Winning the War on Fat Kids

“What a relief. After two decades of growth, childhood obesity rates have finally leveled off!”

“Ah, yes, you speak of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Based on data gathered from 1999 to 2006 by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it would appear obesity rates for kids and teens have plateaued.”

“That’s good news, right?”

“That is the hope. However, researchers are cautiously optimistic. One doctor interviewed in The New York Times said he’s not sure if obesity rates are at ‘a true plateau in prevalence or just a temporary lull.’”

“But I thought there has been a nationwide effort to combat obesity in kids.”

“That is correct. State and local government programs may be having some effect, but nobody knows for sure. The fact is 32 percent of America’s schoolchildren are STILL overweight or obese.”

“That’s a lot of kids.”

“The reasons why are obvious. America produces massive amounts of processed, high-calorie junk foods. These products are loaded with corn syrup, sugars and fats. The human body was not designed to consume such processed, high-calorie foods.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Too many busy families are skipping nutritious home-made meals in favor of fast food. Everybody knows that fast food is also loaded with calories and fat.”

“So that’s why I’m putting on the pounds!”

“Our wealth is part of the challenge. Many kids are walking around with cash in their pockets, giving them the means to buy junk at the convenience store. Add to that the fact that kids spend hours sitting around watching TV, playing video games and visiting social-networking sites on the Internet and you’re going to have an obesity problem.”

“We need more government laws and programs to fix this problem!”

“That is what some suggest. Some would like government regulations to clamp down on food manufacturers. Some advocacy groups are trying to put ‘sin taxes’ on junk food. Some believe the solution is to use the might of the government to determine what the rest of us should eat.”

“They want to tax my Twinkies?”

“But the real solution comes down to the most important force on Earth where children are concerned: parents!”

“Parents?”

“According to the Mayo Clinic, the cause of childhood obesity is pretty simple: Kids are eating too much and exercising too little. To correct the problem, parents need to create new family habits that promote healthy eating and exercise.”

“How do parents do that?”

“Stop buying junk food on a regular basis. Just buy it once in a while as an occasional snack. Bone up on basic nutrition, read labels and make sure healthful foods are readily available. And always serve fruits and vegetables with meals.”

“That sounds straightforward enough. What else?”

“Parents should limit the amount of time kids spend in front of the tube and the computer screen. They should limit all activities that allow their kids to sit around chomping on Doritos and drinking sugary sodas.”

“But what will kids do with the extra time?”

“What kids have ALWAYS done: go outside and play. Let them ride their bikes, catch ball, build shacks or make up games — WITHOUT parental involvement. Believe it or not, kids have gotten along well for centuries without their parents hovering over every move.”

“A kid might like that.”

“Most important, parents need to lead by example. Parents need to eat right, turn off the tube and exercise, too. As these commonsense measures begin producing results — as kids begin shedding the weight — parents can reward their children for their success. But for goodness’ sakes, don’t reward them with food.”

“These Mayo Clinic ideas make a lot of sense. Parents surely are the best cure to childhood obesity. Though I got a question.”

“Go on.”

“I’ve been meaning to knock off some pounds. You think my parents will let their 40 year-old son move back in?”

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  • Cooky642

    Mr. Purcell, I always enjoy your Q.-and-A. format. Invariably, you leave me laughing. However, I’m not laughing tonight. You stated that kids should get up, go outdoors, ride bikes, and make up games with other kids. Sounds good, but it’s no longer possible. When I grew up, we did things like that: I could be gone all day and no one was concerned. When I was raising my kids, I sent them out to play with a clear (and enforced) injunction to let me know if they went some place besides where they told me they were going. When my grandchildren were growing up, my daughter drove them to play and either made sure a parent was going to be supervising or stayed herself. I’m “between generations” now, but I wouldn’t trust a child alone outdoors at any time for any reason, and I don’t live in the inner city. It’s a dangerous world out there, in case you haven’t noticed, and children seem to be the “target of choice”. Got any other suggestions?

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