Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Childhood Obesity

I caught a few minutes of another scare-mongering report on "The Nation's Great Epidemic", childhood obesity, today.  And I just don't know...

Are some kids fatter than they should be?  Probably.  Absolutely.  Are some kids skinnier than they should be?  Probably.  I, for one, think that in a lot of instances, the height vs. weight charts are off.  According to them, my ideal weight is 125 lbs.  Seriously, if I weighed 125 I would look like a starving child in Africa.  (Well, to everyone else's eyes.  To my own eyes, I would probably still look like I weighed 500 lbs, since that's just what's in my head.  We're all lucky I don't have an "addictive personality", whatever that is, or I'd be anorexic.  But I digress...)

Anyway...where was I?  Oh yes, fat kids in America.  I find it a tad ridiculous that we think the best way to solve childhood obesity, or whatever, is to simply tell kids to drink less pop and eat fewer candy bars.  Well, yes.  And sugar does play a huge part in weight gain, at least for some people.  As a low-carber, I would know.  But focusing all our energy on one or two food items or types of food items is crazy.  There is sugar (and carbs) in way more than just pop and candy.  Orange juice is super-high in sugar, for example.  Yet it's deemed healthy by TPTB. 

The other half of this, of course, is exercise and activity in general.  Now look, I'm the last to lecture anybody about this.  For the most part, I was and am an indoor kind of kid.  I like reading books and writing and laying on the couch enjoying the space in my own head.  It's tough to do those sorts of things in gym class.  I'm also not especially competitive, so those activities where you're supposed to care about who wins, just for the sake of winning, tend to annoy me (e.g., dodgeball, volleyball, footraces, etc). I'm probably going to lose, which never feels good even if a person isn't competitive, but then you are made to feel even worse because what's wrong with you that you don't really care all that much?  But that said - I love playing baseball/softball, or even just throwing the ball around outside for a while in a good game of catch.  I like playing non-competitive Frisbee or even cross-country skiing (which, for those who have never done that, is a ton of work).  But...since this isn't really about me...it's true, I think, that kids of my generation and younger don't get the kind of exercise and running around that kids used to get.  Almost everyone is bussed or driven to school by their parents.  Who do you know that walks more than a block or two to their bus stop? 

Also, my generation is the first to grow up with constant fears of child safety.  Adam Walsh was abducted 3 months before I was born.  While that's truly horrible, and his dad, John, should be credited with doing much wonderful work on behalf of missing and exploited children, it is these sorts of cases that spawned a cultural fear of letting one's children play out of immediate arm's reach for more than a moment or two.  This is regardless of the fact that very, very, very few children are ever actually abducted, and very few of those who are kidnapped are taken by complete strangers.  But we need to Protect the Children, and so we keep kids inside where they're safe, we let them play only on government-approved (aka boring) playground equipment (if we give them outdoor recess at all), and we ply them with video games to keep them entertained and out of trouble.

But no one ever talks about this stuff.  Instead, it's just "don't drink pop" and then shaming the inactive fat kids, which really isn't helpful. Telling kids not to drink pop isn't going to end childhood obesity.  It just isn't.  Neither is Michelle Obama, hula-hooping with kids on the White House Front Lawn and talking about how her own kids need to lose weight. 

I don't know what the solution is, but things like making kids walk to school, giving them recess or gym time that is unstructured, so they can figure out what kind of activity they each prefer, teaching them about actual nutrition (not the food pyramid, which isn't nutrition at all), and encouraging parents to prepare and serve healthy meals and be active with their kids are the kinds of things that will help.  Not continuously spouting off about pop.

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My Comments Policy: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23