My mother always waxed lyrical around the topic of how “healthy” I was as a child. It was a complement to her parenting skills that I was a chubby baby, and a well-rounded toddler. As a teenager and then young adult, with my weight consistently increasing, the comments from family members and friends grew less wholesome. It was easy to console myself with… some cake (amongst other delicacies).
Now, with children of my own, I see the cycle begin anew. My daughter, built with the same body shape and tendency to choose sweet over savoury food, and my son, who would live on carbohydrates alone if he was left to his own devices.
The statistics are quite startling – according to research undertaken by The Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth, childhood obesity is an epidemic unbounded by socio-economic or ethnic grouping. Further, approximately nine million children over the age of six in the US alone are classified as obese.
What dramatic changes occurred in our society that would yield these results? The simple answer would be “where there is more, then more is given.” What does that mean? Well, socially speaking, we live in a global environment where food is relatively easy to access. We did not have to hunt the meat we found in the supermarket, and we did not have to make the bread by hand. Our apparent wealth is killing us.
While children are generally quite capable of adjusting their intake to their bodies’ requirements, we perpetuate cycles of obesity by insisting that children finish what is on their plates. We deem it disrespectful, or even ungrateful, if the child doesn’t wish to eat what has been dished. The line has been drawn in the sand – we made the meal, therefore it should be eaten (with relish and gusto).
Reinforcement of bad eating habits occurs when we spend money on “treating” the children to fast / take-out food. The salt in the wound in this instance – we are spending good money on a meal, so therefore the expectation is that the child will consume everything that is ordered.
To add to our parental mania, we give our children carbonated drinks or sugar-laden juices, in an attempt to assuage their thirst. Advertising is partly to blame. We believe the mass consumerism messaging of soft drink manufacturers. A recent study of pre-schoolers has found a correlation between sweet drinks consumed, and the rise in obesity in children. 
The logical conclusion is that energy is not being effectively managed – we have become mass consumers of various foods, and we are not expending the same amounts of energy as our ancestors. Thus our mass energy intake is not equating to an equal and justifiable release of the same energy – whether through exercise or other pursuits. Perhaps this is due to our concern as parents for the safety of our children. We would rather ensure that our children are safe and secure in our homes (which invariably leads to sedentary pursuits such as PC or other gaming), than leave them to ride a bicycle or play in the park on their own.
There is no easy answer to how we as a society can restrict the damage of this epidemic. Take the initiative, and ensure that your children get active. Choose to live a life where you can participate in outdoor games. See their joy as they grow into the adults they should be.
 Jean A. Welsh, Mary E. Cogswell, Sharmini Rogers, Helaine Rockett, Mei Zuguo, and Laurence M. Grummer-Strawn, “Overweight Among Low-Income Preschool Children Associated With the Consumption of Sweet Drinks: Missouri, 1999-2002,” Pediatrics 115 (2005): 223-229.