Diet books are on the best-seller lists. Fitness videos are flying off the shelves. Fast-food restaurants are offering healthful alternatives. Yet with all the current emphasis on nutrition and well-being, why are the waistlines of our youth continually expanding?
"Young people first have to see to be," said Dr. Rovenia "Ro" Brock, widely known as the host of BET's "Heart & Soul," the first-ever national health and fitness television show for African American women. "When parents don't practice the healthful behaviors they are trying to instill in their children, it doesn't work."
According to the American Obesity Association, overweight and obesity in the U.S. occur at higher rates in minority populations such as African and Hispanic Americans, compared with white Americans. Among female youth, African American adolescent females ages 12 to 19 have the highest overweight and obesity prevalence -- 45.5 percent and
26.6 percent, respectively.
"The biggest problem in the African American community is that we eat too much and move too little. Physical inactivity and the overconsumption of calories, fat, sugar and sodium head the list of nutrition concerns," said Brock, who also is the author of the national bestseller Dr. Ro's 10 Secrets to Livin' Healthy.
Brock reccommends proper nutrition in childhood and reinforcing healthful living practices through adolescence. "In infancy, introduce your children to vegetables before fruits, so that they develop a taste for the healthful before the sugar. And when kids get older, continue to pack vegetables and fruit in their lunch, as opposed to bags of chips."
Encourage water rather than soft drinks, Brock said. "The widening girth of America has more to do with the high-fructose content in those mammoth soft drinks than with fat," she added.
If your adolescent child is already overweight or obese, Brock encourages parents to positively reinforce them through encouraging words. "Too often I see parents speaking to their children in tones that are humiliating and dehumanizing," she said. "Be nicer. Be kinder. We have to be role models to our children -- role models of both health and positive behavior."
The elimination of physical education from many public schools across the country is a growing concern, according to Brock. "Parents need to band together to have physical education added back into the curriculum," she said.
Inspired to help create healthy communities since her mother's premature death from stomach cancer, Brock said, "I believe people want the information and want to live more healthful lifestyles -- they just don't know how to do
it. It's my job to translate complex information into information people can use to better their lives."