Thursday, June 3, 2010

"I look fat," she said.

I went to Target yesterday (surprise, surprise) and I overheard an interesting conversation in the dressing room. A very young child with the sweetest, most innocent voice was trying on shorts with her grandmother. She couldn't have been more than four or five years old, if that. "I don't like these," she said, "I look fat." The grandmother reassured the child that she didn't, but proceeded to tell the her that she didn't like how the shorts looked either. To which the child responded: "Grandpa says I have to watch what I eat so that I don't get fat."

I was never able to catch a glimpse of grandmother and child, but I developed mixed emotions about the entire conversation. On one hand, the child's voice was so sweet, innocent and genuine that a part of me thought the whole exchange was extremely cute. I can't help but smile a little when young'uns act like grownups. But on the other hand, I found it to be extremely disturbing that negative body image was taking it's toll on someone who still had yet to develop.

It's true, childhood obesity rates are on the rise. We can blame video games and television shows all we want, but the bottom line is that our kids aren't getting enough exercise. Nor are they eating healthy, thanks to easy food like macaroni and fruit snacks. And as that childhood obesity rate rises, so does the number of children who suffer from diabetes. I think it's important to educate our children about the connection between food and health, like this little girl's grandfather did. But we have to be very careful in our approach—no sense sending them down a spiraling path toward body dysmorphic and/or eating disorders.

Our children need to understand the importance of exercise, and thanks to gym classes and sports leagues, some of them are getting that understanding. But I urge you to set a good example for your children so that they grow up knowing what a happy, healthy body looks like.

To quote Whitney Houston: "I believe the children are our are future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside..."

Teach them how to look in a mirror and say, "I feel great" instead of "I look fat." Take them on bike rides, introduce them to running. Just be careful about strength training. The growing body is a fragile thing, and too much too soon can wreak havoc on young joints. And that can only lead to injury. In fact, most trainers will tell you that children shouldn't train with weights until they've stopped growing. That's why I recommend cardio-based activities, maybe even calisthenics (lunges, jumping jacks, crunches, etc).

Whatever you do to create awareness within your child, remember this one thing—always make it fun. Fitness is fun, and having fun is something every child can appreciate. And it's something every child deserves.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

That makes me want to cry. I think the crap parents feed their children has a lot to do with the lack of health these days too. READ LABELS PEOPLE! If you don't know what every ingredient is don't buy it! Sorry...I could go on and on. You hit my hot spot, T. ;)

PS My mom is on a TRX kick. Do you have them at your gym? I'm scared she's going to make me test her new one out!!

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