I read a lot of news every day. It's been particularly bad on many fronts these days - the economy, the environment....the Giants can't seem to find a power hitter. But there's an alarming trend among youngsters these days. An unheard of number of young kids are turning up with Type 2 diabetes.
Let me first distinguish between the two conditions that mark diabetes. Type 1 is also known as "juvenile diabetes." An individual's pancreas ceases it's functions, and as a result the afflited must take insulin injections to metabolize carbohydrates. I've had it since I was 21. It requires a lot of care, can cause a ton of complications, and I can assure you it's not big bunches of fun.
Type 2 diabetes was once called the "over 40 & overweight" condition. It's really an entirely different illness. Fat cells close off insulin receptors in otherwise healthy cells, causing food to go unmetabolized and similar symptoms to the Type 1 crowd. Frequently pills can control it. Insulin may also be used depending on the severity of the case. But usually, diet and exercise can mitigate, or in some cases eliminate the illness.
It's a new deal for kids, though. Type 2 in children was unheard of just 25 years ago. Attribution for this ugly trend goes to kids eating more fast food garbage, kids staying home and immersing themselves in the Internet, video games and other unsocial, non - physical activity. And parents either encourage this or claim to have "no control" over what their children do. The parents who encourage incessant computer use justify it as "educational", as if a walk in a park to see and identify plants, animals and birds isn't. They worry about their kids being exposed to crime - as if the internet predators and such educational games as "Grand Theft Auto" don't offer enough exposure. And their kids get larger, fatter, less capable of even the simplest exercise. ..
So what does a parent do? How do you reorient a childhood toward your child's more active participation?
First off, Mom & Dad - you have to get involved. Maybe you set a nightly "after work, after school" family walk around the neighborhood. Maybe you insist on teaching your kids an outdoors activity, one that will help them consume calories and will also be fun for them. Set an example - walk, jog, run as often as you can, and have them along with you. The possibilities here are endless. It's too easy to say "my child doesn't like to do that", but that's a deadly excuse for your children. YOU set the rules. Believe me, I can take any kid out hiking and have fun AND make it interesting. E - mail me if this concept challenges you.
The second component is watching what they eat. Sugar coated babysitters should be reduced or removed altogether. Your kids may be programmed to eat too much fast food or sugary garbage. Don't worry - the whining about not getting that stuff anymore will cease once they get hungry. And there are certainly days where a special treat can be justified. There are dozens of books on diet and exercise, but again, if my experience can help get your family healthier, please let me know.
2009 has to be "The Year of the Active Child." Let's make sure we don't outlive the ones we're counting on to take care of us in our old age.....