Years ago, when I was in grade school, there was this one kid in our school
who was (to put it bluntly), known as the "fat kid" in school. I can remember
my mother admonishing me not to be a part of those who would tease him. She
reminded me that in every school there's a "fat kid" and that life is hard
enough for them without the childhood bullies making it worse.
The reason that memory comes to mind is that a few weeks ago I did a favor
for a friend, and picked up their child from school to bring them to family
gathering. I couldn't remember exactly what time their class was dismissed,
so I sat in the lot in front of the main school building and waited for
Bryan - a fifth grader whose parents we'd known for several years. The third
child I saw emerge from the building was exceptionally chubby and round... enough
so that it slowed his gait and transformed it to a slight waddle. Immediately
my mind went to that talk with my mother so many years ago, and I felt a pang
of sorrow for this boy - the school's "fat kid".
My reverie was totally blown away a few minutes later when a larger group
exited from the front door. Several in the group were nearly just as large.
And over the next ten minutes or so, as I waited for Bryan, I found I was
sitting there with my mouth agape at the fact that "the fat kid" didn't stand
out at all. There were lots and lots of fat kids. I got out a pen and paper
and scrawled my thoughts down... it was the beginning of this article.
When had childhood obesity risen to these levels??
With a little research, I discovered that up to 1 in 5 American children, and
half of all adults, considered overweight or obese, and that fat now rivals
smoking as the nation's top health scourge. In fact, in the last twenty years,
the proportion of overweight children has jumped 50% (the same period of time
sugar and refined starch consumption went up by nearly the same percentage.)
Eating too much has traditionally received the blame for weight problems.
But the dietary surveys from the Health Statistics analysis suggest that
how much children are eating may not be the problem: The dietary surveys
showed that calorie intakes among most age groups did not increase compared
to intakes 10 and 20 years ago. (Many of the articles I found about fighting
childhood obesity acknowledged this fact, and then went on to explain how to
reduce your child's calories and fat intake.)
I found countless groups that have joined together to fight it, lobby
congress, and go to school officials. Their fight however is always waged
with the same weapon... take the fat away from kids' diets. They all recommend
adhering to the food pyramid and giving the children more grains and starches
and less fats (or as they always describe them, greasy, fatty, artery clogging
As long as they see dietary fat as the enemy and keep pushing the carbs, our
children will NOT be getting slimmer. Each campaign to fight childhood obesity
that I read about center on one primary thing - exercise. Get the kids out to
play and away from the TV, Video Games and Computers.
My reasoning as to why kids run and play far less than they used to? They
simply don't have the energy. Whether their day's diet has consisted of
usual kid-fare (Little Debbie cakes, pizza, Lunchables, Coke, or
a Snickers bar),
or of their "healthy alternative" (pasta, cereals, potatoes, rice, etc), these kids
are groggy, listless, and even downright sleepy from the constant onslaught of
carbohydrate rich foods. Far easier to sit zombie-like in front of a television
They want the kids to join the local swim team... Excuse me? Understand that
if chubby little Billy joined a swim team, what would happen when all the other
kids showed up in their little Speedos?
Consequently, many of these children will be spending their entire childhoods
"on a diet". Feeling deprived, beating up their carbohydrate metabolism so
later in life even small amounts of starchy or sugary foods will pack on the
pounds, and playing hell with their self esteem.
What if we lowered the carbs these kids take in? It's unlikely most kids
would need a truly LOW carb diet to lose weight and feel good. They could
have a diet rich in protein packed meats, nutrient dense vegetables, fruits,
and WHOLE grains. Kids don't need sugar. They don't need bleached white
flours or the pastas or breads that come of them. What if kids were fed
TRULY healthy diets? Diets that allowed them to bound with energy, rather than
leaving them as drugged zombies that can't remember wanting to run and play.
Make no mistake about it... this is an epidemic that has slipped up on us.
At least 70 percent of overweight children will be overweight adults, putting
them at greater risk for a variety of diseases. Why are we setting our children
up to follow a worse path than we did?
Path of least resistance? That's certainly part of it. Give them the ice cream
cone they are screaming about and they'll be quiet. A rather horrendous ad
from Quaker Oats Company proclaims, "Chewy Stops the Chatter", showing that
giving them this horrible sugar laden bar will make your children be quiet
and stop infringing on your life and your day. What the hell are they saying?
Drug them? For this stupefying atrocious advertising campaign, Quaker
received a gold "EFFIE" Award for proven effectiveness in advertising. I don't
know which is worse- what their slogan MEANS, or that it has proven effective!
A number of years ago the USDA adapted its Food Guide Pyramid for children ages
two to six - a diet high in starches, and fruit juices. Ketchup, which was allowed
to count as a vegetable in school lunch menus, contains 1 teaspoon of sugar per
tablespoon, making it a candy in my opinion. And the obesity rates for kids
keeps rising. It's tough enough in our world without being rejected for being
Just My Two Cents,