Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Children & Parents are Vulnerable to Obesigenic Environment

In a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, two doctors state that in extreme cases of childhood obesity, the state should consider removing the child from the home.  The authors state that severely obese children can eat more than 1,000 calories a day in excess of what their body requires, “suggesting profoundly dysfunctional eating and activity habits.”  So, the authors suggest that when training and other forms of support to parents don’t help change their children’s habits, foster care should be considered.  Although it’s not “desirable or practical, and probably not legally justifiable, for most”, it may be the only way to prevent imminent harm to those kids.  The authors note that foster care wouldn’t guarantee improved health, and that taking kids away from their parents is very traumatic.

I personally do not agree with taking children out of the home – I want a guarantee that our kids will get healthy.  The authors suggest foster care as a temporary placement for the child until the imminent risk has passed.  However, once the child is returned to the home, all the bad habits, inactivity, and poor food choices will return.  Taking severely obese children from their parents does not fix what is currently broken in our country.  Most parents of obese children are not harming their children on purpose – they simply do not know better.  The government should spend the time and money they would spend on this foster care and use it to teach and encourage parents to make better choices and to support them in their efforts.  We can prevent obesity – we can educate, encourage, support, and motivate families rather than punishing them for what they don’t know. 

We cannot expect a problem to simply go away without fixing what is broken.  And the country currently is very broken when it comes to obesity.  The most recent rankings among the states’ obesity rates show that Mississippi leads the nation in obesity with 34.5% of its residents obese.  However, even in the Colorado, the state with the lowest obesity rate of 21.4%, nearly 60% of its residents are either overweight or obese!  We are living in a society filled with fast food, sugary drinks, desk jobs, and video games – and it is killing us!  As the Journal article states, “Ubiquitous junk food marketing, lack of opportunities for physically active recreation, and other aspects of modern society promote unhealthful lifestyles in children. Inadequate or unskilled parental supervision can leave children vulnerable to these obesigenic environmental influences.”  The fact that we have an “obesigenic environment” should be the alarming issue.  We live in a society where the U.S. agriculture now produces 3,900 calories of food per person per day.  That is about twice the amount each person should consume per day.  Again I say, we must fix what is broken.

Many parents cite lack of time or lack of money (or both) as to reasons they can’t feed their children healthy foods or allow them to play sports or get physical activity.  For example, the census data for Mississippi shows that it is ranked #1 for persons living below poverty level and #50 for median household income.  On the flip side, Colorado is ranked #32 for persons below poverty level and #13 for median household income.  This trend is pretty consistent when reviewing poverty/income versus obesity rankings.  But, this does not have to be the trend – low income families do not have to automatically face obesity.  Parents can be taught and guided on ways to be healthy and stay within their financial and time budgets.  For example, some of the cheapest foods you can find in the grocery store are eggs and bananas – two very nutritious & delicious items that can be eaten any time of day.  Also, playing tag or a game of kickball with friends in a backyard or area field is absolutely free and gets kids active.  This is the time when the government should really heed the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!

If you or someone you care about is facing this obesigenic environment and doesn’t know how to get out, I will help educate, encourage, and motivate you to find your way out and get your life back.  Go to to see all the ways I can help you and those you love.  Obesity is 100% preventable – let’s fix what is broken and prevent it today! 

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