Thoughts on childhood obesity

Our first lady has finally selected an issue to tackle – the problem of childhood obesity.  I applaud the timeliness of the issue, though no doubt I’ll have issues with how she decides to handle it.  But that’s beside the point.

I’m not too aware of specific numbers regarding fat kids, but empirical evidence would suggest it’s a problem.  Walking around any shopping mall I become increasingly aware that my generation was perhaps the last to play outdoors.  Nearly all of my childhood memories regard being outdoors, whether it be fishing with my family, playing baseball on the playground or in the league, football, or just being inspired by and mimicking the summer Olympics of 1984 in Los Angeles.

But physical activity only makes up half the picture.  Diet surely is the other half, and the diet encouraged for most children is pretty appalling. 

Surely Americans haven’t eaten particularly well since at least the conclusion of WWII, when in the early years of the Cold War, much emphasis was placed on quantity and mass production instead of quality and the healthfulness of what Americans were stuffing into their mouths.  Combine that with several other factors (less physically demanding work, an increased reliance on the automobile, and the spread of suburbia) and we arrive at the present day.  We seem to be coming out that fifty or so year funk, but even still, our attitude as to what our children eat is self evident.

Examine any kids menu and you’ll see a myriad deep fried options – chicken fingers (straight out of the plastic and into the fry basket), chicken nuggets, fish sticks, “grilled” cheese (it’s not really grilled is it but rather pan fried in a decent amount of butter), and all of those get complimented with fries. 

For the record I’m not against deep fried food, butter or fat, or even trans fats.  The difference is that children rely on their parents to make the right decisions for them, since presumably, children often do not know what is best for them. 

But here we sit, in the midst of a potentially terrible (and in some cases life threatening) situation where parents have abdicated all responsibility.

The argument that “This is what my child wants” is pretty weak, if not intellectually dishonest.  They only want to eat it because they’ve been conditioned to want it.  (This is corollary to what our pediatrician recently told us which is complete nonsense:  “children don’t like spicy food”.  Well, what do they do in Ethiopia or India then?  Not eat?)

I don’t pretend to have any answers.   All I can do is control what my own child eats and how much physical activity he gets. 

My suspicions are that the problem is rooted deeper than most people believe.  The problem starts at home, with parents attitudes and not how much government spending there is in regards to phys ed and nutrition classes.  Labelling isn’t going to work either, since you could draw a corelation that increased labeling results in increased rates of obesity (sure it would be false, but an astute statistician could make the claim).

I wish the 1st lady all the luck in the world, because either way I’m going to be stuck paying for increased obesity rates, either in increased insurance premiums or increased taxes, if not both.


One thought on “Thoughts on childhood obesity

  1. I always notice that same unhealthy kids’ food lineup on menus and wonder why chefs don’t make simple dishes with wholesome ingredients. Give it a funny name, give the kid ketchup to eat with it, whatever to make it appealing — there have to be alternatives to the fried stuff. It just seems like that would be a challenge a chef would want to take up. Oh well. Maybe it’ll be a Top Chef challenge one day.

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