Creating Our Kids' Future

father feeding son. Emely/Cultura/Getty Images

As I write this, Thanksgiving looms.  My thoughts turn to all I have to be thankful for, my beautiful children at the top of that list.  They are gathering this week, from hither and yon, yielding to the gravitational tug of home for the holiday- and I can’t wait for the hugs.

Let us think, then, you and I, of the future we want our children to have; a future for which they and their children can be thankful.

  That would be a future unencumbered by the discomforts, distractions, and potential disabilities of obesity.  That would be a future substantially immunized against the threat of chronic diseases to which obesity contributes mightily.

We might, idly, hope for such a future.  We might indulge hope, and subordinate experience.  We might even be bold, and optimistically predict such a future just because we wish it so.  But as a fellow parent, I say we can do much better than that: we can create it.  I didn’t come up with this expression, but I rather wish I had: the best way to predict the future is to create it.

We certainly know how to eliminate virtually all childhood obesity.  After all, it was a rare condition only 100 years ago or less.  Back then, kids ate real food, and used their muscles daily.  That’s the formula. 

We know how to eliminate fully 80% of all chronic disease as well.

  Our failure to realize this stunning public health advance, and bequeath such a future to our children, is not for want of knowledge, but for want of resolve.  Our children, and children’s children, will pay with years lost from life, life lost from years- for our failure to turn what we know into we do.

We don’t need another diet, fad or otherwise.  We don’t need another silver bullet, or scapegoat.  We are not going to lose weight and turn back the clock with an effortless application of magical pixie dust.

But we could start along the path to the better health future our children deserve by walking daily.  By counting our blessings along with our steps if we are fortunate to have legs in good working order; not everyone is so fortunate.  We can trade up our groceries, and our pantries.  We can love food that loves us back.  We can stop fixating on losing weight alone and fast, and focus on finding health for the long term, together, as families.  We can make the practices that cultivate vitality part of our family culture, and values.

After all, as a parent, what has more value than the well-being of our children? 

If you and your children are well now, you, as I, have cause to be thankful.  But let’s not just hope or predict that all will be well tomorrow.

The CDC projects that we are on our way to diabetes in 40% of us; 50% in ethnic minorities.  We are watching a rising mortality toll, and economic toll, of obesity in each successive birth cohort.  We’ve been in the frying pan for some time, but the writing is on the wall; we are headed toward the fire.

But that’s not really our problem.  It’s our kids’ problem.  If the current predictions come true, it won’t be 40% of us who are diabetic by mid-century.  It will be 40% of our kids, and their kids- because they are the future population of adults to which the dire predictions pertain.

CDC predicts seriously trouble in the future.  I say: let’s create an alternative future, the very one we would like to predict.  We do not have to tolerate a culture in which “junk” and “food” can be used to describe the very same thing!  Junk is not food, and food is not junk.  Food is the one and only construction material for the growing body of a child; how did we ever develop a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” attitude about junk as part of that inventory?

  We see the costs of it in the rates of everything from pediatric diabetes to dyslipidemia, ADHD to fatty liver.

We- loving parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles- in our collective, righteous might can change all this any time we choose.  Much of what ails and imperils our children is attributable to bad use of our forks and neglect of our feet.  We, and our culture, can modify this at will.

Let’s band together to create the better medical destiny our children deserve.  Let’s stop at nothing to turn what we have long known into what we routinely do.  Let’s create the future we want to bequeath to our children. 

Then we can be thankful, one day, for the opportunity now before us- and for not letting it go to waste.

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