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Think out loud: Childhood Obesity

This morning, the OPB call-in radio program, Think Out Loud, will discuss the issue of childhood obesity (at 9am and 9pm).  According to the Oregon State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program, one in four of our children are overweight.  The proportion of overweight children in our state is increaing.  The percentage of children who don't eat enough fruit & veggies is high (60%).

Despite the fact that we like to model good behavior with all our biking, homemade food, and additive-free cereal or bread choices, obesity remains a reality in our community.  The Think Out Load episode explores:

Have you struggled with childhood obesity? Are you the parent of an overweight or at-risk kid? Are you a teacher or school counselor? What barriers do you see for kids who are fighting the battle of the bulge? Who is ultimately responsible for preventing childhood obesity?

Feel free to listen, call in, or discuss here or there.


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Perhaps it's a good time to remind ourselves of today's (11/19) PPS local lunch: http://www.urbanmamas.com/urbanmamas/2008/10/eat-local-at-po.html

Ultimately, I think it's the parents' job to teach good nutrition, healthy eating habits and fitness, but in an ideal world, those lessons would be reinforced in the school system. I think telling children they need to make healthy choices, eat well and exercise, while at the same time, feeding them processed foods in the cafeteria and cutting their access to outside play, gym class, and extracurricular sports, sends a very inconsistent message. I am in no way criticizing PPS on this. The public schools do their absolute best with the limited resources granted them. I am, however, criticizing the larger culture that assumes that acknowledging a problem is synonymous with solving it.

I just wrote this very long post and then I realized my daughter would KILL me if I posted it.

Suffice to say, that our formerly fat-positive household has been shaken by childhood obesity lately. If I had a fat vegan kid, I wouldn't worry as much as I do with a kid that uses her allowance and mooches to get Little Debbies, Cheetos and the like.

I'll prolly get killed for this post, too.

I haven't yet heard the episode, but I do intend to check it out...

I believe that it's problematic to discuss body size as an independent indicator of health. Some folks are healthy and fat, others are thin and unwell.

As a fat mama who intends to teach my daughter that folks can be healthy at any size, I always cringe when "obesity" is immediately conflated with poor health. Bodies come in all different shapes and sizes and BMI can be a pretty inaccurate gauge of wellness. It's important to me to value whole foods nutrition, physical activity and body-positive emotional health, no matter what size our bodies are.

If we focus on size as the primary issue, I believe that we risk damaging the self worth of large folks while missing the mark for creating a diverse and body-affirming culture of wellness.

thank you Mama Meow. I meant to say that but eloquence was not my strong suit today.

Speaking from personal experience, negative body image can contribute to obesity.

"I'm Fat!" => depression => unhealthy eating/not wanting to participate in physical activity => childhood obesity

In our family we preach that great people come in all shapes and sizes, colors, abilities, sexual orientations etc.

Obesity is a medical/psychological problem, and we should not judge any person based on a disease or condition that they have, that they may have no control over. When society starts treating obesity as a true medical disease (including insurance coverage for treatment, something that most insurance excludes) and not as a character flaw, then we can solve this problem.

I agree that parental role modeling -- of body image and nonjudgmental attitudes towards obesity as well as good nutrition and exercise -- is key to fighting obesity. I also think another key is (oh here i go again ;) the removal of all government subsidies for unhealthy food, especially corn (and *especially* GMO corn) and soy grown by huge corporate farms and all the fruit of the commercial feedlots and petroleum-based pesticide crew. then we can put that money back in health care ... and treat obesity as a disease ... along with lots of other things.

something I've been really struggling with lately is trying to change my husband's language around body weight, he's one to use the fat/skinny words a lot and I've been hoping I could convert him to "larger" and "slimmer" or something.

pdxmomto2, your comment just hit me...thanks for your perspective. My son' preschool is doing a lot of work on food and nutrition right now, and as a result we've been talking a lot about it at home. Just yesterday we had a conversation about it. He's only 4, so the dialogue and terminology is still rather simple, but we talked in basic terms about how eating poorly results in gaining weight, and about how being overweight is unhealthy. We have always taught that great people come in different shapes, colors, etc. as well, but I completely neglected to also talk about obesity as a medical condition. I'm going to work that thought into our next conversation about it, I was really just thinking about it in the context of shaping his decisions around healthy food choices. Thanks for the added perspective.

It seems sort of wrong to place blame on a child who is overweight. Quite frankly it shouldn't be an issue. If we ate healthy, were more active, spent less time in front of the television, and so on, we wouldn't pass these bad habits onto our children.

I also agree that these healthy behaviors should be reinforced at school, but not that it is necessarily the schools job to teach our kids proper nutrition and the health risks of obesity. I really think this one should come mostly from home.

Leah, your post about the discussion you had with your son was wonderful. I think that more parents should talk to their kids about obesity, especially at a young age like four. While the dialogue may be 'simple', helping kids understand how to prevent obesity early on will help them make better choices later.

I talk to my daughter about nutrition all the time, but I always frame the discussion around being healthy, not being thin. We stress variety in diet, and in turn, moderation for any one food type, explaining that each thing we eat, be it carrot or cereal, egg or banana, has different vitamins that different parts of our bodies need to be healthy. In other words, carrots are good for your eyes, but only eating carrots all the time would make you sick. We also talk about the little super heros called white cells that live in our blood and fight off the viruses when we are sick. We talk about how those super heros need us to feed them healthy food, get good sleep and exercise so they can be strong and protect our bodies. I honestly don't think teaching children about healthy living practices like nutrition and exercise has to involve body image at all. When I tell my daughter she shouldn't eat too many sweets, it's because too many sweets will hurt her teeth, her stomach and they don't give her body the things it needs to grow and be strong.

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