Lead the way, end childhood obesity

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Until this past year, I’d never eaten honeydew, raspberries or strawberries. Growing up, I may not have eaten much fruit, but you can bet I knew the ins-and-outs of every local fast-food restaurant.

On the occasion that my family would eat a home-cooked meal, I wouldn’t like the food prepared. I would go to my room on an empty stomach only to wait until everyone went to sleep and indulge in a buffet of cereal, cookies and snack cakes.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a perfect time to consider our children’s health. Although, it seems we live in a society preparing children for unhealthiness by promoting unhealthy foods and physical inactivity, developing a healthy lifestyle is not impossible.

Parents who consistently lose battles against unhealthy foods are setting their children up for obesity. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults who may battle an array of serious health conditions to include heart disease, diabetes and many types of cancer.

However, one way everyone wins is by providing a good example. When it comes to food and exercise, children naturally follow their parent’s example. I ate unhealthily because my family often chose fast-food for dinner.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the biggest influences detouring children from healthy choices are: greater availability of unhealthy foods, limited safe and appealing places to play, increased portion sizes and the higher advertising rates of less healthy foods. We’ve all seen fast-food commercials of “beautiful” people eating “beautiful” food, but how often do we see a commercial for sweet potatoes, a widely known superfood.

These combined factors have resulted in higher obesity rates with the CDC stating that in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

The key is balance between healthy eating and exercise. Nowadays, I may treat myself to fried food and soda, but I make sure to exercise hard that week. I may take a week off from exercising, but then I make sure to eat correctly.

Robert Collier, a 20th century author of self-help books once said, “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day-in and day-out.” I believe his quote describes my battle against unhealthy eating perfectly, small wins each day will have a big effect in the long run.

Luckily as an Air Force family we have many resources at our disposal to maintain our health such as: base gyms, pools, intramural sports, running trails, dietitians and the dining facility for healthier meals.

With all these options, there are few loopholes that justify being an obese Airman or dependent. Ensure you and your children don’t become another statistic of obesity. Promote changes to healthier eating and exercise by setting the example. Trade that bag of chips for a bag of carrots, and drink plenty of water. Push children to drop the video games and go play outside. Change your life and your children’s lives for the better!