Monday, July 29, 2013

Piece of Advice #106: Don't let your kids get fat

Friday night my husband and I watched Stand by Me, and Saturday we went to a work party at one of those kiddie casinos with laser tag and video games and go carts...and there were a LOT of fat kids there.  A lot.  Not even chunky, or pudgy, actually obese kids.  It occurred to me that by today's standards, the "fat" kid, Vern, in Stand by Me wouldn't even be considered husky. 

The CDC reports that in the United States about 18% of kids were obese in 2010, up from 5-7%(depending on age) in 1980.  That's nearly one out of five kids.  And that kid is obese, not  pudgy.  If you include the overweight kids, you're looking at one in three. 

The astounding rate at which we've gained weight in this county often seems surreal to me.  One in three, two in three...  It's as if we all blinked in tandem and then opened our eyes again and everyone's fat now.  I don't mean to rag on fat people.  I ate all my hard feelings last year and am now working on getting those calories off.  It happens.  I know lots of nice overweight people and appreciate them as fellow travelers.  But kids!  Kids should not be fat.  Kids are active and hyper and have fast metabolisms, the best metabolisms they will ever have.  And no one, outside of those with genuine and serious medical problems, should be obese.  That there are so many obese children is like a red flashing light/glaring siren warning.  Something is deeply wrong with our society. 

When I was a kid, a little more than one generation ago, hardly anyone I knew was fat.  And I know this is not simple nostalgia on my part because I went back and checked the yearbooks.  The kids in Stand by Me are twelve years old.  I was twelve in 1983, and in that sixth grade yearbook there are approximately 250 kids, 10 of which are chubby.  I did not see one obese kid.  None.  Just row after row of skinny little kids with horrible haircuts.  We have not evolved to be fatter by changes in our genetic structure.  We are fatter because our lifestyles are terribly unhealthy. 

The premise of Stand by Me is that a group of kids walk twenty miles to find a dead body of a kid who's gone missing.  Vern overhears his brother talking about this body he found and is unwilling to let anyone know about because he found it after he boosted a car and doesn't want the attention of the police to fall on him.  So Vern and his friends decide to satisfy their curiosity and be heroes all at once and find this body.  And they walk all day and part of another to do it. 

It's a little shocking to think of the kind of freedom kids had once to wander about at will, twenty miles away from home with no one aware of what they are doing, but outside of that, I can't think of a kid I know who'd sign up for that kind of walking.  I walk my son the 1.25 miles between our house and his school every day; he gets some exercise, but when he takes friends home after school with him, they are always surprised at how far he has to walk.  "You do this every day?" they ask.  Kids are terribly sedentary, entertained by television, video games, and every other kind of hypnotic media.  Even when they are outside, they ride around on their battery powered mini-jeeps or motorized scooters.  No one had that kind of stuff when I was a kid.  Mom kicked you out the door when she got tired of you, and you made your own fun out of Lord knows what.  One summer my sister and I built a fort out of pallets and bits of scrap wood left by a construction crew.  The boys from a street over came and tore it down on a regular basis, and we built it back up again.  It was great. 

And then there's the tremendous lot of junk food and soda kids now consume.  When I was a kid, you ate at home what you were served in a timely fashion.  Mom made it, you ate it, end of story.  You ate around the table together.  We hardly ever went out to eat - only for special occasions, really. We certainly did not know what was on the McMenu of half of the fast food places in town.  We also drank soda very rarely.  Mostly we had water and milk (ours was from powder - gross).  In the summer we sometimes drank unsweetened sun tea.  Once in a while we had juice with breakfast.  That was it.  Soda really is the devil's drink - it has no nutritional value and tons and tons of sugar.  It's terribly addicting as well.  Kids should have very little access to it because they won't regulate their consumption.  But you can't go anywhere now without seeing kids with soda or "power" drinks. 

As a parent, I know it's a huge drag to have to fight the culture so hard on behalf of your kids, but it has to be done.  Fat kids = fat adults, and fat adults have so many more health and social problems.  That's not what you want for your children.  Make them exercise, make them work a bit, limit their access to crap food and soda.  Try and cook for them or, ideally, with them.  Food they make (or grow!) themselves, kids will want to try.  I know this all takes time and patience, but our parents did it for us, and everyone just thought it was normal.  We can do it too with a little discipline and effort. 


  1. It's not the culture you're fighting, it's the market. Capital profits immensely from crap food. Coca Cola is a blue chip corporation.

  2. @Anonymous
    The culture and the market are two side of the same coin. A degenerate market can only sell to a degenerate culture. It's supply AND demand.

    @Grerp, it's nice to see you back.

  3. Amen and Amen. How right you are. Since pretty much leaving the Standard American Diet behind and going Paleo two years ago, Im astounded by the crap people ( including myself, Im ashamed to say, at one time) eat. Never again. You seemed to have unplugges from the US Feedlot and are going a better way.
    Keep writing- Ive missed the blog and love your insights!

  4. Sorry to nitpick, should be #106

  5. I'd like to say a word of encouragement to the fat kids who read the blog, or whose parents read it and tell them what is on it. I was the fat kid. I went off at the age of 13 to a Boys Brigade camp for two weeks. The BB is a church version of the Scouts. We had three hours of games every day Monday to Friday for two weeks. I went off weighing 91 pounds and came back weighing a much healthier 78 pounds. I was not restricted in my eating. I could run further and faster, walk further and generally felt much healthier. all because of the exercise. So if your churches have a Boys Brigade company, or a Girls Brigade company, get the kids in there. if it hasn't, look at starting one. The sport -we played inter-company soccer each Saturday morning for eight weeks in the autumn and eight weeks in the spring- and the physical exercise like vaulting, as well as the drill, made us much fitter than today's children, and the friendships we built up have lasted a lifetime. If the culture is going to be turned around, someone has to start turning it around. why not you where you are?

  6. Culture and market aside, it's the parents who are the last line of defense. But it's always easier to say "it's society's fault."

  7. LordSomber - I think the food ills of Western society are actually pretty complex; there is a barrage of propaganda, product, and social niceties that have to be fought to stay healthy and of a normal weight. But kids eat what they are given and the arbiter of that has to be the parents. Much of the problem is the outsourcing of parental responsibilities - supervision, cooking, exercise, chores - to tv, schools, etc. Kids started to get really fat when mothers left the house for the workforce.

  8. Sad to say, I could never do the paleo diet - I just don't like meat enough. I'm making do with seriously limiting sweets and snacks, and cutting out soda and meals out.

  9. Well, thats a huge start. I know Paleo isn't for everyone, but Im a huge carnivore so it was easy....:) Just cutting out processed foods and sugar and you are 90% ahead of everyone else, which makes me sad to see that's what so many people eat ( many I know dont have options) but I know, for instance my own sister- who is very overweight ( but who has, incidentally, plenty of money for good food) feeds her kid so much crap. Good for you for fighting the good fight for you and your family.

  10. Much of the problem is the outsourcing of parental responsibilities - supervision, cooking, exercise, chores - to tv, schools, etc.

    I agree 100%.

  11. Went to Scout summer camp with my son after a very long hiatus from scouting. I was shocked by the sheer number of boys who were obese and barely able to hike up to the mess hall every meal. Poor boys were waddling on the sides of their feet. Many adults in the same condition, but I was not surprised since I see obese adults at work. Oh my God!

  12. It really is horrible. We are a society of addicts raising new addicts. Sad, sad, sad.

  13. Our macro-nutrients are out of whack. From time immoral until about 30 to 20 years ago meals broke down mostly into high fat, moderate protein and low carbs. Now its high carbs, low protein, ultra-low fat.

    Carbs are nature’s desert. They are not meant to be a majority of a nutrient intake. In fact it's the only macro-nutrient we can live entirely without, yet its become the Wests mainstay died (SAD = Standard American Diet).

    Cut the carbs, increase the fat.

  14. Grerp,

    No one has to do paleo or anything else exotic like that to be thin. If you don't believe me, visit Peru as I did this summer.

    In Peru, EVERYBODY WALKS EVERYWHERE; I'm serious! I did more walking the two weeks I was there than I'd done in the previous 10 years. I was doing 1.5-2 miles a day. Everything you need is in your neighborhood; if it's not, taxis, buses, and combis are readily available.

    Also, the food down there is a log HEALTHIER. It's natural; there's no GMO food down there. Also, it's fresh at the Mercado every day. Peruvian food is good, healthy, and non-fattening.

    Anyway, you don't see ANY fat people in Lima, Peru-none! There are a few who could be called pudgy, but that's it. Between walking everywhere and eating good, healthy food, Peruvian people are thin and healthy. I lost 5# in the two weeks I was there.

    To put it another way, if one wants to live healthy in America, one has to make an extra effort to do so. One has to go to special stores, buy organic food, etc. One has to join a gym also. In Peru, healthy living is BUILT-IN to the lifestyle, whereas here in America, it is not.