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Obese fat boy enjoy to eat vegatables salad, diet and Healthy food concept, fighting against childhood obesity.

Real Concern for Childhood Obesity

By Dr. Pickens A. Patterson III, M.D.

Childhood obesity now affects 1 in 5 children, according to the CDC. Obesity in children may affect not only the child’s health, but predisposes them to many preventable adult health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and certain forms of cancer. Remarkably, once the body creates fat cells, they remain for life and can only shrink or expand in size, thereby predisposing to obesity.

Many schools have reduced or eliminated recess, playtime, and physical education in their curriculum in an effort to save money. I believe that this will ultimately cost our country more as we raise more unhealthy children into adulthood unless we as parents and a community intervene. We should make certain that our children get 60 minutes of moderate to intense exercise daily, as recommended by the CDC. Moderate exercise includes activities such as a brisk walk or riding a bicycle. More vigorous activities include sports such as basketball, soccer, or hiking a steep hill.

In addition to activity guidelines, we should make certain that our children are getting adequate nutrition at home and at school. Parents should eliminate fast food and processed foods and encourage fruits, vegetables, and non-fried meats. Another aspect of nutrition that is often overlooked is avoiding or minimizing sugary drinks, including many processed juices, and encouraging children to drink water. It is much easier for a child to maintain a healthy diet as an adult if it is established during childhood.

As we go deeper into the school year enter into fall and then winter, activity levels tend to decrease. We have to be intentional about helping our children find daily active opportunities while ensuring they are making wise nutritional choices. Children look up to us, their parents, teachers, and other respected adults, so it’s incumbent upon us to lead by example while encouraging active and healthy lifestyles, which will yield more capable and smarter children!

Farm To Table Foods That Promote Health

The commercialization of the food processing system and the unsavory farming practices associated with mass produced foods has led many discerning foodies to seek a healthier alternative. The farm to table movement was born out of the need to source ethically harvested food while fostering a greater connection between the consumer and the source of the food. Central to this farming culture is a focus on animal welfare to promote humanely raised animals with grass-fed, free-range and pastured practices.

Let The Journey For Your Food Be Short

The locally sourced produce is not subjected to prolonged freezing and processing to preserve its shelf-life. Fruits and vegetables that make it on our dinner table are transported an average of 1,500 miles before being sold (source: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture). In order to preserve the produce for that length of travel, industrial farmers harvest the fruits and veggies before they fully ripen. This practice allows the fruits to ripen during transport but it arrives lacking many of the vitamins and minerals that would have been there if those fruits were left to fully flourish before being harvested, packed and shipped.

Helping a Local Farm Also Helps Your Health

Locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses significantly benefit the local economy of the consumers who purchase these foods, and the environmental impact is favorable since the transportation vehicles that carry the produce are high fuel consumption vehicles with a heavy carbon footprint. However, as a physician that manages pain in patients, the biggest benefit of this trend is the culture of consumers paying attention to the nutrition content of their meals. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and diets high in saturated fats contribute to the inflammatory states that affect pain syndromes. My hope is that sustainable farming with locally sourced fruits and vegetables will eventually reduce the cost for access to healthy food.

Cheap Food Does Not Mean It Is Good

Part of the obesity epidemic stems for the relatively low cost of processed foods, fast foods and saturated fats. Hopefully, when the farm comes to the table we are choosing to reduce the consumption of white breads, sugary drinks, fried foods, chips and pastries. Instead, we should be consuming more carrots, beets, cherries, grapes, onions and teas rich in anti-oxidants.

Don’t Deny Your Treats Respect Them

I will admit, just before penning this article I thoroughly enjoyed a red-velvet cupcake at a dinner party hosted by my wife. Our friends brought these delights from a local company that rhymes with “Yami-cakes” (company name intentionally omitted). These treats were sublime, however, I also had a fruit salad with an assortment of citrus, a green salad with dark, green leafy veggies, and baked chicken legs. I don’t feel guilty about the cupcake, I deserve it and so do you if you adhere to principles of moderation and a healthy active lifestyle.

Written By:
Zwade J. Marshall, MD, MBA
Director of Medical Outcomes
Alliance Spine & Pain