Childhood Obesity - our children may not outlive us!

It came quickly, with little fanfare, and was out of control before our nation noticed. Obesity, diabetes, and other diseases caused by poor diet and sedentary lifestyle now affect the health, happiness, and vitality of millions of men, women, and, most tragically, children and pose a major threat to the health care resources of Canada.

There is evidence to suggest that the generation of children we’re raising in Canada today may be the first generation in our history not to outlive their parents. This mournful statistic is directly and singularly related to this growing national epidemic: childhood obesity.

Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious issue with many health and social consequences that often continue into adulthood. Implementing prevention programs and getting a better understanding of treatment for youngsters is important to controlling the obesity epidemic.
An obese child today, has an 80 percent chance of being an obese adult tomorrow. According to statistics, 300,000 North Americans die each year from complications of obesity, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.

Many parents are concerned about their child's weight and how it affects them. They are looking for specific answers for prevention and treatment options. Unfortunately, the state of this science is a lot less precise than we would like. Are kids too concerned about their weight? What are the best strategies for prevention? What treatments work over a long time? Researchers are trying to answer those and many other questions. In many cases, common sense works well.

There are two identifiable culprits that have made our beautiful children and grandchildren the least healthy and most overweight kids in our nation’s history: the standard North American diet and the lack of physical activity. Statistics show that only a small percentage of our children play organized sports, while the vast majority spend a lot of cerebral time surfing the Internet or getting their “action” from play stations or video games. Our children are not just couch potatoes, they have taken root in the family room!

When we faced SARS, we fought back. When BST hit our beef industry we fought back. And now, as childhood obesity literally threatens the health and longevity of our children, it’s time to fight back.
I read an article on the Internet about a community in the United States that has begun to fight back and I like what they did! How can we, as parents and community leaders, fight this growing menace of childhood obesity? Any idea must be supported by our government and by industry. Frankly, they took a good idea and, turned it into a superb program they called “Count Your Steps.” Here’s the gist of the simple, yet effective program.

“Count Your Steps” is a walking program (with a nutritional component) that targets our children - third and fourth-graders in public, private and charter schools. Each student receives a pedometer, the cost of which is underwritten by donations from local industries. These third-and fourth-grade students wear the pedometers on their belt for five weeks.

The pedometers record the numbers of steps taken by each student throughout the day. Parents record the number of steps in a logbook every night. At the end of each week, the record is forwarded to a central auditing office. The program culminates with a “Family Fitness Day Celebration” where the top five walkers in each class, along with the top performing classes in each school district, are awarded prizes for their achievement. (All students who walked and counted their steps will receive a certificate of participation that can be proudly displayed.)

A program like “Count Your Steps” is necessary. According to statistics nearly two out of three North Americans are overweight or obese — a 50 percent increase from just a decade ago. The economic cost of obesity in North America is more than $100 billion annually. It is an established medical fact that exercise as simple as walking, coupled with an improved diet, can have a dramatic improvement on the health of our children.

As chair of Women in Food Industry Management, I am pleased to report that this association has taken a leadership role in attacking the problem of obesity and they have been hosting a series of workshops on healthy lifestyles along with healthy eating. The speakers are knowledgeable and anxious to share their resources. Food companies are working towards creating a new line of food products that are not only healthier, they taste good! These foods may be more costly, and they may not have the shelf life of their predecessors, but they will provide the nutrients we need without the fat or other unhealthy ingredients currently being brought to our attention.

WFIM is creating a KIDZ Cookbook, partnering with members and their companies to provide healthy eating recipes. Member dietitians are providing support to help parents make educated decisions to ensure the food they feed their children is both healthy and delicious. The cookbook is the beginning of a campaign against the unhealthy aspects in some of our foods.

I am encouraging the association to embrace the concept of the “Count Your Step” program and I have personally been working with George Brown College to adapt the program for a Canadian market. The adapted program is called “Step by Step” and an overview is available here.

For an informative overview of childhood obesity -


Chapter 11

Culture of Integrity


Flowing Point




OWIT's Roundtable Breakfast

Physician Assistants

Rebuilding Confidence


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