By Michiel Badenhorst
An unknown author once said “In order to change, we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Childhood obesity is growing at an alarming pace and with that, mental and medical illness.
According to the NZ Ministry of Health, Health Statistics for the period 2016/17, around one in eight or 12 percent of children (age 2-14) were obese, the percentage for 15 years an older is a staggering 32 percent.
A further 21 percent of children were overweight but not obese. According to the findings, the child obesity rate has increased from 8 percent in 2006/07 to 12 percent in 2016/17.
Some of the major contributors to this problem is well documented and include:
Too much screen time, a direct contributor to sedentary lifestyle
Lack of sleep, both in quality and duration (linked to screen time and poor diet)
Lack of play and physical activity
Regular fast food consumption (high in saturated fat, refined starch and salt)
High sugar consumption (It is said that on average, the Western diet includes around 5-6kg of added sugar per week)
Hopefully you read this and realise that the problem is real, and if you are “sick and tired” of your situation or that of your overweight child, then my challenge to you is that you start the change.
Most of us are guilty of pushing a device into our child’s hands when we need a “time out” or using unhealthy treats and or screen time as an achievement incentive or reward. We neglect to realise that we are actually enforcing bad habits, habits that could cost our childrens long-term health and wellbeing.
Start the change by creating a culture of health in your own home.
Here are some ideas:
1. Family physical activities
We are privileged to call one of the most beautiful countries in the world our home. Make the most of this fact by going on family bike rides, walks or playing in the park.
Start a sport or hobby that requires physical activity together as a family.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends at least two and a half hours of moderate or one and a quarter hours of vigorous physical activity, spread throughout the week, for adults.
For young people, the recommendation is an accumulation of at least one hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, at least three days a week.
This should include vigorous physical activities and activities that help strengthen muscles and bones.
2. Limit screen time
Studies have shown that as little as one to two hours of screen time a day has a significant negative effect on cognitive brain, speech, physical, and social development.
Recommendations provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Health suggests less than two hours of recreational screen time per day.
3. Set achievable goals and challenges in the family
Make it a goal to cut out all added sugar from your diet (limit sugar to the occasional cheat treat). Make it a goal to drink more water, replace your fizzy drinks with water or even milk.
Set achievable weight goals for the whole family. Remember, we are after healthy goals not the unrealistic magazine looks.
Set bigger goals like a tramping trip or climbing a mountain together once or twice a year. This will help to motivate you.
4. Make rewards fun family activities that will build lasting memories
Let’s be honest, a trip to a local fast food chain as a reward or incentive provides no lasting memories or enjoyment. Next time, plan something where the whole family can benefit from the reward, something that will build lasting memories.
5. Plan and make meals together, eat together without any devices near the table
With a little bit of planning, you can transform the way you and your family eat. A trip to your local farmers’ market for fresh veg and fruit, jumping on Google to get healthy meal plans and recipes can change the way your family look and feel within a couple of weeks.
Let the whole family contribute in making meals and or setting the table. Eat together, at the table, at least once a day without any devices nearby. Healthy families are the foundation of our society.
Michiel Badenhorst is passionate about encouraging and educating young athletes.
“There are so many myths when it comes to youth development which I believe need to be addressed through community awareness and education,” says Michiel.
“I am passionate about addressing issues like youth obesity, safe training, functional physical development, long-term athletic development and active lifestyle. “
Having grown up on a farm in South Africa, Michiel received his honours degree in Biokinetics (Musculosceletal Excercises Science and Rehabiliatation) from the University of the Free State in 2004. He has worked at a high school in youth athletic development and owned a CrossFit affiliate.
In 2014 he was appointed as the strength and conditioning co-ordinator at St.Paul’s Collegiate School, Hamilton.
“It is extremely satisfying to see young athletes that you work with excel in their various sports and achieve regional or New Zealand representative level. However what motivates me most is to see young people enjoy physical activity and move well.
“Our young people don’t “learn through play” anymore, so many have lost the skill of performing basic movement standards well.
“Physical activity and sports involvement at school level is crucial. Evidence is clear that physical activity through play and non-competitive sports involvement at a young age has far reaching positive implications on individual health and wellbeing, promoting physical, emotional and cognitive growth.
“However, we do need to be careful not to promote early sport specialisation, which can lead to injury, athlete burnout and youth losing interest in long-term physical activity. What provides me with the greatest sense of achievement is to help competitive and non competitive athletes to achieve their personal and or sports goals.”
Michiel and his wife have two young children, an eight-year-old daughter and six- year-old son, and as a family enjoy bike rides and outdoor activities.