responsibility. When they are in your care, it is YOUR responsibility!!
When you are encouraging your children to eat healthy and to engage in physical activity it is so important to never focus on their body size or the way they look as a motivation to encourage them or force them to do these things. Always focus on health improvement, feeling good and gaining more energy. This takes away the possibility of them forming a negative emotional relationship with nutrition, exercise and their body shape which will help their self-esteem later in life.
I am fully aware of the fact that I am writing this post without actually being a parent myself, but I have been a child in the past and I know just how much control parents actually do have. At the end of the day, they control how the money is spent in the household and if they choose not to spend it on unhealthy foods then the children have no choice but to deal with it. I don’t need to be a parent in order to understand the basic principles behind helping your children to be healthy, active and to feel good about themselves.
Even if you don't want to eat well and engage in physical activity yourself (which I also think is crazy and not being a positive role model), it is still up to you to help your kids to be healthy. That's what caring for them is all about. When you bring them into this world, it is your responsibility to do your best to help them to be happy and healthy. Self-love and self-care is about doing things that are kind to your mind and body. The same rules apply to your children!
Hopefully you're not offended by this post, and if you are then that's completely your choice. This is my personal opinion and something that I am very passionate about and something that I will not apologise for. All I want to say is a happy and healthy society, it starts with you!