Published on July 12, 2016
(c) OlgaBobliakh fotosearch.com_k40281056
Think about this:
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, obesity most often develops from ages 5 to 6 or during the teen years, and a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80% chance of becoming an obese adult.*
A study of parents of over 2,000 5-year-olds found that parents underestimated their overweight child in 85% of the cases.*
If you don’t actually see overweight and obese clients every day, these high percentages might seem far fetched. However, I do . . . and they aren’t. And my own perspective on this matter is simple: Obesity in kids is the fault of parents.
Want to call it poor parenting? I’m OK with that.
Of the many, here are the top three R.E.D.’s (rationalizations, excuses, denials) that parents say to me when it comes to their overweight kids. How many times have you heard a friend, relative, colleague or neighbor say these things about their obese child? Perhaps, you even say them about your own.
“He’s a picky eater.”
Almost always, this means they won’t eat anything except high-fat, high-carb foods.
This is the kid whose mom gives him sugary cereal for breakfast. Sends him to school with a bag of chips or pretzels for snack, along with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. She then gives him cookies or candy as soon as he gets home from school, and makes him mac and cheese for dinner. This is the kid whose parents want to ‘go along to get along.’
“She’ll grow into her weight.”
This is the parent who has convinced her/himself that their son’s or daughter’s fat will stretch up as they grow . . . while eating the same shit (and more of it as they age and appetites expand) that made them overweight or obese in the first place.
Wrong. Fat young kids don’t grow into their weight. They grow into their HABITS. Naive is the parent who believes they can feed their kids one way that gets them fat and expects them to grow up eating a different way.
“I didn’t talk with my child for fear of instilling an eating disorder.”
This is the parent who doesn’t want to believe that her young child’s obesity IS an eating disorder . . . every bit as life-threatening than the rarer disorder of anorexia nervosa.
– * –
What do these three R.E.D.’s have in common?
Almost always, I hear them from parents who are also overweight or obese.
Childhood obesity is a result of adult behavior.
Until parents change their habits, how can it be expected that children will change theirs?
Until adults change their attitudes about eating vegetables (for example) because they are delicious — and not just because they are healthy — it makes eating those foods a chore or a duty rather than a joy to eat them.
Until adults change their attitude about fitness as fun — and not an awful mentally painful chore they feel they must do — it makes exercise (or walking, jogging, bike riding — all at no charge) a forced duty or activity.
If you teach your kids that they must finish all the food on their dinner plate because, you warn them, to do otherwise is wasteful, you are creating a pattern, a problem — dare I say, putting a curse on your child — that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Obese adults almost always finish their food even if they are not hungry.
If you always give your child a sweet juice or soda when he or she is thirsty, instead of a glass of water, they will almost certainly identify thirst with sweet beverages the rest of their lives.
If you don’t build physical activity into your own life, there is no encouragement for your kids to be active. Instead, you send a message by default that video games, electronic devices and other sedentary time-wasters are OK. (And since it’s summer, when you’re next at the pool or beach, notice how many parents are sitting on lounge chairs fiddling with their smart phones instead of being IN the water swimming or taking a long walk along the shoreline. In fact, adults are as addicted to their electronics as kids are these days. Are you one of them?)
As parents, we take credit for the good things we do for our kids and rightfully feel a sense of pride and satisfaction in how those actions impact or influence our children’s lives. Similarly, we’ve also got to take the blame for the bad things we do as well. If your kid is obese, it is not the fault of:
The food producersThe electronics manufacturersThe fast food restaurantsThe video games industryThe advertising communityThe school curriculumThe media
. . . and on and on.
Does McDonald’s barge into your home and stuff your fridge with Big Macs?
Does Frito-Lay do the same with your pantry shelves and bags of Doritos?
To blame a child’s obesity on anything on the OUTSIDE for how a family goes about its daily activities is passing the bucket of blame where it doesn’t belong. Good behavior and habits comes from INSIDE — from parents who model those behaviors and habits: who cook at home, who serve healthy meals in appropriate portions, who engage in physical activity on a regular basis . . . and who also know that the consistency of good eating and exercising habits aren’t all undone by a bag of chips at a friend’s house.
If your child is obese, you should pin-the-tail-of-childhood-obesity where it belongs: on yourself.