Why Are My Kids Fat and Unhealthy?

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Children today are getting fat. 24% of children in the US aged 2-17 are already overweight, and another 8.6 million are heading for obesity. Is there a cure for childhood obesity? What about teaching children to eat right?

Looking back at 2006, it may well be remembered as “The Year of the Obese Child”. Certainly overweight children have been around for as long as we’ve had food on our plates, but now the number of children who are fighting serious battles with their weight and health-related issues has reached critical mass. According to the CDC and National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention, the prevalence of overweight among children aged 6 to 11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years, going from 7% in 1980 to 18.8% in 2004. The rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled, increasing from 5% to 17.1%.Born into a society that has created 19,000 types of coffee-drink options, super-sized even the biggest burger and drenched just about every fast-food in heart-clogging fats, is it any wonder that kids as young as 6, are being diagnosed with diabetes, eating disorders and serious health problems? Combined with the proliferation of media, less exercise, harried parents working longer hours and everything to-go, it’s an instant recipe for a generation of unhealthy children. And unless a radical shift is made in the way we feed our children, we will inadvertently have created an entire generation of obese adults as well.

In an effort to reverse this chronic dilemma, nutritionist, registered dietitian, author and parent Ronni Litz Julien, MS, RD/LDN, has set out to educate and re-teach parents, educators and caregivers on how to feed children without fuss or fads. “Today’s children are taught common-sense and manners, but when it comes to eating, food consumption has become a venerable free-for-all for our kids”, says Julien. What she teaches parents and has also written in her new book called “What Should I Feed My Kids”, is the basics of how to keep children healthy by teaching them to eat right. Although it sounds simple enough, judging by the number of overweight, obese and unhealthy children today, it appears that many parents and adults have simply forgotten.

Parents As Role Models

Julien says that with some commitment, planning, structure and willingness to raise healthy kids, parents everywhere can help children help themselves, aiding a long and healthy life. Working with adults and children in her practice, Julien created a model for teaching healthy eating habits, all of which can be found in her latest book, What Should I Feed My Kids? Her common-sensicle, nuts-and-bolts approach guides parents to teach their children to eat properly with sound nutritional advice, what to feed growing teens, dispelling generational myths about over-feeding, the difference between want and need, and the infamous “finish everything on your plate” guilt-trip. Her advice to parents everywhere is to learn to become role-models. Monkey see, monkey do.

Admittedly, convincing children to eat healthily is not always easy, but it can be done…one step and habit at a time. Straying from out-dated and traditional dietary advice, Julien offers parents the first ever comprehensive “how-to” manual, stressing the importance of teaching healthy eating habits from a child’s first bite right through adolescence, when the habit-changing opportunity screeches to a halt.

Eating habits formed early in life are often carried into adulthood. Unfortunately, the likelihood of an obese child becoming an obese adult continues to increase with age. Approximately 70-80 percent of obese adolescents will remain obese adults. Most frightening though, is the very real risk of health problems that plague the obese, including cancer, heart disease and finally, death.

For many adults who struggle to correct their own poor eating habits, it may already be too late. But for the sake of our children, the time to change and fight childhood obesity starts with parents now.

Quick Facts, Disturbing Statistics

  • $10 BILLION is spent each year, on marketing food to children*
  • 24% of children aged 2-17 in the US are overweight**
  • 8.6 million children are at risk for obesity**
  • Children as young as 4 are suffering from weight problems
  • National cost of childhood obesity estimated at $11 BILLION
  • 10 million females and 1 million males have eating disorders (mostly beginning during adolescence)***
  • 46% of children in the US aged 9-11 are frequently on a diet***
  • Obesity complications counts for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year**


  • Advertising Age

** Center On An Aging Society, Georgetown University

*** National Eating Disorder Association

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Vanessa Horwell
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