Why Our Kids Suffer From Obesity
We have a huge problem in the modern world: Obesity. Today, nearly 1 in 3 American adults are classified as obese. 60 years ago, that number would have looked closer to 1 in 10. What’s even worse is the statistics on childhood obesity. Over 30% of American youths are considered overweight or obese1.
That’s a big issue. If the jump from our parent’s generation wasn’t alarming enough, that high rate among children should definitely set off alarm bells. When we, as adults, eat poorly or don’t exercise, it’s by our own volition. Of course, you can trace it back to our upbringing, or what society has taught us, but ultimately, we know donuts are bad for our health. If we keep eating them, that’s our choice.
For children, it’s different. On one hand, they don’t really have much of a choice in their diet. Their parents and schools supply the food, they just eat. On the other hand, they haven’t had any dietary habits, good or bad, ingrained in their brains yet. Most kids are going to willingly eat a bowl of brussels sprouts, but if you threw out all the sugary cereals, they’d get over it due time.
So what should we do? Of course, we’ve addressed our own dietary issues. We have the information, and we adjust how we eat. We want the same for our children, but how do we do more than just put good foods on our plates? How can we make them understand why we don’t want them eating like we did as children?
I had the pleasure of talking Tom Naughton, who made the documentary Fat Head. He recently wrote a book geared towards the younger crowd called Fat Head Kids, so he’s doing just that. By engaging kids on healthy lifestyles early on, we can cut the obesity epidemic off at the source.
Getting to the Root of Obesity
If obesity has gotten so much worse in the past century, what happened? It’s not like our bodies suddenly evolved to hold on to more weight. Our bodies have the same energy needs.
Some might blame lack of exercise, but white-collar jobs have existed for many years. Before we came home and surfed the web, we returned from work and gathered around the TV. Before TV, it was the radio or evening newspaper.
The same goes for kids. Yes, there was definitely less to distract them from outside play in years gone by, but they’ve always had comic books. Encouraging exercise is crucial, but that’s not the major factor at play.
The biggest risk to our children’s health is pretty obvious: poor diet. Specifically, sugar. A study was performed that had kids (aged 5 to 12) maintain a week-long food dairy. From that info, it was found that the average sugar intake was 134 g per day2. How wild is that? Almost 5 times the daily recommended amount for an ADULT.
So obviously something is up with current food trends. Back in the good ol’ days, kids just ate differently. It wasn’t a bowl of Cap’n Crunch followed by an Energy Drink on the way to school. It was bacon and eggs and maybe a small cup of orange juice. Of course, we know even juice isn’t great for you. One cup will give you most of your daily intake of sugar with none of the fiber of the whole fruit. But the difference lies in the massive quantity of sugary substances.
Maybe you choose a lower sugar cereal for your kids, thinking the granola or wheat puffs are a better bet. They’re then going to school, getting a soda and cookie at lunch. Then they come home, have a sugary snack, maybe another soda, and dessert after dinner. No wonder our kids aren’t too healthy. We’re setting them up for failure.
This common scenario has led to some bizarre patterns. In terms of consumption, let’s look at sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which are key components of the standard American diet. Sugar and HFCS both consist of glucose and fructose. Glucose comes from starchy foods and our bodies naturally produce it and every cell can use it for fuel. However, fructose is a fruit sugar and is not necessary for life. Fructose can’t be stored the same way normal glucose can be stored, and when people (especially kids) consume lots of calories and fructose, the liver gets overly burdened and converts fructose into fat. Because of the high fructose intake today, we’re seeing a disturbingly high rate of fatty liver in adolescents3. Fatty liver is a condition most commonly associated with older alcoholics, so the rise in child diagnoses is not a good sign.
Outside of food, there’s a less obvious factor in childhood obesity: Lack of sleep. It’s a widely accepted idea that lack of sleep leads to weight gain4. What’s less commonly known is the why behind the lack of sleep in youngsters. One idea especially relevant to young boys is low testosterone. This hormone is essential for making sure boys develop muscle and grow up lean and healthy. A good portion of testosterone is only produced while we sleep. So that means low sleep equals lower testosterone. That also means young men aren’t growing up with adequate lean muscle mass, where they get the “skinny fat” build, with unhealthy centric weight and little strength.
Insomnia is not an invention of millennials, but they sure do have a lot more things to distract them. Video games, tablets, smart phones, and social media sure aren’t helping our kids get restful nights of rest. When you’re a growing human, you need plenty of sleep just to function right. Just imagine trying to grow without it. In conjunction with the devices comes massive EMF (electro-magnetic fields) exposure, which can interfere with the health of our brain5 and other body systems6 and are even linked to cancer7. Even more reason to limit all screen time and get the kids outside as much as possible.
Another massive issue for kids these days, and adults, is toxin exposure. From the womb to the tomb8, we are surrounded by toxins today. If you’ve been following my work for a while you know I’m a huge proponent of cellular detox, as it transformed my life as well as the health of my whole family. Detoxing from the ubiquitous chemicals in our environment like heavy metals, glyphosate, pesticides, and more is essential to good health in our modern toxic world. Learn more about True Cellular Detox™ here and hear about my family’s healing journey in CHTV episode 97.
Who is to Blame?
Pointing the blame is always tricky. Especially when it’s more of society as a whole, we can’t really point to one person or entity. We might be quick to blame ourselves, the parents, for not knowing how to feed our kids healthy diets, for example. We love our children, so of course if we realize we’re messing up, there’s going to be some guilt. Most of you are probably already feeding them what the world around you is claiming to be healthiest.
However, as we know, “they” are often wrong. It is our responsibility to learn what is and isn’t healthy for our kids. If you have the information yet choose to ignore it, then yes, the blame falls on you. But that’s not the case. For decades, we’ve been fed misinformation from so many different sources. First, we’re told fat is bad, then fat is good, then all that matters in protein, and so on. If the “correct” information keeps contradicting itself every couple of years, it’s impossible to determine what is right and what is wrong.
Again, it’s hard to direct the blame in a single direction, but a lot of it falls on to government agendas. They initiate programs like limiting availability of fast food, which is great on so many levels, but they fail because it isn’t really that hamburger that’s messing us up. Of course, a Big Mac isn’t good for you, but studies show that living near fast food doesn’t affect weight gain9.
That’s probably a pretty shocking realization for a lot of people. I know most of you are probably feeling nauseous just thinking about that fast food joke, but others may be thinking, “Well if I lived next door to a Burger King, I’d eat Whoppers every day.” You might. That’s not a good thing, but these programs fail to recognize that we need reeducation, not restricted access.
If you follow Cellular Healing TV, you know the unhealthiest thing you can get at a burger joint is the soda. We know it’s loaded with sugar, and we crave it, so we know we need to get it out of arm’s reach. Unfortunately, when you move fast food restaurants out of a neighborhood, you aren’t moving sodas. There’s still a gas station down the street selling super-sized fountain drinks. When the government makes these bold moves, they’re scapegoating the wrong foods. Yes, they know how bad soda is for your health, but targeting the burger joint doesn’t turn Coke into the bad guy. People think if they’re not eating fast food, they’re eating healthy, but I have some news for you: your pantry is likely still full of garbage.
They also tend to make calories the enemy. You know my motto; I never say, “eat less.” Eat less often, but it’s “eat better” too. The government, on the other hand, thinks in terms of calories. Since fat has the highest number of calories per gram, that means you can just cut fat to meet their standards. We know that’s not a good thing. Fat is a crucial building block. When you try to cut out fats, even the good ones, your body is going to give you a signal that it’s lacking nutrients. Since it can’t specify, it’s just going to tell you to eat. But you’ve cut out fat, so what macro are you going to go for? Carbs. So your body, still lacking fat, is still going to feel hungry. It’s a vicious cycle.
Fat Head Kids: Prevention
As always, when we present huge systematic problems like this, it all boils down to one question: What do we do about it? Put simply, eat better and less often, but that can be difficult when we’ve been ingrained with a certain way of eating for so long. Both Tom and myself agree that we need to go back to following long standing wisdom. If high obesity rates are a new occurrence, clearly the older generations had it right. Why eat your ‘heart healthy” granola when our grandparents lived a robust life eating bacon and eggs for breakfast?
We need to return to our roots, and I don’t even mean our primitive roots, although I’m all about ancient healing. I just mean two generations back, when a milkshake was a special treat you drove into town for maybe once a month. Sure, we have a lot more access to healthy veggies now, and that’s great, but let’s return to the building blocks of the past. Probably the biggest challenge to this shift is getting your kids to play along. No, they don’t have too many bad habits yet, but they often don’t understand WHY you’re suddenly changing up breakfast.
As I said before, Tom wrote a book for this very purpose. In his book, he uses some great metaphors to simplify the ideas for younger readers. While I won’t give too much of it away, I want to lay out some of the basic concepts so you might use them to help explain it to your kids. For example, Tom compares the body to a space ship. Our metabolism is the chief engineer that sends various signals to and from our brain. One chemical in our body that helps us burn excess fat is leptin. When we have plenty of energy stored, leptin tells our body to burn off that fat. When you put too much sugar into your space ship, it starts to cause damage (high blood sugar). Your chief engineer is too busy putting out the fires to receive the signal to use stored fuel. So, if you consume too much sugar, your body is going to constantly be in this state of sugar dependence for fuel, and you’ll never be able to burn off the fat.
Tom also explains the concept of your body being unable to ask for specific nutrients. If you look at an engine, you have a bunch of different fluids to input. There’s gas, oil, anti-freeze, and coolant. Think of these fluids as macronutrients. If your space ship is low on one, all it can do it send a signal saying, “put fluids (which is food in this case) in me.” That’s a great way to explain to your kids why they can’t eat whatever they want when they get hungry. If your engine needs oil, but you put in more gas, the signal is going to stay on. To put it simply, we need to explain to kids “why” they should do it. Not just “what” to do. Simplifying the concepts is crucial to make sure we’re building good habits from the start and the book is a great guide for teaching.
Take Home Solutions
Here’s some other great ideas (and strategies I used with my kiddos) to give children a healthy start:
- Make superfood smoothies for breakfast or travel meals, loaded with nutrients to support healthy growth. Some great add-ins include: grass-fed collagen powder, MCT oil, chia seeds, coconut oil, turmeric powder, bee pollen, colostrum, butter oil, vitamin c powder, aloe vera extract, l-glutamine, d-ribose, Accell therapeutic powder, Paleogreens powder, FBR fiber powder, grass-fed whey protein, probiotic powder and stevia to sweeten.
- Have kids order from the “adult” menu restaurant versus the kid’s menu, where they can choose from an array of clean proteins, veggies, and non-GMO starches (ex: wild sockeye salmon with roasted broccoli and sweet potatoes).
- Teach them to cook and make meals a joyful time of learning, sharing, and connecting. For great meal ideas the whole family will enjoy, check out the recipes in my Cellular Healing Diet cookbook.
- Get them moving! Encourage them to join sports teams or recreational leagues. Bonus points for getting outside, the socialization aspect, and practicing team work.
- Limit screen time and have a set bed time. We all need boundaries and can find freedom in discipline.
The last bit of advice I want to offer: Strive for good, not perfect. That goes for yourself as well, but it’s even more important for kids. We don’t want to raise children with fear of food. We want them to learn and develop good habits by their own volition. We just need to guide them there.
To illustrate, one of Tom’s daughters is very sensitive to wheat. Tom has explained to her why wheat is bad, but what really sets her on the right path is understanding her own body. She doesn’t feel great when she eats bread. Because she has the context of proper nutrition, she can put two and two together and make her own food choices to feel good. A child who doesn’t have all the information might attribute that feeling to the wrong source.
If your kid messes up, they’ll learn over time. Offer grace. Be there to discuss when they feel gross after a bad meal out with friends, not to lecture them on their mistake. We want to build healthy, well-adjusted children to live well with strong minds and bodies to take care of our future world. Let’s teach them together.