On Nov 14, 2018, people around the globe observed World Diabetes Day and Indians celebrated Children’s Day. While these concepts might seem dissimilar at first glance, let’s take a deeper look in this piece and see how, as parents, we can not only imbibe good qualities in our children but prepare them early in life to prevent what is going to be the biggest healthcare risk of their times – lifestyle disorders like Diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.
- 100 years ago, lifestyle disorders did not exist in India.
- 50 years ago, lifestyle disorders still did not exist in India, but we heard about them in foreign countries.
- 20 years ago, lifestyle disorders like Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high BP, obesity, and other comorbidities started creeping into Indian society as people started having sedentary lifestyles, poor diets, developed vices like smoking and drinking, and started using personal vehicles and other creature comforts extensively.
- 5 years ago, lifestyle disorders became the greatest cause of deaths in India, beating cancer or AIDS. The number of obese people nationally doubled in the short period of 2005 to 2015. Close to 25% of all deaths reported in urban areas in the country were due to cardiovascular diseases.
These are scary figures. And the trend is clearly noticeable. While our grandfathers and grandmothers lived slower lives than us and had fewer conveniences and amenities, they lived healthy and fulfilling lives and enjoyed the finer pleasures of life. The more humanity has attempted to make its life convenient and “at-the-touch-of-a-button”, the more and more unhealthy it has made its own existence. And it is only going to get worse for the coming generations.
Many healthcare experts agree that today’s urban lifestyle—poor diet, lack of physical activity, alcohol, tobacco, and pollution—can by itself be categorized as a disease.
Having said that, it isn’t possible to live in a shell either. Your children are going to have to be brought up in this same environment and will have to face these challenges as they grow up. So, what can we do as parents to negate this large disadvantage that our children are going to face:
- Mindful Eating – Parents introduce mobile phones in their children’s lives as a distraction when they refuse to eat their food. Although children then begin eating without too much resistance, this is one of the worst habits you can hook your child to. They then refuse to eat without a video running in the background. This is unnatural and very unhealthy. This habit, which usually starts when they are in their nappies, continues well into their teenage years.
When a child eats with their focus on the food and with their own hands, it speeds digestion, improves stools the next day, and they process the nutrition of the food better, which results in a happy and healthy child instead of a dull, cranky, or distracted one.
- Personal Discipline and Resisting Temptations – Children are like clay. They take the shape of the people and circumstances around them. Moreover, the lessons they learn when they are little will remain when they are grown too. Child psychologists stress the importance of parents knowing when to use a firm “no” with their children. Children are impulsive by nature, and parents are responsible to drive home the point that they cannot have anything and everything they want. When these small lessons are consistently delivered, they will develop into well-rounded young people who know how to resist temptations and who know that, in life, short-term pleasures give long-term pain and short-term struggles give long-term satisfaction and happiness.
- “Eat What Your Grandparents Ate” – You might have heard celebrity dieticians use this line. It covers all of the new-age dieticians’ advice in 5 words. What this means is:
- Eat home-made food as far as possible
- Eat at fixed times during the day and in moderation
- Cut out preserved foods and canned foods from your life
- Reduce carbonated drinks and processed foods
- Focus on age-old foods like wheat, rice, dal, veggies, which our bodies are familiar with, instead of unfamiliar foods like cheese, paneer, fried foodstuff, or packaged chips
- Consume only in-season fruits and vegetables; if they aren’t in season but still available, they have been preserved! Avoid at all costs!
- More Time on Feet, Less on Butt – Various studies conducted in a number of countries found that children who watch more than 2 hours of television or videos a day are disadvantaged in many ways:
- Impaired performance at school
- Behavioral difficulties, including difficulty in making friends and empathizing with people
- Attention disorders
- Irregular sleep, including trouble falling asleep and resisting bedtime
Children should spend more time on their feet, playing, rather than watching TV or YouTube. This is completely in your power. Get yourself and the children out the door. Let them get dirty and sweaty. Remember, tomorrow is too late. It’s not a good idea to delay good habits.
These steps are challenging to implement, but not doing so could very well mean that there is a higher chance your child will be a victim of a lifestyle disorder or two as they grow older. Yes, your dinner table may be a bit boring compared to your neighbor’s, but your children and their children will thank you for it!
Also, children pick up on things quickly. It’s not that tough to start them on a good habit. Since you have read this article till here, take the next step and start implementing these steps. Good luck!
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