I’m a fat guy. I know it, I admit it, and while I’m not particularly proud of it, I’m also not going to be so ashamed of it that I lie to hide that shame. I’m not as fat as I once was, being down 30 lbs from where I started from, but I still have a long way to go too.
However, I also know that it wasn’t until adulthood and family life was permitted to get in the way and bad habits were introduced that it even became an issue. Today, though, being overweight isn’t the exception. It’s the rule in far too many cases.
More importantly than the number on the scale, though, is the complete lack of physical fitness I see today.
The thing is, it can be fixed if we allow it to be.
All over this country, physical education appears to be on the chopping block as cash-strapped school systems look at ways to cut expenses. Of course, the bureaucrats rarely look at the top-end for ways to cut the fat, but instead look at cutting programs like art, music, and physical education.
Which would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that these same people often decry the obesity epidemic among American children. Kids today are looking at being the first generation with a lower life expectancy than their parents. This at a time when physical education budgets are being slashed or eliminated?
But we can’t put all of this on the schools. I’d like to, believe me, but it’s not all on them.
A lot of it is on us, the parents.
You see, many of us are part of a generation which grew up fearful of allowing our children outside. Instead, we made sure they had plenty of entertainment inside, all so they wouldn’t go outside and get snatched by the legions of child sex traffickers supposedly lurking on every street in America.
Nevermind that while such a thing is a tragedy and a problem–only one child kidnapped is too many, especially for a purpose like that–it’s not nearly as widespread as many parents seem to believe. After all, only about 24 percent of all child abductions in the U.S. are “stranger abductions.”
While I won’t argue that the number is unacceptably high, it also means that it’s not as widespread a problem as many fear.
Yet even parents who understand the statistics are still fearful to allow their child to play outside unsupervised like we all did when we were younger. The reason? Busybody parents who will call child protective services on you at the drop of a hat.
Our society has grown soft. We’ve grown fearful, and while I get that to some degree, we’re actually harming our children.
And I use the term “we” because I’ve done it too.
My son is a prime example of all of this. You see, while he’s done a great many things I’m proud of him for, he’s also overweight and ultimately as inactive as most other examples of his generation.
He grew up with a parent (his mom) who was paranoid about abductions. She has a reason to. Her own mother and half-sister have been missing since the 1980’s and she’s terrified of any other family members going missing. As a result, she was a little overprotective when it came to Robby playing outside.
We countered this a bit by having him play soccer, but one bad coach ruined his love for the game and we haven’t been able to get him into any other sport since, which is a shame because the kid is freaking huge. Yes, he’s overweight, but he’s also just big.
Anyway, here he is, a senior in high school, and his middle-aged dad who works from the sofa can outwork him in the realm of physical labor. That honestly shouldn’t happen, but it did.
More than that, I now have to figure out how to get him motivated to do something to get his rear in shape. So far, I’m failing. Horribly.
Hell, even pointing out that the ladies like a ripped physique isn’t helping all that much.
While I’ll keep trying to encourage him to get healthy somehow, I’m really not sure I’ll manage to motivate him before he heads off to college next fall. That’s a shame, too, because I’m afraid it’ll hurt his prospects down the road in various ways.
But my son isn’t alone. I see it all the time when I drop him off or pick up him up from school. A large portion of his fellow students, in one of the poorest communities in the country, are also overweight. From what I see in various news reports, his school isn’t an isolated example, either.
The problem is, this isn’t going to just go away. What my generation has done to our children is laying the groundwork for future generations to have even more problems. We’ve set the stage for kids to pick up Type II diabetes at increasing rates. We’ve set them up for heart disease before they’re even out of middle school. We’ve set them up to be the living embodiment of the human in Wall-E.
We did this. Us.
But we can also undo it. While it’s difficult to get my son motivated about his health, I also have a six-year-old daughter. We’ve got our eye on getting her into dance and possibly even Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The idea would be to get her physically active at a very young age, and to require some kind of physical activity like a sport for the remainder of her childhood.
We can also kill the bad habits that helped contribute not just to my weight issues, but also her brother’s. We can eat more homecooked meals with a more balanced approach than we did for most of my marriage. (I love my wife, but she really prefers restaurant cooking to fixing food herself.)
If we can do this, then maybe we can give her a better chance going forward. Maybe it can also inspire her brother to take charge of his health as well. Who knows? At this point, though, it’s worth a try.
Of course, we’re just one family. This is something we need to embrace as a society. If not, it won’t be just our kids that will suffer. It’ll be our nation.