Well here’s MY suggestion to “solve” childhood obesity

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.

Fat Belly Dancer

See here? Morbid Obesity in Motion. Yep, that's me alright! Just two weekends ago. Being all Fat and Dancing at you with my Super Death Fat Self.

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.


13 thoughts on “Well here’s MY suggestion to “solve” childhood obesity

  1. Great ‘mini’-rant. 😉 My best suggestion for getting rid of the childhood obesity ‘epidemic’ would be to abolish the use of BMI for kids under 18 because it’s not meant for them anyway. With the way their bodies are rapidly growing and changing, it’s a completely useless measurement.

    • @JeninCanada I agree. Getting rid of BMI for kids (and for adults too!) is clearly, for me, the way to go. If folks really are worried about health; let’s check those longevity measures and quality of life measures and not worry so much about what size pants we might be living life in!

  2. you.are.awesome.

    My suggestion is to abolish the use of BMI, period.

    It’s a flawed measure anyways.

    How about not fighting «obesity», but promoting health?

    and BTW you seem to be a marvelous bellydancer (I once was one too, *snif* had to quit because lack of time).

    Is it possible to follow you on twitter? (if you have one?)

    • @dominique I don’t have a twitter yet 🙂 And thanks for the compliments on the post and dancing. I still can’t wait to get a post up with my most recent dance video; it is still on the camera though!

  3. It is totally meaningless & harmful for ALL of us & was actually NEVER intended to measure anything important in human beings. It is something to use as a club to beat us all to death & unfortunately the little ones make an easy, very vulnerable, & convenient target. It never meant anything, any more than any of the height/weight charts did, & body size & weight has NO significance for anyone’s life & health aside from the size clothes we need & the problems caused for us by the world around us which hates us & discriminates against us.

    And, yes, body size has pretty damn well been PROVEN to be at LEAST 77% genetic, but they love to ignore this. And, NO, fat people are not new, as most of us can see either by looking at relatives/friends considerably older than we are or by looking through photos which go back several generations. My family, especially on my mother’s side, has been mostly fat for about 150 years back that I know about & likely longer than that; they have also been notable for having many family members who, DESPITE poverty, high-fat diets, no regular exercise, (I have always been considered ‘odd’ by older relatives for walking so much), & often quite a bit of alcohol & tobacco use, have lived well beyond their mid-80’s & sometimes into their mid-90’s. This crap about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, ‘healthy’ eating, fitness, fat, etc., is just THAT…crap…as well as a moral panic &, most of all, lest we forget in the face of many interests who bring down $100 billion per year from this circus, marketing. People are sometimes driven by fear, hatred, ignorance, but even more by profit motive, as well as what seems to be the need of large groups of human beings to have a scapegoat to blame for everything which is wrong with the world.

    Leave the kids alone, let their parents raise them unless the individual parents prove abusive or neglectful, celebrate diversity, encourage self-esteem & positive body image. Let us own our own bodies, live our own lives, & make our OWN damn decisions about how we eat & exercise. We are indeed overall healthier & living longer than ever, gaining as much as 4-5 months in average life expectancy in one year, body size has much less impact on health/life expectancy than we are told, &, as we age (points out the 60-year-old), becomes totally harmless & protective of health, enough so that, by the time you reach my age, losing weight INCREASES mortality risks by several hundred percent.

    Too bad it is inconvenient & fiscally unsound to tell the truth.

    • @Patsy Too bad it is inconvenient & fiscally unsound to tell the truth. Amen. You have some excellent points regarding the marketing done to hype this “problem” for the sake of monetary profiteers. I also love the idea of just letting us own our own bodies and raise children as we, as human beings, have been doing for many many many generations without a need for such ZOMGFATISBAD measures.

  4. I’m hoping that all the fat bashing will at least diminish when the economy comes back. I know that historically when the economy is bad, some group or another is blamed, in the past, African-Americans and immigrants. Since we’re (“we” as a country) have moved past our racial prejudices, we have to find other people to blame, so enter the fatties and the illegal immigrants.

    I’m speaking extremely generally, so please take the comment as such.

    • Yeah Kate I don’t think many folks would agree that we as a country have at all really “moved past our racial prejudices.” I find that phrasing a bit problematic. I do find the link between economy and social scapegoating interesting to consider though.

  5. April, I don’t think we really have moved past our racial prejudices, but I do think we’re less obvious about them on the whole. I was comparing today with say the 1910s when “Birth of Nation” was stirring up thousands of people to join the Klan and the 60s when peaceful marches for equal rights were met with state sanctioned violence. Our (again, “our” as a nation) prejudices are more covered up.

    You are right that I should have come up with better phrasing.

    • Kate perhaps “less obvious” might cover that better how things tend to go now…a lot more “subtle” or “Hey look, on the surface we’re all about diversity, etc!” while maintaining the restrictive status quos anyways kinda thing.

      Trabb’s Boy I would like to hope that the obesity crisis would “calm down” but remain highly suspect of such a possibility seeing as our First Lady’s cause celebre is now Fixing Obesity For The Childrens. We’ll only be able to wait and see I suppose!

  6. I also think some significant portion of the “obesity crisis” was to deflect interest away from health reform — the problem isn’t the for-profit insurance system, it’s the fatties making health care cost so much! With that (IMHO marginally useful) legislation done and the subject out of the headlines, I suspect we’ll see less about this issue. Fingers crossed.

  7. I wish that an improving economy would help the situation, but they have been going after fat people & promoting dieting, albeit not quite this rabidly, for the past 50 years. Of course, I also know that it is no coincidence that all this has reached fever pitch just as my generation, the Baby Boomers, has started to seriously age & (surprise!) often gain weight & in many cases develop some of the chronic diseases of aging, etc. I am fairly rare among people my age, it seems, in being on no prescription medications.

  8. @ Trabb’s Boy: “I also think some significant portion of the “obesity crisis” was to deflect interest away from health reform” You know what I never thought of that. this must be one of the many reasons why America is using fat people as a escapegoat.

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