Wednesday, June 22, 2011

BEYOND STATISTICS: CHILDHOOD OBESITY



As the statistics for childhood obesity rise, so does the concern of the health practitioners, educators and parents. Michelle Obama talks of an epidemic. We Google for information; we do our research to get the numbers and gasp at the sheer volume of it all. Thirty per cent of the children in the United States are either overweight or obese. The majority of our children are not eating the right kinds of foods, nor are they getting enough exercise. They live a sedentary lifestyle, sitting and playing computer games for hours on end.

We need to look at the epidemic of childhood obesity and teach children about proper nutrition and support them to live active lifestyles. As adults, we need be role models and encourage our children to become energetic.

The statistics show us the numbers. Let’s look beyond the statistics and the numbers and see how obesity affects children in their day-to-day activities.

What about the personal struggles these young overweight children have? They are often being bullied or teased, and self-esteem is more often than not low.

A friend of mine, Annette, is a fifth grade teacher, and one day she told me a story that made me feel sad. I thought back to when I was a lonely overweight child.

One sunny afternoon, Annette brought her class outside to play dodge ball. The children were laughing and running, happy to be outside. One of the children, an overweight girl, tagged along behind the group, her head bent as she scuffled her feet along the pathway. She was short of breath and stopped a few times before she caught up with the rest of the group.

“Okay, kids, let’s form two groups. Jason and Kaitlyn, you can be the group leaders. Come, choose your teams,” said my friend, Annette.

The other children formed a line. Their faces were beaming with anticipation of being chosen. They were eager to play; this was fun!

Biting her lip and looking up and down the line, Kaitlyn finally pointed to a boy with brown hair. “Kyle!” she called out.

It was Jason’s turn to choose.

“Andrea!” called out Jason. Andrea, an active girl with a blond ponytail, bounced towards Jason with a big grin on her face.

One by one, the children were chosen for their teams.

“Sarah!”
“Matt!”
“William!”
“Emma!”

The line got smaller and smaller, and the overweight girl patiently waited her turn to be chosen. Every time another child’s name was called, her face showed how disappointed she was. She seemed to shrink into the background, trying to be invisible. She wasn’t chosen yet.

“Alex!” called out Jason. With his hands waving through the air, Alex ran towards Jason.

Then the most horrifying and embarrassing moment a child could experience happened. The young, overweight girl stood all alone in the middle of the field. No one had chosen her. The teacher looked at the groups, and then looked at her.

“Okay, Allison, you can be on Kaitlyn’s team.”

“Ah, Miss, does she have to be on our team?” groaned Kaitlyn. More groans rose from her group.

“Yes, Kaitlyn,” said Annette.

Quietly, with her head bent, Allison walked over to Kaitlyn’s team and stood at the back of the line. She knew she was not wanted in this group.

As Annette told me this story, I felt my heart go out to young Allison. I knew exactly how she felt. This happened to me while in grade school.

With a sigh, I sent a prayer to give Allison the strength to become active and learn about healthy eating. I wished Allison all the luck in the world to lose her extra weight and grow up to be a beautiful and successful woman, with only a distant memory of what it was like in grade school, to be the chubby one in the class.


In my book "Freddy's French Fries Fiasco" you will meet a sparrow, named Freddy and his friends. Freddy eats too many french fries and cannot fly any more. I wanted to address the isue of childhood obesity and help give the children an understanding of being healthy and dynamic in life.
You can read an excerpt of my book at www.didilemay.com/bookexcerpts

DiDi LeMay
www.didilemay.com

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