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Childhood Obesity – How Did It Come To This?

16 January, 2007

There is constant media coverage about our obesity crisis or, more specifically our childhood obesity crisis. In the Sydney Morning Herald alone, a brief glance gives us five articles on obesity, four of them focusing on children or teens.

Just the other day, there was an article revealing that an alarming proportion of teenagers are eating absolute rubbish for breakfast!

A study has found that one in 10 12-to-17-year-olds regularly eats chocolate, ice-cream, hot chips, burgers, instant noodles or potato chips for the first meal of the day.

Almost a third start the morning with soft drinks or energy drinks.

Can I ask… where are their parents?


There was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few months ago about a study that shows that the biggest influence on obesity (particularly in children) is example.

Parents setting an example of playing and exercising with friends are more likely to get people up and moving than the availability and convenience of recreational facilities, Johannes Brug, professor of epidemiology at VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, said.

THEY HAD TO DO A STUDY TO PROVE THIS?

Basically, fat is as fat does. You eat like a fat person, you become a fat person. You exercise like a fat person, you become a fat person. (Now I’m not picking on people who aren’t in their ideal weight category… I’m overweight/obese myself but working on it). Now Weight Watchers (they couldn’t possibly have anything to gain from it, could they?) have come out and said that one third of obese women have surrendered to being fat and no longer care about it.

In many ways, it doesn’t matter how much money the government throws into at school nutrition programs (for example) if the parents of the child wont buy real food. My Mum is a school teacher and can attest to this. The kids in her K/1 class (5 and 6yo) can tell you about what foods to eat daily, sometimes, and on special occasions only etc but when they keep a record of their diet for a week, you can see that the message is not getting home to their parents.

Even when parents are given dietary counselling, a recent study has shows that while parents stopped gaining weight and the family’s diet improved, their children remained obese.

The problem is that in the 50’s people were convinced that science was better. Processed food was more convenient, more hygienic, better for you. So families started to eat processed food more often. Also add in here the rise of the two income family/mothers working outside the home. I don’t have an issue with mothers working outside the home but one can see how it made the idea of convenience appeal so much more. The more we let companies produce our food, the more control we let go of and the worse our diets get.

Add into it the recent phenomenon of hand held game devices (Nintendo DS, Gameboys and all that) plus other computer gaming consoles (PlayStation, XBox etc), Subscription TV (Foxtel, Austar etc) and suddenly you have very sedentary children! Children also have more homework each night, and less free time with more of their time now taken up by scheduled activities, such as piano lessons, art classes and the like.

You also have a rise in high density housing (we live in a unit… it’s all we can afford) which limits the availability of backyard space/safe outdoor space.

Parents are frightened by the media into believing that the local park is not a safe space. It is not safe to let your child ride his bike to a friends’ house. Paedophiles and kidnappers lurk everywhere waiting for a child to take. So they don’t let their children out of their sight to do the things kids did 20+ years ago – building cubby houses, climbing trees, playing a makeshift game of cricket in an abandoned block…

It’s no wonder we have fat kids!

And now with pester-power marketing and parents feeling as harried as ever, both working full time and their “down time” being crammed with extra-curricular activities for the kids and sports or hobbies for the adults. It is so EASY to go for what’s convenient, and to give into kids. To blindly trust marketers who are in it to make money not ensure your family’s health.

SIGH… shall I get off my soap box now?

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