When I worked with forecasting infant and family trends back in the 2000s there was a noticeably growing interest for nutrition among parents. Food was no longer only food, it had to be healthy, fresh, local organic, tasty and sometimes even “nutraceutical”. Mothers started breastfeeding their babies again, and for longer intervals. Busy parents turned even busier carefully reading labels and pureeing their own organic baby food.
Due to this growing awareness I predicted that the – at the time rising – rate of childhood obesity would not last forever. I remember thinking of unhealthy, processed “instafoods” as I thought of cigarettes, something that would first stall and slowly decrease until it reached a tipping point of sudden decline. We are now in the early days of slow decline and cannot predict with certainty that the downward trend will continue. But in my projection it is only a matter of time before childhood obesity will decline sharply. I would think that by 2020 lean body mass will be the norm.
Here are eight reasons why Gen Z will be leaner than most of us:
- Breastfeeding continues to rise. Some claim the link between breastfeeding and obesity prevention is just an effect of greater awareness among breastfeeding mothers, but studies that control for that relationship still find independent effects of breastfeeding.
- Consistent changes towards more healthy eating habits among Gen Z have recently been documented in surveys.
- Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover obesity.
- Millennial parents report that their top concerns are: “environmental issues and what their kids eat, with 52% saying they closely monitor their children’s diet”.
- “Resilience Parents” will replace “Helicopter Parents” and allow for more unstructured outdoor play.
- First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign start paying off.
- Efforts to fight “food deserts”with fresh produce in poor neighborhoods is on the agenda of non-profits.
Of course, childhood obesity is still monumental and not even close to being eradicated. But we’re on the right way. And that’s encouraging.
Image: Steffen Sameiske @ Flickr