*While I would love to paint this piece with pretty prose and poetic words, I can’t. It seems unfitting so let me cut to the chase. Los Angeles and metropolitan cities across the nation we have a problem with our children – they are simply overweight.  Not big boned, not carrying around a little baby fat, not husky or any of those other euphemisms to soften the blow and bath our denial. They are in too many case obese, and some dangerously so.

It such a pervasive problem that it doesn’t look much like a problem or resemble a problem. With media brands like Honey Boo Boo gaining in popularity, obesity among children is gaining acceptance and being dismissed as the new normal.

But it ain’t so.  It never will be.

In the State of California parents are given a wake up call. Since 1996 the Golden State has tested the fitness level or lack thereof of its students and published the results. The test is conducted by each respective school district in the state. Over a million students are involved in the annual test that includes California’s fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade students. Late last year, without enough fanfare or forensics, the State Department of Education released the results of the 2011-2012 California Physical Fitness Test. The story had its 15 minutes of fame but it faded as quickly as it appeared.

The results of students in Los Angeles, the nation’s trendsetter was particularly alarming. Here are the broad strokes:  Nearly half of the students tested have an unhealthy body-mass index – meaning their weight is not appropriate for their height – and one out of every three students are considered at risk of future medical problems.

The test is broken down into six fitness areas that include aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extensor strength, upper body strength and flexibility.  The test also assesses body composition, the appropriateness of a student’s weight relative to their height, because excessive fat in a predictor of future health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The results are mailed to parents and care givers each year.  It’s lifesaving, academic changing, future augmenting information. In a statement made to the press at the time the report was released, state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said. “It affects more than their health. Study after study has demonstrated the very clear link between physical fitness and academic achievement.”

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past three decades. It is more common among African-American and Mexican-American students.

But why? Here are a few reasons researchers from the Department of Health and Human Services have concluded:

  • Children are getting more of their food away from home.
  • Children are getting more of their calories from energy dense (high calorie) foods like snacks.
  • There has been a decline in nutritious breakfast consumption – especially for children of working mothers.
  • Portion sizes have increase significantly. (Average portion sizes increased for salty snacks from 1.0 oz to 1.6 oz and for soft drinks from 12.2 oz to 19.9 oz.)
  • Children consume more fast foods and sugary drinks in front of the television and in their rooms.

Factors that affect the American community specifically include:

  • Genetic factors – they can play a role in how an African-American child’s body metabolizes food.
  • Cultural customs – starting solid foods before 4 months of age.
  • Lack of Exercise – African Americans students are 50% less likely to be physical active than other ethnic groups.

Any of these reasons resonate?

There is so much that can be done to turn the tide of this problem that not only affects Los Angeles but  cities across the nation.

So here’s where you can start. Visit the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) page How can I tell if my child is obese?

Next, visit the BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen  page and learn how to calculate your child’s Body Mass Index. It’s simple to do. The only information you will need to enter is the child’s birth date, height and weight. It does the calculation for you. And there is an Adult BMI Calculation there so take a few moments and get in touch with your numbers too.

There you will also find important information such as on balancing calories, preventing weight gain, losing weight, eating healthy and so much more.

Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, Philadelphia, D.C., New York – we all have a problem. It’s a problem that the village can solve. Saving our children from the ill-fated destiny of diabetes, heart disease and stroke and an untimely death is the best way to preserve or future, write our history and leave a legacy for generations to come.

Veronica Hendrix is foodie and a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods and creator of Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning and Velvet Noir Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning featured here today. Her book “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes has some amazing recipes in it, some which are featured here today. 

veronica hendrix

Veronica Hendrix