The growing roar from America's health community about the girth of kids today has become daily news lately. I've seen dozens of articles about the growing incidence of diabetes, spiraling health care costs, and the resizing of clothes so the pleasantly plump among us won't feel so bad when we can't get our buffalo-sized asses into our leather pants. Last weekend, the NY Times ran this article about personal trainers and scheduled work-outs for kids in their early teens who are struggling with their weight. Part of me was glad that these kids (who have enough to worry about because Cindy like totally told Janet that she liked Tim but Janet totally knows Tim from homeroom and she saw her talking to Tim in the cafeteria and oh my god what if she tells him she likes him) were being given an option to battle the bulge. Part of me, however, got really pissed off that parents would let it come to that.
Full disclosure: I was a fat kid. I had to buy "husky" jeans when I went to school, and despite my evident genius and winning personality I was still teased a lot. I wasn't very good at sports, and actively avoided anything that would expose myself to ridicule, from wearing baggy clothes to avoiding P.E. at any cost. Frankly, it was embarrassing. But I eventually took responsibility for my condition and lost weight in high school, turning into the smokin' hot studmuffin I am today (as you can see in this undoctored photograph).
It's not easy to lose weight as a kid. Everyone around you is eating mall food or burgers, and the siren songs of Xbox Live & instant messaging practically demand that you're sedentary for part of your day to stay wired into the your social group. I applaud the efforts these parents are making in forcing their kids to do something about their weight and build some habits that can translate into a healthier life as an adult.
But here's where I also start getting angry. Let me give you a couple of quotes from the article. "I can't pretend we don't eat our share of fast food because of scheduling," says one parent. I call bullshit on that right away. "Scheduling" is a pathetically lame excuse for feeding your kids crap. Everyone knows that shit is bad for you, and you can't tell me the 10 minutes you save driving Hardee's to get the Monster Thickburger Value Meal with a large Coke instead of cooking the organic chicken and broccoli that's been sitting in the freezer since 1998 really helped you get sooooo much more done around the house.
Another thing that ticked me off was the mother who "said she realized she needed to focus on her family's diet when she hit 255 pounds herself." Really, that was what clued you in? Your OWN weight? It was OK when you hit 250, but 255 was too much. Do you think perhaps you might have been encouraging some bad habits in the home?
To me, many of these people are simply passing along their parental responsibilities to doctors and personal trainers (just like they probably already do to teachers and television) rather than actively participating in the healthy development of their children. It's not one of those things kids can easily hide from their parents, and I'll bet that most kids don't actually want to be fat. A little engagement, a little discussion, and better mix of healthy foods in the home can at least give kids some defense against being nicknamed Porko McChowsalot.
I know it's very complicated, and I'm not advocating perpetual monitoring of every calorie ingested and burned by your kids. But slapping the Twinkie out of Junior's hand and handing him a banana instead wouldn't be so hard, would it? We expend so much energy trying educate our children so they'll be smart and well-behaved; isn't it worth it to teach them to be healthy and strong as well?