Here’s something I’ve been wondering about lately, and I hope I can phrase this in a way that conveys my honest and unbiased curiosity about the answers: what do you think about childhood obesity?

Is it a real issue, worthy of concern? (And political focus?) Is obesity among children a different issue than obesity among adults? Does fat acceptance, specifically the health component—the belief that health is independent of weight—apply towards children? At what age should children be allowed to make their own lifestyle choices with regards to food and exercise?

I’m particularly interested in hearing from people who strongly identify with the fat acceptance movement, but all (civil) opinions are more than welcome.


138 Responses to “In the news”

  1. Sound Body, Sound Mind on February 19th, 2010 10:10 pm

    Skinny Minny-

    I lived in one of the worst parts of Washington, D.C. with a 5-year old. No car. Barely any money. My grocery store options were my corner market – scary place to buy meats and not much in the way of fresh and a Whole Foods far from me (had to take train). And I was a vegetarian. I bought potatoes, grains, frozen veggies, breads, bananas and water from corner store. And bought what I could afford from Whole Foods – mainly dry beans.

    Nutrition is vital. If you can’t lose weight, start writing down everything you eat. Everything counts!!! I can’t stress it enough. I do a lot of running (about 9min miles) and I’ll only burn about 250 cals per 30 mins. That’s 2 cookies! If I run an hour, I’ve burned 4 cookies. Not much at all.

    Exercise will make you stronger – but nobody can outexercise poor food choices. They’re both crucial.

    To the people who are frustrated because they aren’t losing weight YET, all I can say is get rid of all excuses and find a way. YOU CAN DO IT!!! Start by keeping a food journal – one of the hardest things to do. You will begin to see how much more you’re eating. It’s this way for everyone.

    It is such a small percentage of people who are genetically skinny. 99.9% of all skinny people can be fat if they eat poorly or overeat.

    And yes, skinny people can be unhealthy and unfit, of course. But what sort of logic is this? It’s like a heroin addict saying cocaine addicts can overdose too. Just because skinny people can be unfit, DOES NOT mean fat is ever fit because it isn’t. That said, I’m not for people trying to look like runway models. Be a comfortable size. The main thing is to be healthy in body and mind.

  2. D on February 19th, 2010 10:22 pm

    Sound Body, I am not being a “Negative Nellie.” Yes, many of the items you mentioned are not that expensive, but you make it sound like every fresh fruit and veggie is affordable and GOSH anyone who doesn’t eat that is just making excuses!

    Despite the fact that your comment seemed to interpret mine as a excuse I was making for myself, I am lucky enough to have a large food/gym budget, and I do pretty well in the healthy eating area. I don’t eat fast food. I’m lucky that I can afford to buy fresh produce – I’m not making excuses, because I think my diet is pretty decent, actually. But I spend a lot of money on groceries buying all those fresh veggies, and I was merely pointing out that not everyone is lucky enough to have the resources I do. Nor, as Anon mentioned(but also sorta dismissed at the same time), does everyone have the luxury to be able to buy cheaper and in bulk without food going bad.

  3. D on February 19th, 2010 10:25 pm

    Gah, my grammar was atrocious on that last post. Basically, to clarify, I disagree with both the people who refuse to admit they can change their eating habits at all AND the people that think not buying oodles of fresh produce must mean you’re a lazy fat pig who’s just making excuses.

  4. Frannie on February 20th, 2010 12:06 am

    I believe that childhood obesity is a real problem. But the big picture is that it’s a general obesity problem. To answer your question, I think that children and even until their teen years, are taught to eat by the way their parents eat. That influence stays with them even into adulthood, so I believe that children should be able to make choices for their food, but what difference would it make if their parent’s choices are poor..I don’t think the majority of parents, much less children fully understand all that they are consuming, nor are they really concerned about the consequences. The labels on foods are very misleading, and the FDA cannot control what companies put on food boxes.
    After watching Food, Inc. last night, I’m reminded by how much other factors affect our daily decisions, like eating. The government, corporations run the show.
    Grocery stores and food makers know that better food can cost higher, and they take advantage of us. It would be the wise choice to spend extra at Whole Foods, but in a way, it’s disgusting that something like food that is nutritious or meat that is grass fed has to be a luxury. I am actually apprehensive of buying so-called “organic” foods at times because they’re marketing schemes are nearly as bad and misleading as fast food and processed sometimes.

    I think fat acceptance should be called fat tolerance. It just insinuates that yes, there is a problem and it should be addressed, but let’s just accept it and not do anything about it. It’s easy to go from admittance to despair and missing the doing something about it part. I say that with the understanding that people come in different shapes. I don’t agree with it if people who are for fat acceptance want to be accepted for their poor choices and poor health, not because they are bigger by nature.

    I also agree with Erica -schools have a lot of junk food and sell sodas and nutritionally poor snacks in their vending machines. I am not surprised that more children are developing diabetes at a younger rate, due to cheaper foods that are full of high fructose syrup, sugar, fats, etc. Schools taking away sports from their schools sends the message that physical fitness is not important.

  5. SKL on February 20th, 2010 7:03 am

    Reading some of the comments, I’m beginning to think “Fat Acceptance” could do more harm than good. I mean, do we really need yet another label for “respect everyone”?

    Fat acceptance, fat tolerance, fat health, whatever – they all focus on “fat.” What you focus on, you get more of. It’s a basic law of human nature.

    Just listen to what the first commenter and many others have said (and thought): when we see a “fat” kid, we think, there is something wrong with that child and the parents have knowingly, intentionally let this happen. To be honest, I can remember a few times when I have thought the same. This is how we unevolved humans think, but let’s not syndicate it into a movement. Sugar-coating it with PC “but I’m cool with that” doesn’t undo the negativity, it just brings more attention to it.

  6. SKL on February 20th, 2010 7:08 am

    By the way, just yesterday the Obama administration announced that they are going to take steps to increase access to fresh foods in the so-called food deserts in the USA. So I guess we will get to see whether this will end the link between poverty and obesity, or disprove the theorized causation, or just be another big waste of taxpayer money.

  7. Robyn on February 20th, 2010 8:59 am

    I am a drug addict. I began taking drugs when I was a child. My family life was rough and my coping skills were limited at that age. Drugs eased the pain and provided me with an escape.

    In my house drugs were plentiful. My parents did drugs and made them readily available to me. That is until they saw what they were doing to me and then tried to restrict me which made me want them all the more. My life revolved around drugs and when I could get my next fix. My life became an endless cycle; constant and all-consuming longing for drugs, succumbing to the desire, crushing feelings of remorse, shame, and worthlessness. Every morning I would build up my resolve to stay sober only to fail time and time again. My drug addiction continued into adulthood, affecting almost every aspect of my life and is something I struggle with to this day. My drug of choice,food.

    Imagine telling a hard core drug addict that quitting cold turkey is not an option. They must have drugs to survive but only a limited amount and never enough to satisfy the longing. Then put them in a situation where every other commercial on TV hawks their drugs. Drugs are available on every street corner. There are magazines and cable channels entirely devoted to drugs. Family occasions revolve around drugs. Family members push drugs on them. Drugs are legal, they are cheap, and they are in your face at every turn but the drug addict is expected to resist on will-power alone. This is what it is like to live with a food addiction.

    Frankly, I never understood how people can be addicted to alcohol because I have always been able to take it or leave it. Alcohol does nothing for me. But I do acknowledge that for some people it can be a life-crippling addiction, a fact recognized by society. The concept of food addiction however is met with much incredulity from people who don’t have that relationship with food-which I would say is the large majority. Until it is widely recognized that food addiction exists and that the root cause of obesity (for some, not all) is a food addiction and is treated as such, all of the lectures on eating right and exercising will do nothing to combat the problem. These measures are as helpful as telling an alcoholic to just quit drinking.

    My primary concern regarding childhood obesity is not for the health dangers that exist in childhood, but for the potential of a child to form addictive behaviors that will continue through adulthood. A little pudge alone is not the greatest danger for a child. Weight can be lost. But if a child develops an unhealthy relationship with food during those critical formative years it will shape the way that child relates to food for the rest of their lives.

    There is a reason why children are by law not allowed to smoke or drink before they reach the age of decision. Children are only capable of making decisions based on what makes them feel good physically and emotionally without a true understanding of the consequences. If you offered your kid a few shots of vodka every day would you be surprised when they struggled with alcoholism for the rest of their lives? Why then is making junk food available in mass quantities to a child any more acceptable or less life-impacting?

  8. Rachel on February 20th, 2010 1:42 pm

    I was simultaneously cheering and panicking as I read Robyn’s comment, because I can see this happening in my daughter and I don’t know how to stop it. She seems to have got the short end of the stick on genetics (both her father and I tend toward overweight, but not startling obesity; her brother is tall and lean; she is tall and… definitely not lean), and she also has our LOVE of food. Food is, as Robyn eloquently says, like a drug to some people, with the same kind of joy/regret cycle. It tastes good, it makes you feel good, it’s a social thing, it’s a family thing, it’s a comfort thing, it’s a reward thing, but it’s BAD, too much food will HURT YOU, too much junk is BAD FOR YOU, eat something HEALTHY DAMMIT, get out and EXERCISE or you will CROAK and also be UGLY and EMBARRASSED. This is the kind of stuff we say to ourselves, and I know I speak for a lot of people when I say that. What breaks my heart is seeing my daughter step into this same cycle.

    And yes, she’s obese. She’s ten years old, 4’10”, 120-ish pounds. Ten years of age tends to be a chubby stage, but she’s gone from sturdy to chubby to beyond-chubby so gradually over the course of the last five years that I don’t think it can be only that.

    It’s such a delicate balance — I want her to be healthy, I want her to eat healthy, but at the same time I don’t want to contribute to lifelong food issues (how many of us, when we’re finally free of our parents’ restrictions, go a little crazy and do exactly what we’ve been told for all those years not to do?). We’ve tried overhauling our entire family’s eating lifestyle, and that does help while it lasts. We go roller skating. We take walks. We jump rope. I took a nutrition class a couple of semesters ago and now we are all well versed in our dietary needs. (Did you know a fourteen-year-old 6′-tall 140-pound boy is supposed to eat NINE SERVINGS of grains a day? NINE.) But we also have unhealthy food traditions and candy-sale fundraisers (frankly I think these are stupid — why not just have the kids sell cigarettes?) and generations of entrenched habit to overcome, and she is slowly, inexorably gaining. I am near the point of taking her to her pediatrician and letting the doctor play the heavy so that it’s not her mom telling her she needs to slim down, it’s a doctor, because, I dunno, maybe THAT would help keep Food Issues at bay.

    I ramble. But this is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart and there’s no easy pat solution and oh God I wish there was. I wish.

  9. Anonymous on February 20th, 2010 2:19 pm

    Seriously, you CAN go cold turkey and kick your food addiction. Stop eating toxic foods (animal products, white flour, sugar, caffeine) and eat fruits, vegetables, and WHOLE grains instead. You will go through withdrawl symptoms for a few weeks like headaches and cravings and some digestive discomfort, but that’s because what you’ve been eating IS a drug and you ARE addicted.

    Check out this site.
    It’s so easy to turn this around for yourselves and your kids. You can get the book at the library and then it’s just a matter of cleaning the crap out of your kitchen and shopping better.

    Like Robyn above, I was a food addict. My five siblings, my parents, most of my cousins are overweight or obese. I saw myself going down this same path in my early 20’s as my weight climbed higher and higher. Then I decided I was entirely responsible for changing my life. I am now thin and healthy (and NO I do not have “skinny genes”), as is my husband and our kids. It’s because we eat FOOD, not garbage, and we play outside riding our bikes, walking, just playing. It’s simple.

    Do it for your kids. This is something that’s entirely in your control.

  10. Mimi on February 20th, 2010 2:37 pm

    I think it should be noted that not every child surrounded by unhealthy eating behaviors will suffer from food addiction as an adult, just like not everyone who drinks will become an alcoholic. A lot of my generation was raised on wonderbread, HFCS, processed cheese, and McDonalds, and we don’t all have eating disorders.

    Also, if a child is obese, food issues are *already* present.

  11. JustLinda on February 20th, 2010 3:13 pm

    I started to read the comments as this is a topic very close to my heart.

    But just from the get-go, I got anxious and defensive and then the tears start to leak out without my permission.

    So I stopped reading them. I can’t. It’s too sensitive for me. You see, I have an obese child.

    I blog on this topic occasionally – most recently last month when I read another blog entry elsewhere that had me all wanting to explain to people that many of us parents ARE trying really hard.

    I do think it’s an important problem, and I’m not interested in fat-acceptance (the kind that means “let’s not try to address the root cause”) but I am interested in fat-acceptance in the “let’s not pass negative moral judgments on the children or parents dealing with this.

    I believe there is a lot more to be learned. And I think it’s WAY more complicated than just indulgent people (either parents indulgent with their kids, or fatties indulgent with themselves). Way more complicated.

    I fight my own weight battle – have undergone LapBand surgery last year.

    I invite anyone to come over my way and read more on this topic. It occupies my mind and is the subject of my writing quite regularly.

  12. JustLinda on February 20th, 2010 3:24 pm

    I’m going to go on a bit more on this…

    I have always struggled with weight and I have 3 siblings who did not.

    I have 5 children of my own and only 1 of them has had any weight challenges.

    In both those cases, parenting was consistent, diet and activity levels all consistent.

    What is different is the genetic lottery.

    That does not abdicate my responsibility as a parent to give SPECIFIC support to my obese daughter tailored to her situation, and that is what I’m doing. But as someone else upstream pointed out, mental health is part of our overall health and so therein lies the balancing act – I want to keep her body healthy and keep her spirit/mind healthy.

    Most of what we have done for the past 5 years, we’ve done for ALL in the house… no singling anyone out. But now, she’s 8 and we have singled her out – she’s following a food plan. I don’t feel rabid certainty on this approach, but then again I’ve not felt rabid certainty about anything regarding how to handle obesity, either for myself or my child.

    I’m just doing my best.

    And I hate (really, really HATE) the judgment. I hate reading the superiority in the “Well, I don’t buy junk for MY kids and I make sure they are active…” where the underlying message seems to be “If only you parents of fatties would have thought of that, you wouldn’t have this problem.”

    Seriously, the claws come out together with the tears because I know a few others like me and we DO those things and we HAVE thought of that and we hate knowing that so many of the people out there in the world look at us and our children and make a judgment of moral failing. Fortunately, I keep what I’m thinking inside, mostly. Because it ain’t pretty, not pretty at all.

  13. JustLinda on February 20th, 2010 3:48 pm

    It’s embarrassing to post a 3rd time in a row (gawd, I’m so sorry) but I had intended to link people to the post that is pertinent to this topic, and within this post are a few other links:

  14. maggie on February 20th, 2010 4:08 pm

    I work on a project that focuses on systems and policy changes (such as healthier school food) to improve the health of young people, including preventing obesity. It is not just about personal responsibility, but also about the policy and systems that are barriers to healthier lifestyles. This is a particular problem for poor communities (which my project is focused on) where access to healthy food and safe spaces for physical activity are sometimes non-existent. These communities see more health problems due to obesity than others. For us, it is not that childhood obesity is so out of control (although it is a problem) but teaching habits young and changing the environment in which these kids live will hopefully ensure that the changes last a lifetime.

  15. Lauren on February 20th, 2010 4:37 pm

    When I asked my 7 year old daughter recently what she will look like when she’s a teenager, she responded that she’ll be skinny, not chubby or fat. She is a perfect example of how body image conscious girls are in this society. Her friends all watch what in our house are labeled “teenager shows,” mostly Disney like Hannah Montana and that’s not uncommon with little girls. She is not permitted to watch teenager shows, but society’s expectation that girls be pretty and thin hasn’t escaped her. Her father is overweight and she recognized this very young. She takes after her father and has a larger build. She’s always been tall for her age. Her father was fullgrown height at age 13 and I expect she will have a fully developed body by that age as well. That in itself is worrisome as it attracts male attention at too young an age. Since some of my husband’s issues with food stem from his parent’s own issues, we have been conscious of not using food as punishment or reward. Still, I am concerned she will be prone to developing an eating disorder. I have recently become vegetarian. It was a year long transition and haven’t required anyone else in the family to change. However, this affects her ideas of food and what is good or bad food. She eats many vegetarian lunches and told me compared to her friends her lunches are weird. Kids are also starting to give her a hard time, such as telling her her red pepper slices smell bad. She understands that most kids do not eat vegetables like she does. Society’s usage of “nonfoods” (completely processed foods full of preservatives, artificial coloring and flavoring) is a huge component in childhood obesity. My opinion of food and society’s opinion is making it very confusing for kids. Our governmental sponsered movement to prevent childhood obesity will fail because it supports the food guide pyramid which I believe is very flawed. See:

  16. Anonymous on February 20th, 2010 4:38 pm

    I’m posting anonymously only because I’m talking about my family and I don’t want to hurt anyone. I’ve spoken my mind about this issue to them before and it wasn’t terribly well received.

    I think childhood obesity is a real issue because it is causing/is going to cause health problems for the children. That’s sad.

    I think kids can be fat for different reasons, as others have said. I think sometimes there are issues that have nothing to do with what a parent feeds a child.

    However, I will say that (1) Where I live, most people are not very affluent. As a matter of fact, many people are quite poor and many people around here struggle with substance abuse. Frankly, I see that the kids are fed really badly. (Disclaimer: I AM NOT saying that if your kid is heavy you are poor and addicted to The Drugs. Heavens, no.) The school lunches? Suck. My kids’ school provides breakfast because they receive a grant that pays for that. What is breakfast? Bagelfuls (did I spell that right?), powdered donuts, “honeybuns,” sugary cereal. CRAP. It makes me furious. I’ve heard that the issue has been raised year after year with the woman in charge of making these decisions for the school district and she simply informs everyone that she knows what she is doing. Oh, okay. I pack my kids’ lunches and never, ever let them buy lunch. If they are going to eat garbage, I will feed it to them. And sometimes I do, you know, once in a while. A lot of kids get packed really crappy lunches, too. Sometimes, I’m appalled. We are not super-perfect eaters at our house, but geez, Louise. (2) To reveal something a little more personal, I know my mom would say that she fed my brother and me the exact same food and we just turned out with different body types. She will swear that she tried to get him to exercise and you just can’t force someone. BUT it’s not quite like that. She always made garbage available to him. To me, too, to a certain extent, but if he asked for junk, he got it, and he did ask. “No” should have happened a lot more often. That’s a parent’s job. And in our home, there was not a culture of movement and activity. I guess you can’t nag at a kid and make him move, but if everyone is doing it, I think that kid is much more likely to move. Instead, it was just, “You get up and move. I’m going to sit here and watch TV.” I was the exeception: I was active and I didn’t overindulge (at that time). I think that is where the personality difference came into play, but I don’t think personality would have had as much of an effect in determining the difference in my weight and my brother’s, in childhood, at least, if our household had a different culture of healthy eating and movement, you know, if we all did it together.

  17. Rachel on February 20th, 2010 4:45 pm

    ohmylord, justlinda, you made me cry just now, with this:

    And I hate (really, really HATE) the judgment. I hate reading the superiority in the “Well, I don’t buy junk for MY kids and I make sure they are active…” where the underlying message seems to be “If only you parents of fatties would have thought of that, you wouldn’t have this problem.”

    YES. Seriously. Because obviously we just let them sit around and shove Cheez-its dipped in Cheez Whiz in their mouths while they stare blank-faced at the TV all day, right?

    The thing is that this is the IN thing to be all hyperaggressive and smug about right now. For some people — and I try hard not to envy them — thinness comes more naturally, both from a genetic and a cultural perspective. We have a family of neighbor kids with not an ounce of spare flesh on their bones ANYWHERE, and their parents are both the same way. Our families, on the other hand — mine and my husband’s, and ours together — have never had skinny people in them. Some of our relatives aren’t overweight, and none of us are the kind of overweight that requires special consideration, say, on airlines, but all of us tend to be on the high end of the dreaded BMI percentile range. And yet this is supposed to be something we can just alter. Kudos to you if you have, and I hope *I* can, but it ISN’T easy and it ISN’T simple and it ISN’T something we haven’t already tried, contrary to what many people seem to think about those of us with weight issues. Yeah, it’s totally simple to undo untold generations’ worth of attitudes about food… and while we’re at it we’ll just tinker around with our DNA and excise a few million fat cells, because both are equally easy.

  18. JustLinda on February 20th, 2010 7:09 pm

    Here are a few more thoughts. (You were waiting for me to come back, admit it… you thought 3 posts? And so much to say? She’ll be back. Ha. Egads, I’m a windbag…)

    There was a time not too long ago where depression and other disorders now known to be due to physiological issues, including brain chemistry and such were thought to be moral failings, behavioral. “Just pull yerself up by yer BOOTSTRAPS, for goodness sakes!” they were told.

    We now know that depression and many other conditions are not quite so simple to overcome – yes, there is a behavior component, and yes, we have some ability to impact that. But we are fighting physiological DRIVES here, people. Telling someone not to eat when their body is screaming for food is akin to telling them not to breathe when their body is screaming for air. It’s bound to fail, and we have a lot of evidence that it is failing big time.

    Our experts have so much to learn here, and they are all over the board regarding the WHY of it and especially the WHAT WE SHOULD DO of it.

    Obesity is not a moral failing. I don’t know exactly WHAT it is, but I know it’s a complex problem. It involves genetics and the western diet, the infrastructure of our lives, and yes – behavior too.

    But we will NOT solve it by laying all the responsibility on the shoulders of the fat people and the parents of overweight children. It’s BIGGER than that (no pun intended). We need to understand it better and we need to attack the problem SYSTEMATICALLY.

    I highly HIGHLY recommend a few books:

    Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

    The Hungry Gene, The Inside Story of the Obesity Industry by Ellen Ruppel Shell

    In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

    There are tons of books out there, and it’s a bit of choose-your-religion because they don’t all point you in the same direction on what to eat and how to eat. However, it’s all still fascinating to read and learn of. These books take a look at the road leading up to obesity, the past century and more, and the science behind what we think we know. Fascinating, I’m telling you. You will walk away challenging many of the things you think you know.

  19. Gina on February 20th, 2010 9:56 pm

    I know that obesity is a problem. But as a person who has lived as a skinny, average, AND over weight adult, I also know that I am aware of my weight. I am aware of the affects of it. And I don’t like it. But it’s very very hard, and having the whole world looking at you, and criticizing you and seeing you as something less appealing, less worthy sucks. And it sucks extra because no one is looking at you, and criticizing you and seeing you as something less appealing, less worthy as much as you are yourself.

    And I know that the best thing you can do to treat obesity is to prevent it and that should start young, but when the school system is dictating what I send my kid for lunch or snack with rules that are so strict and yet still can allow a (pre-packaged) twinkie, but not some celery & carrot sticks I bagged myself then we clearly need to calm the fuck down a little.

  20. akeeyu on February 20th, 2010 10:18 pm

    You can’t keep anybody from getting fat. You just can’t.

    I mean, didn’t your parents make you eat all your vegetables and try that (insert disgusting food here), even though you hated it, and make sure you finished your (healthy food) before you had your (awesome food)?

    Just about everybody’s parents did that. It’s a safe bet that 80 to 90% of the parents of overweight adults did that, too, and it wasn’t a magic bullet.

    I really like Ellyn Satter’s books on feeding kids. Basically, you offer healthy foods, they pick what and how much to eat. Period.

    Her theory is that some kids are going to be fat. Some fat kids are going to grow into fat adults. You can’t stop them, and it’s not your job to run around slapping forks out of their mouths. It’s your job to provide healthy meals.

    You can give kids healthy attitudes about food, but in the long run, that’s IT.

  21. SKL on February 21st, 2010 8:06 am

    Does anyone see any parallels between the way parents approach good nutrition and general versus they way they approach food allergies? Nobody recommends that parents avoid all talk of food allergies. I have never heard of a link between food allergy talk in childhood and eating disorders later on. So why is general unhealthy-food talk banned?

  22. Anonymous on February 21st, 2010 11:36 am

    I am yet to meet a fat vegan.

    Kids don’t become overweight gorging themselves on carrots and broccoli.

  23. JustLinda on February 21st, 2010 2:14 pm

    Wondering how many children Anonymous has brought up… {rolleyes}

  24. Simon on February 21st, 2010 3:13 pm

    It would be a mistake to completely eliminate childhood obesity because every kids movie about a rag-tag group of misfits that pulls together to win the league chapionship needs a fat kid.

    I’m just sayin’.

  25. Jen on February 21st, 2010 7:12 pm

    I am commenting late in the game because I have been just hanging back and reading the comments for the last couple of days. So many great points are made. Of course child obesity is a problem that needs to be addressed, nobody can deny that in light of THE FACTS.

    Personally, I think the industrial revolution is to blame in large part because it allowed for everything to be massed produced with an increasing MINIMUM of human PHYSICAL effort and was responsible for the production of things like HFCS and all that processed WHITE FLOUR and packaged foods, etc, etc, etc.

    We just need to get back to our agrarian roots as a society. Food used to be such a different thing altogether. It used to be something we worked for, in one way or another, and now our society has become dependent on food BYPRODUCTS because of how we have developed over the last century.

    We have to start somewhere. The emergence of the organic movement is a START, but even processed foods can be organic. We just need to get back to our roots and make infrustructure changes that can make WHOLE FOODS affordable and available to ALL social classes in ALL areas of the U.S.

    It’s a crazy, long road ahead to make it happen, but for those of us that have the ability financially and otherwise, it’s a start.

  26. Nila on February 22nd, 2010 12:56 am

    While I agree that we should all embrace our bodies for what they are, I think that also send the message that it’s okay to be over weight.

    The other day while having dinner with my friend who is obese, I noticed that she covered a fairly healthy meal with ranch dressing. It is about choices and our children are well aware of the choices we make in our lives. We should lead by example and I do believe that it all begins with us. We have to equip our children with what they will need in life, and that includes self awareness.

    Love your body, but strive for a healthier body. While I realize that it’s harder for some, it is about choices. Like not covering your healthy veggies and meat in ranch dressing.

  27. D on February 22nd, 2010 8:17 am

    I should know better than to comment AGAIN, but I remembered something that I really wanted to add. A lot of people scoff at overweight people and say something like “our ancestors weren’t overweight, so genetics isn’t an excuse.” A few people have made that comment here. But those people fail to acknowledge that a lot of our ancestors burned more calories just working than we do – Americans work more hours now than they did 50 years ago. I work in an office, and I spend minimum 10 hours a day at my desk (and often have to work on the weekends). I do try to get up and walk around, and I try my best to squeeze in a gym session for lunch, but my job is very demanding and I have to be sitting here working most of the time. Of course I’m going to burn fewer calories than my ancestors from 3 generations ago, who were day laborers. That shouldn’t shock anyone.

    This is not to say that you can’t work an office job and exercise – Linda is proving that that’s doable. But personally, I struggle every day trying to find the time to exercise. I try my best to make it a priority, and I think I’m doing a decent job, but being heavier than my grandmother was at my age doesn’t mean that I’m simply a lazy person who shovels Cheetos into her mouth.

  28. Jen on February 22nd, 2010 10:08 am

    Dear Linda:

    Its complicated.



  29. Debs3 on February 22nd, 2010 11:11 am

    I don’t know if someone else replied to warcrygirl and I missed it, but I wanted to clarify that WIC is a supplemental food program and that you can only buy the certain foods listed. Which, by the way, are not junk foods, but healthy choices such as juice, eggs, fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, milk, etc. See the information here:

    I do not agree that everyone needs goverment intervention to decide what is or isn’t healthy, but let’s not throw a good program under the bus.

  30. L on February 22nd, 2010 12:10 pm

    I found it really sad when my daughters little friends all started talking about weight and dieting at her 9th birthday party…this should not be a concern of 9 year old’s.

  31. marilyn on February 22nd, 2010 12:50 pm

    I think even people who promote fat acceptance can agree that getting kids better access to healthy foods and more opportunities to be active is a good thing.

    The trickier aspects of the program to me, are the emphasis on BMI, which is controversial and simplistic, and whether the program will yield sensitive responses to overweight kids, or more ostracizing than they already get. I’ve seen studies that show that the more thought an overweight person gives to their weight, the more likely it is that they’ll GAIN weight, which is frustrating and sad. Here’s hoping that the emphasis will lean toward being active and eating well, and not on weight, per se.

    I also would be so pissed if I were Malia Obama, whose dad said something, with the disclaimer “though you’d never know it now!” about her having gotten a little chubby a few years ago. WTF?

  32. tonya on February 22nd, 2010 1:06 pm

    Being overweight (obese) myself, this is my greatest fear for my kids. My 3 year old doesn’t even know what lies ahead for her. I was a fat kid, skinny (eating disorder) teen, and obese adult. My husband is not skinny and sees no reason to curb his eating habits or take on exercise in any way shape or form. I feel like I am combating the inevitable by myself (and have told him so on many occasions).

    That being said, I don’t believe we can’t ever have treats because we are already fat. However, they are “treats”, not every day or every meal. I try to reward good behavior with a high five and a hug rather than food, but let’s face it, sometimes ice cream helps. I have her in skating and gymnastics 3 days a week. We also live in NW Minnesota, so there’s not a whole lot of outdoors time (although, when we hit 30 degrees yesterday, we were out the door for a walk – but she was in the stroller).

    As of today, there is no weight problem. I know it’s only a matter of time. I want her to embrace who she is, and love herself enough to want to be healthy, not skinny.

    I don’t feel I want the government to intervene, however, if it makes healthy foods cheaper – or makes our manufacturing/growing processes better then I am all for it.

    (wow, that was lengthy!)

  33. JustLinda on February 22nd, 2010 1:23 pm

    L, reading your comment – that you find it sad that 9 year olds are talking about this… I hope what you mean is that you wish 9 year olds didn’t HAVE to to worry about it. Not that it’s wrong for 9 year olds to know/talk about it. I’m not sure what you meant, to be honest.

    Last night was Trophy Night at our school and afterward, we took the kids out for ice cream to celebrate. As I said, I have an 8 year old who is obese. In January, we started a food plan with her. Oh, we’ve been trying to help her behind the scenes for years but we weren’t getting anywhere with that. So we moved on to a food plan made for her, based on her needs and likes and she’s been following it for a couple months now. (By the way, she’s dropped 7 pounds.)

    So last night we want to go out for ice cream. We need to find a treat for my daughter that will work within her food plan so we open up the web site for the ice cream shop and we look at the nutritional information. My daughter sees a hot fudge sundae is 1,500 calories and she says “Oh WOW. That’s more than I get in a WHOLE DAY!!” It was eye-opening for her.

    We then look at the kiddy menu and find something for 300 calories (a real splurge for my kid these days) and she’s happy as a clam.

    THIS is why some kids are talking about calories and fat. Because some kids NEED to. We have an obesity epidemic – we cannot stick our heads in the sand. These kids NEED to know this stuff so that before they choose a hot fudge sundae, they realize it’s more than a whole DAY’S worth of calories in that one treat.

    My kid needs to. I WISH it wasn’t so, but denying it won’t make it better. I hate that she has to deal with this (I hated when *I* dealt with being the fat kid) but we all have to play the hand we’re dealt.

    Those of us with an overweight kid… we are criticized for whatever we do. If we TALK about fat and calories, we are stealing their innocence. If we DON’T talk about it, we are putting our heads in the sand. If we put them on a food plan, we are condemning them to a future eating disorder, if we don’t put them on an eating plan, we are letting them be obese and endangering their health.

    Some of us parents ARE trying really hard and just don’t know which way to turn – we’re doing our best. What else can we do?

    But we cannot solve this alone. It’s systemic. It is embedded into our lives, our schools, the infrastructure of everything. As parents, we can only do so much for our individual children.

    As a society, coming together, we can do more. I, for one, am glad to see Michelle Obama take this one on. I hope that just in terms of AWARENESS, we make some progress.

    I’m ready to leave the judgment behind and work on how to move forward. Of course, I’ve never been a big fan of anyone playing their parental superiority trump cards (even if I am occasionally guilty of the same).

  34. lisa on February 22nd, 2010 3:23 pm

    @D, you said:
    “But those people fail to acknowledge that a lot of our ancestors burned more calories just working than we do – Americans work more hours now than they did 50 years ago.”

    What you said is absolutely true. It also means we don’t need nearly as many calories as they did to maintain the same weight if we’re sitting in offices for 10 hours a day.

  35. Debs3 on February 23rd, 2010 1:10 pm

    I think you ROCK for working so hard with your daughter. I wish more mom’s approached weight, health and well being with honesty and choices instead of condemnation, secrets or forced dieting.

  36. akeeyu on February 26th, 2010 2:43 am

    Simon, you are awesome with sprinkles.

  37. Nickles on March 16th, 2010 12:28 pm

    Well, I’m late to the party, but I wanted to thank you, Linda, for asking this question. It’s one I’ve been struggling with recently, and I don’t really have any answers. Reading the comments has been enlightening (and occasionally depressing).

    My stepson is 12 years old and overweight, especially in the belly and torso. He’s recently begun swim lessons and I have discovered that he has sagging breasts, poor kiddo. (When his top is off, he stands slouched, with his arms crossed over them, so it’s quite obvious he’s aware of and probably has been teased for the extra weight.) I’m frankly rather flabbergasted, because I thought we’d been doing a fine job of keeping an eye on his physical activity and feeding him healthy foods. For the record: he does not eat large amounts of food at any meal; soda is a rare treat around our house; he rides his bike to & from school every day, and has PE 4 times a week at school where he runs around for about 45 minutes (well, except for that week when they were doing badminton; I’m not convinced about the cardiovascular benefits of badminton). During the week he maybe watches 1-2 hours of TV, though he does get in a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings while we sleep in. He goes outside and shoots hoops, plays tetherball, runs around with wooden swords, rides his bike or skateboard, etc. For breakfast he usually has oatmeal with a bit of fruit, and at dinner we have fresh veggies and health foods. I severely limit the amount of processed food that’s allowed into the house. Yes, we sometimes have desserts (his dad insists) — maybe twice a week? Yes we sometimes eat fast food, but always with the understanding that we will need to make up for it with more fiber, more veggies, more good foods.

    Despite this, my first reaction is: OMG, where are we (I) failing? Is his school lunch not healthy enough? Oh, crap, he’s been having sandwiches every day, that’s a lot of bread, which is carbs, OMG WE’RE BAD PARENTS. But, really? Are we doing such a terrible job? Sadly, for our specific son, yeah, we need to be doing more (and so does he). His mom and his sister both struggle with weight, and he’s got some hypotonia issues (weak major muscles, a result of prematurity we think) that he struggles with. His dad didn’t have weight problems as a kid, but he was also involved in a ridiculous number of sports, despite not really liking sports. And I’m afraid that’s going to be key for this particular kid: his genetics apparently predispose him, now that his hormones are changing, to need a *lot* of physical activity. Because apparently 20 minutes of biking twice a day plus 30-45 minutes running around during PE plus biking or skating or playing around outside every day isn’t enough for this child.

    And this is where I get really resentful of all the judgment I’ve been reading in some of the above comments. OK, sure, I can see room for improvement in our diets. I wish I never had to fall back on picking something up from the taqueria; I should probably cut out all sugar and bread products from our diets. We clearly need to get the kiddo into several organized sports (which is hard, by the way, when custody jumps back and forth and you have to make sure that both households can sustain the schedule, which is a whole other can of worms I won’t go into right now). But have we really fit the stereotype reflected in several of the comments, of parents who allow a sedentary, tv-filled life packed with soda and candy and junk food of all kinds?

    I’ve gone on for too long already, and I’m a few weeks late, so I’ll hold off on trying to discuss the issue of how to approach this with my stepson. (This aspect of the initial question appears to have mostly fallen by the wayside, anyway.) I will say, though, that unlike little kids they’re beginning to have some autonomy in their lives, but unlike high schoolers they still think more like little kids. By which I mean that they aren’t very good yet at looking at the larger nutritional picture and making well-informed decisions with zero supervision. Or maybe that’s just my kid.

  38. Nickles on March 16th, 2010 2:02 pm

    Since this is an old thread, I’m probably just talking to myself, but I had to pop back on to share. After reading and writing about childhood weight and eating and exercise, my mind’s been turning to my own history. What was my experience as a child? And, you know what? I’m almost 40 years old, and have very little in common with those folks who talk about the good old days when kids stayed out until the streetlights came on. I’m sure that was true for many of my classmates, but I was as sedentary as they come, from the earliest of ages. (Comment from mother of tiny & active toddler to my own mom: Boy, Nickles sure is a…placid baby.) While others ran around and played, I sit and read, or daydreamed or what-have-you. Physical activity was uncomfortable for me (these days my parents would probably be taking me to an OT for sensory issues, and muscle laxity issues), and I avoided it whenever possible. If we want to overgeneralize, well, kids “nowadays” are heavily scheduled into all sorts of organized sports and physical activities that didn’t exist when I was young.

    As for my eating, well. From 5th grade on, I was a candy-eating fiend. Huge portions of my allowance went to candy and junk food, and there was even one shameful instance of stealing from someone’s coin jar to feed my candy hunger. The walk home from the busstop allowed me to purchase donuts or cookies or candy, plus soda, which I did In high school I didn’t eat anything until “nutrition” break, when I usually bought a school burrito and a soda, and then lunch was a school burger and soda, with perhaps a candy bar. When I was allowed off-campus in senior year, lunch was usually Taco Bell or some other fast-food joint. Food at home was alright, nutritionally. There were veggies and wheat bread, but there was also Velveeta and Cokes.

    I did join a sports team when I was 16-17, but before and after that my life continued to be majorly sedentary. Yet despite the lack of exercise and the terrible eating habits, I was somewhere between well-proportioned and skinny until I hit the age of 21. I’m not sure if it was hormones, or the living with a guy who go home at 11pm so that I ate a second, pasta-laden dinner every night or just the usual relationship pounds.

    So I guess what I’m getting at is that I *do* think that genetic and environmental factors play a role in weight gain. It’s just that different bodies have differing threshholds and responses.

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