Who's the kid on the treadmill?

OK, I’m not sure if I just have some sort of strange preteen-on-the-brain syndrome or what, but lately, everywhere I turn my head at my gym, there’s a kid working out. As in:

-A 9-year-old girl in pink practically-booty-shorts watching Nickelodeon on the recumbent bike while slowly pedaling and chatting with a friend...also on a bike.

-A slender, floppy-haired young lad in an old-school sweatband shuffling along the treadmill.

-A young girl, maybe 12, working one-on-one with a personal trainer, doing lunges and crunches.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m ALL for kids getting exercise (it was just yesterday/25 years ago that I used to shlep my boombox onto the front driveway at Ridegwood Lane and blast Janet Jackson while dancing my 8-year-old heart out.) Maybe it’s just jarring to me because I’m used to seeing older people at my gym hoisting weights in totally unsafe ways and now that kids are swinging from the rafters (literally – swinging upside down on the pull-up bar, throwing medicine balls at each other’s heads…fun!) it’s got me baffled. Are their parents just bringing them because it’s 60 below zero outside and they want them to burn off energy? Or is this a new trend – young kids becoming treadmill gerbils. Something about that just makes me a little sad. I think of kids joining sports teams and running around outside, not cueing up the elliptical for 30 minutes and tuning into Dora the Explorer on their headphones.

I will mention, though, that the third example I listed above – the young girl working with the trainer – was, in fact, a bit heavier than most girls her age. I have a strong feeling her parents sent her to shed some pounds, which brings us to the tricky topic of childhood obesity. Sahar over at FatFighterTV  recently interviewed me for a story called How to Talk To Your Kids About Obesity. Dr. Stacey from Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder was interviewed as well. Dr. Stacey discussed the slippery tightrope we walk (I totally just mixed metaphors, but whatever) when broaching this topic with kids. If we tell them they can’t or shouldn’t eat something, we risk having it blow up in our faces, with them potentially interpreting it as “stop eating altogether,” leading to diets or even EDs…or else they might feel defensive and guilty and wind up overeating or binge eating in response.

I suggested seizing teachable moments, like helping kids ID healthy foods is at the grocery store and watching your own negative body image comments when around youngsters.

But nothing prepared me for this especially saddening article about a new category called “super obese,” which designates children as young as two and three years old who are extremely overweight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rates among kids under five has doubled over the last two decade, and toddlers are actually starting to become at risk for high blood pressure and Type-2 diabetes. TODDLERS!

Has anyone out there dealt with this personally? Have you spoken to your kids about obesity? If so, how did the discussion go? Please share your tips – this is such an important topic for us to understand and tackle.

PS To see some other readers’ comments on Shine, visit here.

And to read a BlogHer post on a related topic, “Mommy, am I fat?”, visit here.

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