According to the newly released White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity; in order to “solve the problem” of childhood obesity within a generation; all we need to “do” is:
The action plan defines the goal of ending childhood obesity in a generation as returning to a childhood obesity rate of just 5 percent by 2030, which was the rate before childhood obesity first began to rise in the late 1970s. (Emphasis mine)
So, as Big Liberty aptly puts it:
The report says that one can solve the problem in a generation if rates drop to very low in a generation—i.e., one can solve the problem if one solves the problem—i.e., the utter BS non-speak tautologies presented as some kind of ‘revelation’ in order to push an agenda fueled by bias and the politics of crisotunity rather than facts and reasonable outcomes. (Emphasis mine)
Big Liberty does a fantastic job sussing out some of the problematic phrasing around this new “Task Force” (anyone else want to roll their eyes at the idea of a practically military sounding venture aimed at Curing The Problem of ZOMGOBESITY! How long do you think it will take for us to see some sort of “We’ve Beaten Fatness! We WIN!” banner flown from the top of an elementary school or something?) and it’s assertion that genetics is not at fault at all; weight is ENTIRELY controllable; and your child’s weight is all the mother’s fault.
You want to know MY suggestion for how to “solve” this looming “problem” even sooner than 2030? How about they move the arbitrary BMI cutoff points UP for children. You know, like they moved them DOWN for adults back in the 90’s so more of us could qualify as Overweight and Obese? Insta-fix.
Also? What is WITH this phrasing of fighting abstract concepts? You can’t “Fight” obesity, which is a state of being, any more than you could “fight” tallness.
Another Also? Stop illustrating this “problem” with fatties like myself and others who are in the very small minority of folks who actually do fit the majority vision of what Obesity Looks Like. Why can’t you hone up media and task-force folks, and show what the true majority and average overweight/obese folks look like? Oh, right, because then maybe we wouldn’t all be horrified or even terrified that it might somehow happen to us, nay not even just us but the WORLD?
I just wish some of the folks on this new Task Force would read up on what they are really “fighting” here. Maybe they just need to hear the good news: that we’re actually living longer and healthier now as a nation than ever before! Maybe Mrs. Obama just needs to read up on recent data which states:
Our results are similar to those from other recent studies, confirming that underweight and obesity class II+ are clear risk factors for mortality, and showing that when compared to the acceptable BMI category, overweight appears to be protective against mortality. Obesity class I was not associated with an increased risk of mortality. (Emphasis mine)
I also wanted to check just what sort of number dropping we’re anticipating here for this task force. If we want to get to under 5% overweight/obese children (and we’re assuming that we can’t simply move the BMI markers as I’ve suggested above); what are we trying to drop that FROM? Is it something huge? Are there like 50% of American children we’re trying to work on? Nope. Try 15%.
So, the most recent figures show 15.5% of children fall at or above the 95th percentile on the BMI growth charts, labeling them “overweight” (or “obese” depending on the source) — with no real change in nearly a decade. (From: Epidemic that Wasn’t)
Huh. 15%? Well that doesn’t seem to mesh with the way this panic has been whipped up, right? Maybe this is all a recent surge that has potential to keep spiraling upwards? Nope again I guess:
Analyses of the trends in high BMI for age showed no statistically significant trend over the 4 time periods (1999-2000, 2001-2002, 2003-2004, and 2005-2006) for either boys or girls. Results were similar for non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Mexican American boys and girls. Trends were not statistically significant for any racial/ethnic group… No statistically significant trend in high BMI for age was found over the time periods 1999-2000, 2001-2002, 2003- 2004, and 2005-2006… Even at the highest BMI for age level no change in prevalence was found between 2003-2004 and 2005-2006, either overall or by racial/ethnic group. (From: Epidemic that Wasn’t)
I guess, as Big Liberty suggests in her post, selective use of numbers is not just for odds ratios. Because never in the media pushing for this “Reduce to less than 5%” glory is it mentioned that we’re only looking to drop from rates of 15%; rates which haven’t INCREASED significantly at all in over a decade…. Hmmm. Me thinks someone needs to re-evaluate something here for their pretty little Task Force. Interestingly, the Task Force, if you manage to wade through the report, is not just looking at this 95th percentile. In order to get those scarier figures of 1/3rd of children as obese/overweight; they are looking at all children from the 85th percentile and up.
All said and done, I fully support the concepts of improving access for all healthy, affordable foods; in general and in schools. I get excited about improved prenatal care and measures to encourage not only breast-feeding by those to choose to do so but measures to ensure such a practice is possible for working mothers. I 100% cheer for efforts to expand available options for children (heck, for adults would be nice too) to get more enjoyable and safe physical activity. So all of these measures are really awesome goals for our nation.
However, the huge downside is that the metric that will be used in large part to determine the effectiveness of such efforts is individual BMIs. Of Children. A measure NEVER INTENDED to be used by individuals at all, let alone by children. I shudder at the concept of further labeling of foods as “good” or “bad” for you. I absolutely loath the concept of “educating” parents about how fat their kids are based again on these badly flawed BMI numbers. I am angry over the assumption that swapping out deep fat fryers for salad bars in schools is going to make kids skinnier. Because thin kids NEVER eat fries, natch. I mean, come ON. Why frame this like that? I’m all for offering some tasty alternatives to simply grease laden meal choices. But constantly pushing that tenuous and eroding connection between fat and foods eaten is just so frustrating!
I truly wish that the Task Force would concentrate more on addressing these factors:
The increased occurrence of obesity among children of obese parents suggests a genetic component. (Oh really, just SUGGESTS one??) Multiple twin and adoption studies also indicate a strong genetic component to obesity. However, genes associated with obesity were present in the population prior to the current epidemic (hmmm yes, maybe we should look at this epidemic then and find out WHY it appears, oh yeah that’s right…BMI cutoffs changing. But obviously that doesn’t matter, right?); genes only account for susceptibility to obesity and generally contribute to obesity only when other influences are at work. Genetic susceptibility to obesity is significantly shaped by the environment. In addition to genetic factors, recent research has focused on other factors, such as maternal nutrition, environmental toxins, and the prenatal environment, which may shape later risk for childhood obesity.
My fear is that as these efforts are put in place, people may indeed get healthier; but not much thinner. What then? Will money from good programs increasing access to nutritious foods and creating safe activity spaces simply be pulled and put towards rigorous Lose Weight Now Fatty initiatives?? Instead of just forcing BMI measurements on children, as if public shaming of fatness has ever had a beneficial effect on reducing it, will fat parents be given hormones by doctors to simply prevent their conception of children? Do we become part of some Orwellian distopian society whereby only those deemed WORTHY (ie: those thin enough) of bringing life into this world are allowed the privilege?? Dieting measures for pre-birth babies? (Yeah, because diets work so well with adults to make us thinner and younger, right?) What next I ask. If we don’t start meeting these projected reduction numbers, does Mrs. Obama sign a document agreeing to ship all the remaining fatties away? Do we hope that some aliens come down demanding 15% of our children as in Torchwood so we can just give away these undesirables?? What. Next. Folks?
Also? Did you know that very low weight babies have the same risk of obesity as very high weight babies? And that scientists are calling chemicals that may promote weight gain: “Obesogens”? Also interesting is the suggestion that children under 2 not be allowed to watch ANY television; and children over 2 be limited to 1-2 hours daily maximum. It is, if frightening in its implications and a bit saddening in its determined “Eradicate Fatties” approach, a very interesting report to read up on. If, however, you don’t have the energy to get through all 100 plus pages of the report; here are the recommendations in summary form.
Whew. And this was just going to be a mini-rant.