Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is this really what we want to teach our kids?

We hear alot about childhood obesity.  Obviously it's an issue that needs to be addressed.  But what do we really consider obese?  In a culture that values extreme thin, can we really trust ourselves to look at our children and assess if they are truly overweight?  And if they are, what is the best way to address that situation?


First of all, what is really overweight for a child?  Personally, I loathe height/weight charts for ANYONE.  I don't believe we need a chart to tell us how we feel, if we're healthy, if we're thin enough or even heavy enough.  There's no template for the perfect body.  We're all different.  Sitting at Panera Bread Company this weekend, I found myself people watching and was hit by a silly notion.  The average person has two legs, two arms, a torso, two eyes, two ears, a nose a mouth, and two feet.  We basically all have the same parts.  And yet, there are so many variations that the sum of those parts can come up with.  You'd think that there would be a finite number of body types and that we would all have to fall into one category.  But amazingly, if you putt 100 women with a "pear shape" body type in a room; they'd all look different.  They may have similar body types, but they would look noticeably different from each other. 

So, being that we're all so different; how can we possibly think that a chart (however scientifically formulated) could tell us what our body is supposed to look like or weigh?  NOW, throw a child into that.  A child who is still growing, approaching puberty, possibly in the middle of puberty, and going through incredible body changes.  How in the world can we accurately say that many of these children are overweight?  Is there really a weight that they SHOULD (don't you just hate that word?) weigh?  I say, we really can't.

In fact, I don't think the problem is weight or body size at all; and I believe this to be the case even for adults.  The excess weight is a symptom, NOT a diagnosis.  The issue is inactivity and overeating nutrition starved food.  So when dealing with a child and weight, do we really want to start talking numbers to them?  Do we really want to focus their attention on the scale?  How've we, as adults, done with that?  Are American adults getting any thinner or are we tipping the dreaded scales more than ever before? 

The solution then, is to get our kids MOVING daily and EATING well at least 80% of the time.  Forget the weight, that will take care of itself. Don't even mention weight to them and for goodness sakes, please don't suggest to your child that they are getting too heavy.  You may as just get them a gift certificate to the "Self Loathing and Low Self Esteem" store.  They are not too heavy.  But they may be too inactive.  They may be making wrong food choices.  THAT'S where the answer lies.  Even mentioning their weight to them is far more dangerous to them than that actual weight.  And here's why, it will be easier for our children to get active and shed pounds than it will be for them to overcome a negative self image once that seed has been planted.  Ideas about ourselves formed in our brains are harder to lose than inches formed on our hips.  


Colleen said...

What an excellent post Serene! I agree wholeheartedly with you. When we start talking about overweight children, we are treading on seriously dangerous ground. I remember meeting a seven year old girl once who was BEAUTIFUL...not stick-thin but a very healthy size and when I offered her some food she hung her head and said she couldn't because her parents said she was far too big and so was on a diet. At seven. And honestly, she wasn't too big. Not at all. I think it's heartbreaking.

Emmett Katherine said...

I think you are right that perhaps we are focusing on the wrong things (numbers/your too heavy etc). I also think a lot of people just don't realize/have the time/have the knowledge of what TOO eat!

I look at it this way, I'm a fairly healthy person I eat vegetarian and I'm an athlete (cross country runner) but if I didn't make the effort to read about sports nutrition, if I hadn't been raised in an environment that advocated health and was left to what the media/commericals told us, I'd be mislead!

it really bothers me when I commericals for "snack packs" pf chips and junk food, or other things marketed as healthy when they aren't. the message should be eat more fruits and vegetables and healthy things but that wouldn't make corporations so here we are, with a really messed up society.

I could go on but I'll stop here!

thought provoking post.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

What a great post Serene! My heart goes out to hear some parents the way they handle this issue with kids. I watched a mother deal with her daughters weight from kinder on up and believe that young lady will never think she is thin enough...she is beautiful in her 20s, size 6, and still talks about needing to lose weight! Keep sending this message out there!

Anne @ The Frump Factor said...

You are so right! I still can't believe that we have not yet accepted the research -- that IS out there -- showing that sedentary thin people are much less healthy than larger people who exercise and eat well. When will we adjust our thinking and behavior to reflect this reality? Height and weight charts are not the answer.

And we do have to be so careful what we do with our kids. Our society's attitudes toward diet and health are so misguided and contradictory, and we are passing that on to them. Better health will not result from this.

Shey said...

Hi Serene, I liked your post, I think you are right, children especially teens are just growing so much so staying active is good way to stay healthy.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that last sentence. My 6 year old grandson was labeled obese by his pediatrician last year. I can't see it. He's very, very active. It was my experience in watching my kids grow up that they would go through a stout period and then grow in heighth and they would cycle through that.