The Epidemic of Childhood Obesity Continues to Rise
According to the 2018 analysis of federal data published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics, “obesity rates among children and adolescents in the US have increased substantially in the past 3 decades.” What was even more disturbing was that the highest increase in the rate of obesity was seen in the youngest children, ages two to five years of age.
When an epidemic of a disease, such as childhood obesity, continues to rise, I believe that means the government is not addressing the root cause – which is what we do in the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute coaches training. One of the most overlooked preventive measures of childhood obesity begins with three simple words: shape young tastes. This means serving infants and toddlers only real foods at the window of opportunity in their lives when their taste buds on the tongue, taste centers in the brain, and taste centers in the gut are being programmed to the taste and gut feel of real foods. I have noticed this in my office in studying a group of healthy families I call “pure moms” and “pure kids.” The pure moms don’t let a morsel of anything but real foods enter the mouths of their precious children for the first two years. Not surprisingly, these children grow up with a crave center in their head brain and gut brain that registers “like” when real foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains, seafood) enter their bodies. For example, let’s follow a real food, say an avocado, through the body of a six-month-old. A bit of avocado is placed on the taste buds of baby’s tongue, which then sends biochemical text messages to the taste center in the brain, which registers “like.” The taste-shaping story gets better. The head brain tells the gut brain, “Hey gut, your favorite real foods are coming down – fruits and veggies. Register “like.” Day by day the continuous serving of real food during this window of opportunity programs the taste buds, the head brain, and the gut brain to crave real food.
Childhood Obesity from a Pediatrician’s Observation
Another observation in my office is when “these pure kids” would go to their first birthday party and naturally overeat unreal food, as kids usually do, they would soon complain, “Mommy, I feel yucky tummy.” Mom would reply: “Good, junk food is supposed to give you junk gut feelings. Real food gives you good gut feelings.” So when parents tell me about how junk food upsets their child’s gut, I congratulate them for instilling in their child one of the greatest tools for healthy living – shaping their tastes toward real food.
Other proven ways to lower childhood obesity are:
- Omit sweetened beverages from your home. Feed your child lean carbs. It’s the overeating of junk carbs that is the prime contributor to childhood obesity. A “lean carb” is one that is partnered with two or three “friends”: protein, fiber, and healthy fats. These friends biochemically hold hands with the carb to keep it from being absorbed too quickly into the bloodstream and getting stored as belly fat. So, if you do occasionally buy packaged food, stick with those that have “no added sugar.”
- Fill your child up with fiber. High fiber foods, such as veggies, salads, and beans will fill your child up sooner.
- Use smaller plates and keep serving bowls off the table so your child has to get up and go to the kitchen for another serving.
- Follow Dr. Bill’s rule of twos: eat twice as often, eat half as much, and chew twice as long. Play a game of “chew-chew” in which you help your child count how many times he chews, such as “ten to twenty times.” The longer your child chews, the more satisfied he will be, and the less likely he will be to overeat.
- Encourage your child to take smaller bites. Cut food into smaller pieces, use smaller forks, or even chopsticks when a child gets older. That will definitely slow down their eating.
- Hit the “pause button.” Encourage your child to put down her spoon and fork and pause from time to time while she is eating to enjoy some conversation.
- Avoid mindless munching in front of the TV.
- Go nuts! Nuts and other chewy snacks, such as celery and carrots, encourage the child to stay lean, mainly because they require so much chewing and they have a higher “fullness factor,” meaning the child stays fuller longer and tends not to overeat.
- Serve a large salad at the beginning of a meal. Salads are filling because they are full of fiber and require lots of chewing.
- Get kids moving! One of the main points we stress in our Dr. Sears Wellness Institute Health Coach training is “move more, sit less.”
Parenting, in a nutshell, is giving your children the tools to succeed in life. The most wonderful tool you can give your children is the life-long gift of health. That begins with shaping young tastes in infancy and childhood.
It just so happens that the discovery of the P-chromosome in 1959 is the same year that the genetics of Down syndrome were discovered.