Is it just me or is our obsession with all things health, diet, and fitness now being inflicted on our children, as young as 2?! Don’t get me wrong, as a nutritionist and the Director of a health and fitness company I’m a Tiger Mother when it comes to my kids’ well-being – they don’t get away with refusing vegetables, no.1 will walk or scoot to school alongside me with no. 2 in the buggy whether she likes it or not, and 99% of any biscuits, cakes, snack bars or treats in our house are homemade from organic, wholesome ingredients.
However, if they’re at a party, then I am NOT going to be the mother who confiscates her child’s sweets. They ARE allowed fruit juice or sugary squash if we’re out at a restaurant, and whilst I want them to do extra-curricular activities as an alternative to telly-watching, these will be for fun, not exercise. Because that’s the difference – whilst it is suggested that children need an hour of physical activity a day, they shouldn’t realise they are exercising, they should just be having fun, which just so happens to be active. My 5 year old does Ballet and Gymnastics, but that’s because so do some of her best school friends, not because it’s good for her growing bones & muscles.
I bring this topic to the forefront because I’ve recently seen a rise in children’s fitness classes, everything from Zumba and Yoga to Circuit Training and Boot Camps. You can actually send your child on a week-long weightloss camp during the holidays! Wow, sounds like a blast.
The 5 year old is coming home claiming ‘sweets are bad for you’ and snacks at nursery schools of pre-school aged children are often confined to chopped fruit and vegetables. Even I eat more than just fruit and veg as snacks, so how a growing, active toddler with a little tummy to fit calories into is supposed to get through the morning on a carrot stick…..
According to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, 1.6 million people have an eating disorder in the UK, that’s a 15% increase between 200 0 and 2009, and 6.4% of all adults show some signs of disordered eating. That is, people are losing the ability to follow their body’s natural needs and instincts to eat a varied diet according to appetite, and to move around and do some activity. We are drumming it into both adults and children that this has to be a strict and calculated operation, and the statistics show that it’s working – we’re becoming more and more obsessed.
As parents, we wonder at the magic of childhood and mourn over the speed that it ends. If you do one thing for your kids, let them be kids. They’ve got to be physically healthy, but they’ve got to be psychologically healthy too. An overweight child who’s bullied is not going to be a happy one, but a teenager who is slipping into dangerous territory because they feel guilty over half a custard cream is also not happy. Let’s just let them be kids shall we.