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Obese Kids Need their Parents to Change

Childhood obesity gets me riled up. Since parents bring groceries into the home, are in charge of media consumption and after school activities I see childhood obesity as being an issue that lands squarely on the parents’ lap.

Clearly there are a few children in the world who have medical issues and for whom weight gain is unavoidable. For the rest of our children they are obese because of parental neglect. It’s horrible when you’ve failed your child. I have failed mine in quite a few ways, recently medically, and I’ll talk about that another day.

Go to your facebook page, someone has posted a class picture. This is mine from 1979. I was in the fourth grade. I’d don’t see one fat kid. It’s not about looking good or being cute, you’re looking at a couple dozen healthy kids. Does this look like a fourth grade classroom today?

Kudos to Georgia for finally taking care of it’s children. Let’s hope that the state provides them with healthful school lunches and joyful physical education.

Fat acceptance and pandering to self esteem is killing your children. Just watch these videos made by five brave kids. If you want to help a child worry less about their feelings short term and worry more about their health in the short and long term. Kids aren’t stupid, they know they’re fat and they need help. They need a whole community to change around them.

Be the change.

Jaden has withdrawn
Maritza has hypertension
Tina doesn’t want to be picked on
Tamika has type two diabetes
Bobby’s parents have ignored his obesity

25 thoughts on “Obese Kids Need their Parents to Change”

  1. It breaks my heart when I see the kids getting off the bus, the kids in my son’s class …over half of them are overweight some even obese. It’s sad and scary.  Twenty years ago I was in grade school and you were lucky to see 1 or 2 overweight kids per classroom. I hope this campaign opens some parent’s eyes.

  2. Hrm.  As someone who was bullied mercilessly (to the point I had to switch schools) because I was very mildly overweight in elementary school, I really hate this campaign.  

    Now, I like the idea because yes, childhood obesity has to be addressed and reduced, but the way this program tackled it makes it seem like they condone the bullying of obese kids.  And further, it has the great potential to shame obese kids.  Shame is not the way you manage any problem, especially not a child’s weight.  Shame is the way you cause them to have eating disorders.  You know why I know that?  Because I’m one of them.  I was horribly shamed by a family member and have struggled tremendously with anorexia for the past 10 years.  Yes, my weight is controlled and I appear healthy from the outside, but my relationship with food will always be wrong, will always be unhealthy because of that shame.  If you could hear the conversations in my head about my body, you would be horrified.  And I’m 6 months pregnant.

    We need to educate parents, we need to provide better school lunches, we need to do all kinds of things to reduce childhood obesity.  But we should never, ever make children feel shameful, and that’s just what this campaign has the potential to do.

    1. Do you think that these videos provoke shame or just point at the elephant in the room… which is that the kids are already feeling shame? 

      I’m not sure that talking about obesity brings shame. I’m thinking that kids feel it when they can’t move? 

      I’m not sure, no one really can be… chicken and egg? 

      1. I think the videos also help point out the problem and I’m not opposed to using shock tactics to get parents motivated, but I just don’t like the idea of having these kids as examples of obesity.  I don’t know what a better option is, but I think we should discourage anything that increases feelings of shame in a child.  They may very well already feel shame because of their physical limitations, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t proven them further shame by making a very, very public example out of them.

        Like I said, I like the mission of these ads, I just don’t like the way they executed them.

        1. I’m sure there’s a “better option” there’s always a better option. The best option would be for those kids to never be in this horrible position.

          I still think this is the most admirable and honest campaign to date.

  3. Wow. What an eye-opener. I agree. I consider our family lucky in that I grew up with parents who taught me how to cook and the difference between wholesome and unhealthy foods, and I am now passing that onto my son. I hope this campaign wakes people up.

  4. “Let’s hope that the state provides them with healthful school lunches and joyful physical education” is a nice, succinct idealistic statement. 

    Although I agree that parents need to change in order to not “fail” their kids, as you so heart wrenchingly put it, I think many parents are just as confused themselves… not to mention, struggling. From what I have seen, read, heard and written about, the school lunch issue is wrought with bureaucracy, stymied by self serving food companies who answer only to shareholders and pat smooth talking, high paid lobbyists on the back. If  you want change, start there. Give parents a break. They didn’t have a teacher.

  5. I agree that the parents need to take more responsibilty in this.
    I was really annoyed this year when we got a letter from the school inviting us to come try the school lunches because school lunches are healthier than what parents pack. (It went home to everyone, not just us.) Grace has taken her lunch to school every day. She will continue to take her lunch to school because she isn’t eating that horrible food they serve and call balanced meals. Yes, we let her eat chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and mac and cheese but not every day or even on a set day of every week like they do for pizza lunch.

    I get so excited that my kids love oatmeal, ask for a sald when go out to eat, and eat their veggies at dinner … that is normal and healthy. As Grace says …
    “you have to eat healthy foods to grow big and strong” (she is 5 by the way!)

  6. Totally agree with you (for once ha!). My kids are on the small side and I will always keep them physically active and eating right. Myself on the other hand? Big Fat Whale. But my kids will never be overweight. 

  7. Unfortunately I don’t think those ads are going to work on the correct people: the parents or caretakers who feed these kids. They see their children every day, and they don’t care that they’re killing them. For some of them it’s actually a pride thing to have huge kids, which is just sick. I wonder what these ads do emotionally to the kids featured, as well. It’s a very sensitive age. I did have one or two fat kids in my class growing up. One of them was a family friend, so I saw firsthand how her mom made her and her siblings eat eat eat all the time. She considered it a culture (Italian) thing, I think. My friend struggles with obesity to this day. It is so difficult overcoming habits that you learned as a kid.

    I definitely see more fat kids than when I was growing up, but on the other extreme I also see scary skinny girls like never before. It’s frightening. I and the girls in my class were chubby by today’s standards, but really we were average and healthy. I don’t think people know what healthy looks like anymore, and I think that leads to a sense of futility among those who could do to lose some weight because they feel they will never attain the impossible standards they see around them. I am at a healthy BMI after being borderline obese before I had my son. I lost 40 lbs and my doctors call me slender, but I still feel like a chunk when I look at magazines or watch TV.

  8. You and I are on the very same page with this and I often get criticized for being vocal about the topic. Here’s my only concern with this campaign. These are kids, which means their parents had to give consent for them appear in the ads.  I truly hope they are loving, caring parents and that the children got to decide for themselves, rather than someone looking to make money for their child’s participation.

  9. I agree…I understand why their is so much controversy over calling it “child abuse” because I honestly don’t think their intention is to hurt the child.

    I think a better comparison is to second-hand smoke and parents that smoke indoors and around their children. While they may have no intention of hurting their children, they are…And no one will know when the effects will surface. Some much sooner than others.

  10. I don’t know how I feel about this campaign. I was a chubby kid who got bullied for it so I know how hard it can be. But are these videos really going to convince parents to get to the grocery store and buy healthy foods for their kids or is it going to make life for these particular kids harder?

    Good for Strong 4 Life for getting people talking about it, I suppose. Hopefully it will wake up some parents. 

  11. So glad to see that Georgia is doing something to make a difference and educate parents.  I like video #2, but all the other videos are pretty degrading to the kids & their parents. Hoping all states do something to bring back the priority of healthy food & extracurricular activities in our children’s lives.

  12. Great post, Jessica.  Life was different back then though – kids had free reign of the neighborhood and were much more active.   It takes more effort and time these days for most parents to give their kids the opportunity to be healthy and athletic.  No excuses – just a fact. 

  13. It’s absolutely the responsibility of the parents to ensure their children are eating well, staying active, and doing everything they can to ensure they have the best start in life.  Obesity at such a young age only sets these children up for a lifetime of medical, social, and emotional problems. I agree completely. Yes, there are those incidences where it’s medically related but for the most part it falls in the parents lap. When there is an issue with one of my children, I immediately go back to my own parenting to see where I’ve failed.

  14. I’ve been thinking about this since I read it. Here’s the thing: different approaches work for different people. The only approach that DOESN’T work is ignoring the problem.

    The campaign that Georgia is running needs tweaking, in my opinion. Without bringing up the subject of “how can we change” in the ads themselves, the campaign may not have as great an impact as it could, in my opinion.

    That said, the food system in this country sucks and is a major part of the problem. Taking what marketers say about their food products at face value (“Fruit Roll Ups! With REAL Fruit!”) speaks to a frightening lack of critical thinking skills in this country. Couple the fact that food is convenient, and busy, working parents resort to the quickest and easiest way to get food on the table. There you have the perfect storm of childhood obesity: fat, sugar, salt, convenience, and lack of critical thought. 

    My children are not overweight. We model the behavior that helps them be, stay, grow and understand what healthy is. Healthy comes in a range of sizes and shapes, but it doesn’t come with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, PCOS, etc. 

    So, a little shock value/shame overall isn’t likely the ideal approach, but again, neither is pretending that the problem doesn’t exist.

  15. I happen to live in Georgia, only about a mile from CHOA who runs these ads. I personally think the campaign is good. Tough love is the only thing that will get anybody’s attention anymore. The obesity rate among children is heartbreaking. I was looking for the article I read just yesterday where one of the children featured spoke about how much she enjoyed the campaign and that she was proud to say the things that needed to be said. It mentioned that she was changing her life and getting healthier. She doesn’t feel picked on by being in the ad, she agrees with the message. As a kid. 

    It’s not shocking to me that people are so shocked by this. But what IS shocking is the fact that people think that keeping on without something like this campaign is working — clearly it’s not. I think a private entity like CHOA taking it on is brilliant! 

    Thanks for this post. I’m glad to see somebody standing up for the campaign. It won’t fix problems overnight, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

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