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Speranza's avatar

Why don't we take childhood obesity much more seriously as a society?

Asked by Speranza (117points) May 3rd, 2009

I was reading a question about paedophiles, and was struck by the thought that we happily allow parents to feed their children to the point where their health is affected for life. Diabetes, arthritis, mental health problems… as I wrote elsewhere: Almost the whole world over, people are dying of hunger – but here in the West we die of food.

How did this become acceptable?

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23 Answers

rooeytoo's avatar

Do you want to make it illegal to have a fat kid???

Kids used to walk to school or ride a bike, now most are bussed. After school was spent at the playground playing pick up basketball, baseball, football, whatever was in season or working a partime job raking leaves, mowing the lawn, washing the windows for mom. Now kids are driven from little league to the next lesson. I don’t see any kids outside just playing anymore, it is all organized and don’t forget to properly hydrate!

Add to that a lot of parents are overweight.

Speranza's avatar

So that makes it okay?

I think it’s abusive to do that to kids. They don’t know what adults (are supposed to) know about nutrition.

I had an overweight Mum, became an overweight adult, and have two healthy, slim adult daughters. I just don’t get how people happily watch their kids turn into porkers…

asmonet's avatar

There are bigger problems in the world than overweight kids.
I saw your post in the pedophilia thread, I’m mildly disturbed that you think this has anywhere near the same level of urgency.

asmonet's avatar


Speranza's avatar

That’s fine. Wait forty years till they’re all dying society is crumbling under the pressure.

I’m not in any way saying obesity has the same awful effects as abuse, that would be stupid. But perhaps you are lucky and don’t get to see as many kids with mental health problems as I do. I think we are fooling ourselves that fat isn’t an issue. And it is a HUMUNGOUS issue. Being abused is a terrible, terrible thing. I’ve survived it and I know. But just because there are BIGGER problems around, that doesn’t mean being fat isn’t an issue. I’m just concerned that any parent can look at their kid and not mind that they are condemning them to a really unhealthy life. And personally, I feel that the fact this doesn’t matter to people is a sign of a deeper unhealthiness in our society.

I totally accept your point that it is a different ballpark from sexual abuse.

asmonet's avatar

I just think you’re making it out to be an epidemic, when I truly don’t think it is. I know the numbers, it’s a problem.

If you want to know how it became acceptable, particularly in the US where we have a much higher rate of obesity across the board, you have to look at history. To put it simply, and I mean really simply, we are a country founded on the ideals of being your own person, going for what you want, having whatever you want. That ideal is going to filter into society. We can have a feast, and so we do.

You also have to look at the cultures of the areas of the world you’re looking at for their statistics, and the history and development of those nations. History plays a huge role in creating the attitudes and traditions for every aspect of life from food to sex. It’s not just Western kids are fat, it’s not that simple.

Speranza's avatar

Yes that’s true. But I suppose we’re talking Instant Gratification then? I mean, nobody really really wants to be fat and unhealthy, do they?? Whereas we all want a pizza or a burger or a cheesecake…

My American friends do seem to have a much sweeter tooth thatn the averag Brit – so perhaps it’s partly genetic/conditioning? But tbh there are plenty of huge people over here!

asmonet's avatar

It isn’t genetic to the degree people make it out to be. It is conditioning in my opinion. People don’t think that a donut versus an omelette is going to kill them, because the effects aren’t immediate we’re likely to dismiss them and forget the donut down the road while we wonder about our increasing size. However, most animals eat in times of plenty, we’re no different.

You also have to consider that almost all the food we eat is we’ve invented specifically to be as tasty as possible. Not what we necessarily were meant to survive on. Cheesecake? Donuts? Cakes? Chips? Fried foods? They don’t exist in nature and are packed with things we shouldn’t be having under normal circumstances.

justwannaknow's avatar

Because it is easier to shove food in their face than listen to them scream!

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

* going to the fast food with family or friends as an “outing”
* in kitchen snack drawers
* snacks in the car as a distraction or reward for docile behavior
* the idea that to be hungry in between meals is un natural
* parents don’t want sad or cranky kids and food is a quick cheer up
* parents with bad eating habits include their kids

All this seems normal for a lot of families, they think to go without is going to ostracize their kids from their peers. Parents are mortified if the kids look up at them with big gooey eyes and say, “I’m hungry” because after all we live in a land of plenty, no one should hurt for food when we are so fortunate and good providers with the best intents.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I definitely think it’s a problem but my job is directly concerned with childhood obesity so I’m aware of how quickly and to what extent it’s worsening…I think that parents don’t watch their kids’ nutrition because they don’t watch their own and have their own body image issues, to boot…I think many others don’t know just HOW bad certain things are for the kids (like how there are 16 spoons of sugar, even if it’s natural sugar, in a juice box and how a kid should only have, if any at all, abt 6 oz a day of ‘natural juice’ from a box)...and I don’t think people realize what a trajectory it’ll make for their kids…when kids are young, they seem healthy…but childhood-onset diabetes are on the rise and so so many kids have a heart disease risk factor already..I will tell you this…as a parent of two who doesn’t eat so great myself, I MAKE SURE that my kids, at the very least, eat much much better than I do

Mamradpivo's avatar

Because what parent wants to think that their precious little snowflake has a problem, and that they’re responsible for it.

There are a lot of important issues that we completely ignore. Climate change, energy independence, whether we go to war for the right reasons. We ignore the truth because it scares us. Same with childhood obesity.

cak's avatar

It is a problem and it is being addressed. Now, we can’t change everything overnight and it takes a lot of changes, including behavior changes in the parents.

There are some areas that are trying to charge adults with child abuse. Seems to me, instead of charging them with child abuse, help them. Teach them better ways of feeding their children and taking care of themselves. You have to remember that some of these parents are feeding their child the same way they were fed.

@Simone De Beauvoir is dead on. It kills me when I see a parent offer tons of juice and at the same time, discuss how they would never give their child soda! It’s loaded with sugar.—eye roll!- They also consider the fact that they give their child chicken nuggets (say McDonald’s) versus a cheeseburger – a good choice. Wrong. One nugget exceeds the recommended sodium intake for a child…we’re not even talking about the dipping sauce!

Children are on heart meds, meds for cholesterol and like @Simone_De_Beauvoir said, Type 2 Diabetes is on the rise – big time.

There are many reasons for this, but yes, lack of exercise is a reason. To set the example, the entire family needs to get of their rear end and get moving. It can be a family game (think soccer) in the backyard for thirty minutes, though it needs to be more like 45–60 minutes, at a time.

I guess I’m a bit taken aback by your question, it seems like instead of wanting to help, you just want to tear people down. Also, “porkers” isn’t really constructive, is it? Instead of tearing down, why not get involved? Why not look for ways to help?

Speranza's avatar

I do want to help. I’ve also seen national campaigns fail because people don’t want ‘Them’ interfering – and I can see their point.

‘Porkers’ was meant humorously… I’m not skinny myself, that’s partly why I would like to nip other people’s weight issues in the bud! There is no one answer, I just can’t see why it’s not seen as more serious by more people.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@cak here in NY, we as SPARK program coordinators are trying to train every daycare and preschool teacher in the city so that they can incorporate at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity into their academic curriculum…we work with city council to get funding for this and it might be cut, it’d devastating

cak's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – Ugh. I would hate to see that funding cut. They can cut the program, but down the line, they’ll be funding more (at a higher cost) programs that will be targeted at the national issue of heart disease (in teens and young adults), type 2 diabetes and other weight related – health issues. I swear, I think most politicians really can’t see the long-term ramifications of such poor decisions.

@Speranza – get involved. Start a local chapter of Girls on the Run. Participate in different programs focusing on healthy activities for boys and girls. Find a way to constructively participate and encourage healthier lifestyles.

I’ll tell you why porker bothers me. First, I respect your honesty about your weight. I’m the opposite, I’m petite – I’m a carbon copy of most of the women in my family. However, if you aren’t petite in my family, you are morbidly obese. I had a relative that was “cut out” of his home. They had to remove the door, door frame and part of the wall to get him out. Simple things like porker, would send him into an eating binge. You never know what sets people off. I do understand that you aren’t meaning it in a mean way, I think you are just trying to be matter-of-fact, about the situation; however, you really need to consider the impact of your words.

For you to set an example, you have to be an example. Find ways to get involved, this will help you get the word out.

Facade's avatar

Americans love to eat. Gluttony has become an american past time. People think since the damage done to a person from eating too much and the wrong things is (mostly) only seen in the long run, it’s unimportant and doesn’t affect them.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@cak absolutely and considering how much PE is getting cut, as well, this is a disaster…but there are many initiatives here trying to deal with better nutrition and more physical activity…cook shops and green housing lessons and I just heard that there can be no more fast food places couple of miles perimeter around schools…

mattbrowne's avatar

Educated people take it very seriously.

cak's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I gotta say, I love my son’s PE teacher. She is outstanding. She rewards healthy behavior and has started many “challenges.” It’s not just for the older (we’re talking elementary children) kids, it’s for all people that are in the school and families. We have a jump rope club, it started the 1st day of school and lasted 100 days. It was replaced by the “step” club…how many steps can you take in a week?

PE is a challenge for them. Not just playing games, they really exercise. She is setting a fantastic example and does health lessons, too. She involves the children in teaching them how to make healthy snacks.

His school, the staff, children and families have lucked out with this teacher.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@cak sounds like it
i know that my oldest’s daycare doesn’t do much activity as they’re montessorri and that’s not their focus so i make sure he gets at least an hour of movement daily…he gets a lot on weekends, as well…but I have informed my entire family, all his caretakers that they should make him move more

casheroo's avatar

I believe it is being taken seriously. I’ve heard of many schools pulling out junk snack foods in vending machines, and putting healthy alternatives.
As a child, my brother and I ate whatever we wanted…my mother just wanted us to eat though. We were just skinny kids, because of genetics…we have fast metabolisms and played a lot. My son seems to have gotten the same genes. He was a little chunker as an infant, but he is quite tall and lean as he gets bigger. I watch everything that we put into his mouth, and will do so until he’s 18. (or out of my house I guess) I don’t want unnatural junk food in my house, so he’s going to have to suffer without it, and have it as a special treat elsewhere.
I have commented on the playing thing to one of my neighbors. We never see children outside playing, her two girls are always outside and so is my son, but hardly any other children…it’s crazy. When I was a child, you had to drag us kicking and screaming inside to eat. Usually the entire neighborhood kids would be playing some sort of game, like cops & robbers or tag, or bike races. I think people are too scared to let kids even play nowadays.

josie's avatar

I understand the spirit of the question, but I must remark…Just what is it that “we” as a “society” are going to do about people who act out their lives in a fashion that “we” do not approve. Because at the moment that you accept that “we as a society” are allowed to do something to control those folks who are not cooperating, you become the next possible target of control or worse by “the society”. I do not like it when people act like “society” is a sentient organism that has a specific self interest. The principle is not true, and the implications are sinister. My kids were not obese, but even if they were it is none of your business. And your kids are none of my business. Leave me alone please.

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