Michelle Bridges, trainer on The Biggest Loser, recently created a mini media ‘storm’ by stating that parents who give their children junk food regularly are guilty of child abuse. It’s a pretty big statement to make but when you consider that there are currently 1.5 million Australian children who are overweight / obese, maybe Michelle is not exaggerating!
To put the statement in context, it is important to understand what the definition of child abuse is: “…any action (or lack of) which endangers or impairs a child’s physical, mental or emotional health and development. Child abuse occurs in different ways. All forms of abuse and neglect are harmful to the child…” The last sentence in that definition is the one which probably leads me to agree with Michelle: being overweight in childhood increases the likelihood of that girl / boy to develop nasty lifestyle related diseases later in life like diabetes, heart disease etc. Are those diseases harmful to the child? Hell Yes!
I know that parents’ can’t be around 24-7 to supervise EVERYTHING that their child eats, particularly if they are school aged. However, the eating habits that children develop start way back in the early days of a child’s life – a two year old will only know how good soft-drink and ice-cream tastes after being given some! A survey of 2000 parents recently carried out in the UK showed that 80 per cent of parents admitted their child is not eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Of course, it’s easy to point the finger at fast-food chains saturating TV advertising and shops that carefully position the lollies next to the checkout. But really, the blunt truth is that parents must take the lead when it comes to what children put in their mouths, especially if they want them to have a long and healthy life.
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