My friends Doobster at Mindful Digressions and Marilyn Armstrong at Serendipity both talked today about the expanding waistlines of Americans so I thought I would dust this post off from last year and join the discussion. I’m going to edit it a little bit but you can read the original here if you’re curious.
I heard a news blurb the other day and it was quite disturbing. Since I don’t watch the news because it’s bad for my health (and the TV’s life since I have a habit of wanting to throw things at the television whenever I watch the news). I decided to research it on my own.
The blurb said something about “this generation” of children not outliving their parents.
Turns out it’s true. We — that’s us, humanity, worldwide (as in globally), but especially here in the United States and in other “developed” countries — are raising unhealthy kids. More specifically, obese kids. And don’t blame processed foods, or GMOs, or video games, etc… It’s not one thing specifically. It’s a variety of factors. Here is an academic article that addresses the myths and facts about weight gain and loss. It’s lack of time, education, and just flat out refusal to face facts on the parents’ part that leads to kids being fat.
Really, a lot of it is simple ignorance… I mean who doesn’t love a chunky baby? They’re so cute! Don’t you just want to pinch those chubby little cheeks! There is a huge difference though, between baby fat and obese kids. Huge difference. And it’s in our nature to blame one thing and one thing only, but it’s a conglomeration of so many factors, and — in my humble opinion — we as a people just aren’t willing to take on every factor in this battle against obesity. We want to point the finger at that one thing and say “Stop doing that and this obesity thing will end!” But that ain’t gonna happen. And the sad truth is, because we’re not willing to accept that this is a complex issue, many parents who were raised in a “healthier” time will simply outlive their kids.
What’s equally sad is that we as a nation have known about this for quite some time. In 2004 Eric Bost spoke before Congress about this very thing. It was posted in the New York Times in 2005, and the paper that article is citing is here. That paper clearly states that the life expectancies will either “level out” or decline if the obesity issues are not addressed. And that was nearly ten years ago. But we as a nation have been warned about it time and again (Remember Supersize Me from 2004?) 2012, 2013, and again in 2014 (linked above). And it’s not like we can’t look about us and see that our kids are rather round. Yes, not every kid everywhere, but in general. In general.
Actually we as a nation are getting rather round… but it’s affecting the younger generation mostly.
Anyway, if I remember correctly, the original article addressed those born between 1966 (that’s me) to 1987 (that’s my kids)… “this generation” is a nebulous phrase. Will I die before my parents? Will my kids kick it before I do? Or will it all even out in the end? Honestly, I don’t know, but it’s a disturbing trend we’re seeing here. There are septuagenarians running about who will outlive us all.
How did it come to this? I think that Mr. Bost hit it on the head with this (at least for Americans):
The immediate reasons for overweight and obesity are clear and uncomplicated: too many of us eat too much, eat too much of the wrong things, and get too little physical activity.
But these seemingly simple facts are influenced by our environment, our economy, and the way we were raised. To me, some of the most important factors that shape America’s eating behaviors, and the challenge of changing them, are:
We have some of the best food – the widest variety, the highest quality and safety, and most affordable – available anywhere in the world.
We love a good deal: increasing the size for just a few cents more, “all you can eat” buffets. And good deals on plenty of food – more than we need – are all around us.
And we hate to have someone tell us what to do.
The last one (particularly for us in the United States) is especially true. We hate to have someone tell us what to do. Don’t tell me what to eat Mr. Government Man! I’ll eat what I damned well please, thank you very much. Stay outta my dinner plate. If I wanna have chocolate cake for breakfast I damned well will, and there’s nothing you can do about it! This is a free country and I’ll eat what I want.
Anyway. I’m not sure what we can do about this “crisis” because labeling it a “crisis” for over ten years obviously hasn’t awakened in people that this is a thing that we need to address. The rise in diabetes and other disorders that obesity causes hasn’t sparked the OMG, we’ve got to do something about this! bug in people either, because according to studies, our children aren’t getting any smaller. The fact that it’s children we’re talking about means that it’s the adults who have to take the upper hand. The children cannot do it for themselves.
It’s unsettling to me how people have closed their eyes to this. I’m not normally someone who’s all, “Won’t you think of the children?!?” but in this case, someone has to think of the kids. Kids cannot regulate their own diet. It’s basic human instinct to chose sweet over bitter, so children will chose it every time. And it’s not their job to make that choice. It’s the parents’ job to put the right food on the table. The adults are the only ones who can think of the kids. They’re the only ones to can put the correct foods into their hot little hands and the only ones who can make sure they get enough exercise. Blaming childhood obesity on the children is like blaming a shooting victim for getting shot. It’s just ludicrous.
As an aside… I wasn’t a fat kid. I was actually pretty skinny as a child — like stick thin… because we were poor and didn’t have much to eat aside from school lunches… that and I walked everywhere. Then I hit puberty and everything went to hell in a handbasket. I made most of my food from scratch well into my thirties (so no one can blame processed foods for my downfall) and used to be quite active physically — not like running track active, but the television was not my friend. It’s pretty boring actually. My body lies when it tells people that I’m part of this “obesity epidemic”. I’ve done everything I can NOT to be obese, but my body works against me at every turn. It’s a vicious cycle. I mention this because I know a few people like me who are victims of their own bodies. They (like me) know the extra weight doesn’t help their health. But they (like me) can’t eat any less or they’ll be undernourished, which will affect their health. And their health issues prevent proper exercise to lose the weight which will help them get healthier. Or (like me) they move as much and often as they can, but it’s not enough. Honestly, it is a vicious cycle. I just thought I’d throw that out there because I do know that not every “fat” person is a member of the “eats too much, moves too little” club. I know that because I’m one of them.