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Caring for Our Children

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The development of a child is an amazing event. As a mom, I realize I have been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. Someone who came into this world as an innocent infant in need of constant care, instant gratification, and a tremendous amount of attention is now my responsibility. As he grows, he comes to trust those who show him love & affection, & he looks to these individuals for the nurturing, protection, & guidance he cannot provide for himself. I take my responsibility --- to fulfill his needs --- seriously.

With each day comes a new experience for both of us. Every day finds him discovering something he couldn't do the day before --- a new action, attitude, accomplishment. And every day I discover that my role as a parent goes much farther than providing him with the mere essentials of life.

Like all parents, I bear the responsibility of assuring my child the best conditions for ultimate health & wellbeing; for providing sustenance for adequate growth; for providing clothing & shelter to shield from the elements outdoors; for protecting him from dangerous situations; & for teaching him the morals & values he will need in order to become a compassionate, respectable human being. Unfortunately, as I grow more aware of my responsibilities, I have also grown more aware of how society seems to care less & less about our children --- blowing lots of hot air but giving little real priority to family time, family values, & family health.

This is especially clear when you consider how unresponsive today's society is to the needs of families who are now facing drastic changes in the way they live. The dramatic rise in the number of households where both parents must work; the sharp increase in single-parent households, the breakdown of the extended-family & the local community. All of these changes have put pressures on parents & children unknown to previous generations. But society as a whole seems unwilling or unable to provide much help. Instead, the focus seems to be on guaranteeing corporate profits and training our littlest citizens to become unquestioning consumers of every new fad and gimmick.

What's this got to do with nutrition and fitness, you ask? To me, the answer is clear. With little outside support, parents today are facing an enormous challenge in trying to raise their children according to sound, healthy principles in the face of irresponsible advertising, an ever-expanding list of must-have (but not necessarily healthy) commodities, and a declining national commitment to the health and well-being of our children.

Children are our most precious resource --- they are the joy of our present and the hope for our future. And nothing is more important to a growing child than the love and support of a close-knit family. But the truth is that we have become such a transient society that we often do not even know our neighbors. We live where we work, not where our families are, and we often do not get the chance to establish roots in our communities before it's time to move on again.

How does this affect our children?

For one thing, they're losing a sense of connectedness with the world --- not surprising in an age when computer games are their playmates & the television is their babysitter. But even more, it means that instead of getting their life-lessons from trusted adults, they depend more & more on the media to provide them with their image of the world.

As a single, working mom, I find this disturbing. As a professional in the filed of nutrition, I find this actually frightening! The media, & the corporations who sponsor it, are not concerned with our children's well-being --- they are interested in their bottom lines. And their priorities put them in direct conflict with many of the principles that we, as parents, know we must uphold.

It is not in our children's best interests to abandon them to a life in which an addiction to technology, a sedentary lifestyle, & an over-reliance on junk food are the order of the day. As parents, we must be committed to teaching them how to make choices that improve their chances for a healthy, happy life. And there's no time to waste! Childhood obesity & the diseases associated with it are on the rise, & eating disorders are reaching epidemic proportions among our nations young people.

That's why I wrote this book. It is my mission to educate parents about what they can do to ensure proper nutrition & healthy physical activity throughout childhood & adolescence, in the face of all the media & social pressures to the contrary. I want to provide parents with a realistic approach to achieve these goals so that our children do not grow up to be forever at the mercy of the latest advertising gimmick & food & fitness fad.

My interest in these issues comes from a very personal source. I suffered from obesity as a child, & although I eventually succeeded in overcoming that devastating problem, I found myself battling eating disorders during my teen & young adult years. These experiences led me to a career in nutrition & fitness, where I came to more deeply understand the wide range of factors that lead to these conditions in children. I became powerfully committed to working towards a future where our children can grow up well-nourished, fit, & happy, & out of this commitment I developed a program that I call Designs for Healthy Lifestyles.

A design for a healthy lifestyle is one in which children & adults work together to promote good nutrition & fitness, thus preventing childhood obesity & the health problems associated with excess weight, both during childhood & later on, as adults. It is one in which parents can work with an already-at-risk or obese child to work toward a healthy weight without triggering an obsession with weight that can lead to eating disorders. Most of all, it is one that promotes strengthened relationship bonds within families, helping every member to realize the healthiest, happiest lifestyle possible.