Guest Column (4/15/10)

Your lifestyle, your legacy

April 15, 2010

By Dr. Bill Schenck

Each generation leaves a legacy.

The “Greatest Generation’s” legacy was victory in World War II and the boom of the 1950s. What will our legacy be? Twitter? Blogs? Unfortunately, our legacy is that our children will have a shorter life span than our own. This is the first time in history that a generation is being set up for evolutionary failure.

What truly scares me though is the lack of urgency to fix this problem. The root of this epic issue is childhood obesity, an epidemic that is sweeping our nation and quite literally weighing us down financially, emotionally and intellectually. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the prevalence of obese children from 1980 to 2002 has more than doubled for 6- to 11-year-olds, and more than tripled for 12- to 19-year-olds.

But what does this mean? Obesity is considered a low-grade, systemic inflammatory disease. Inflammation is the underlying cause of most of our health problems — from dandruff to heart disease. An obese child has a higher risk for almost every health issue, including diabetes and many forms of cancer.

So what do we do? Well, we do a lot. And most importantly we do it right now. The good news is that we know exactly what is causing this epidemic. Our lifestyle choices are raising a generation of malnourished children who prefer the ease of Cheetos and television to the more appropriate youthful choices of apples and playtime. Since lifestyles are created over many years and by a series of choices, they are difficult to reverse. We no longer have the luxury of believing lifestyle change is too complicated. Instead, let us focus on what we can do right now. If we do a few things right in the short term, the long-term outlook can change in profound ways.

I have dedicated the past 20 years of my life to learning about disease prevention and healthy lifestyle choices. There is more than enough information available for us to be responsible leaders of health in our families. I understand where to start can be overwhelming, so my suggestion is this: start simple and lead by example. If you do those two things, we can save our kids — and ourselves — in the process.

First, let your kids play. Open your doors and have them run around; they are born to do this. After playing, make sure they are rewarded with water, healthy snacks and a balanced diet. Trust me, as a parent of four children, they will eat whatever you put in front of them! The American food supply is currently inundated with health-robbing “foods” high in sugar and bad fats. Some “foods” are not actually food as they lack the nutrients to help sustain life. High fructose corn syrup, found on many labels, is a substance our bodies simply were not made to consume. Instead, give children a variety of foods — the more colors on their plate, the better! Put a big emphasis on fruit, veggies, protein and legumes.

Give your kids water. Lots of water. Soda and lack of proper water consumption are leading causes of obesity and a quick fix in your household. Start by giving them a quart of water a day and work up to half their body weight in ounces each day. And, if we are not doing it ourselves, surely we cannot expect our kids to do it.

Finally, look around your house. There are numerous lifestyle choice triggers in your house you are passing on to your children from your cupboards to your medicine cabinet. Over the next few weeks, as we all do our spring cleaning and find ourselves throwing things out, I encourage you to extend this process to your kitchen cupboards. If it says “high fructose corn syrup” on the label, throw it out. If it is not real food, throw it out. I understand for many this can be scary and I truly can appreciate that. But please, do your children the favor of remembering that your lifestyle is your legacy.


Dr. Bill Schenck has more than 20 years of experience in preventative health, including chiropractic, nutrition, neurology and active rehabilitation. He practices at Schenck Chiropractic in Williston. Dr. Schenck can be reached at or 802-878-8330.