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    Childhood Obesity And Parental Responsibility: Not As Easy As Some Would Have It
    By Kim Wombles | December 7th 2011 05:32 PM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Kim

    Instructor of English and psychology and mother to three on the autism spectrum.

    Writer of the site countering.us (where most of these

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    Huffington Post has a piece up on whether parents of obese children are in denial. Of course, the comments are typical for Huff; there are the usual close-minded asses who assume that all obesity is a result of fat parents "sharing the misery" (as one commentator wrote).

    Like most things in life, childhood obesity exists for multiple reasons, and judging these parents to be unloving or abusive misses the complex factors that combine to create obesity in individuals.

    I'm the first person to admit I'm obese. I'm not thrilled with that, but I'm absolutely not in denial about it. Unlike some people who judge overweight people to be people with poor self-control and lazy, I know that obesity has nothing to do with a person's value. I don't feel sorry for the person because if he or she just tried harder, the weight would disappear. There's no pity; there's no shame. I'm not going to feel embarrassed about my weight or that I should have to apologize for it. People can deal with it or not; it's not my problem how others feel about the fact that I carry more weight than is healthy.

    But what about my responsibility as a parent to my children? Bobby's struggled with his weight since he was nine and placed on risperadol for six months. He went from fifty pounds to over one hundred pounds in that time, and it took us years to get that extra weight off of him. When he reached adulthood and had more control over what he ate and when, it no longer became something I could control--he's gained weight, but he seesaws back and forth within a fifteen pound range. I'm not about to make him feel guilty. We work to have healthy food in the house without depriving ourselves of treats.

    I'm trying to teach my children that moderation and movement are key while also promoting the belief that a person's value lies not with his or her looks or weight but instead with who a person is, the character of the person and how he or she treats others.

    It would be nice to reduce the obesity problem in children down to parental abuse, but that is not the case. Obesity arises from complex factors, and just because parents are obese doesn't mean they are lazy. Poverty and the reality that the cheapest foods are often the least healthy foods play a role in obesity. The convenience and relative cheapness of fast food also plays a role. Snack foods, candy bars, sodas: the availability of calorie-laden foods is a problem, as is our fast-paced society which places no value on recess or PE for kids in school, that enforces a couch-potato mentality after school, and that makes it difficult for disadvantaged children to partake in private sports teams.

    The next time you see an overweight child, rather than be disgusted with the parent, consider the complex factors that may be at play. Don't pity them, don't feel sorry for them, don't judge them. Instead, consider that you might not have all the facts, don't know their situation, and move on, realizing that our society has created this problem and it won't be fixed with dirty looks, nasty comments and removing children from their parents' care.

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    I think you're certainly correct in arguing that obesity isn't necessarily a simple problem and it may derive from a variety of other conditions and circumstances.  However, we also need to become much more realistic about it, especially as a society.

    It is no coincidence that as we've become more sedentary, the incidence of obesity has gone up.  It is also no coincidence that as we find fewer parents committed to family meals, etc. we find a much higher incidence of fast food as the primary staple.  In many cases, we find that families spend far more time in drive-thru's than they ever do actually cooking at home.  Coupled with our insatiable desire to watch television, sit on the computer, or play video games ... did we really expect a different outcome?

    I agree that it isn't about blame and certainly not about others placing blame.  However, it is about stepping up and accepting personal responsibility for our choices and the role models we present.  I know fully that my own issues with weight are 100% my fault and that it is precisely because I've become lazier with age that I've let it go.  As I said, I'm not talking about people that may have medical complications that exacerbate weight gain, but rather the overwhelming majority of people that are simply making poor food choices and are inactive.

    I suspect that the next generation may be more overweight, but I expect they'll have very slim fingers (from all the texting and video games).  Seriously, though, we need to stop looking for silver bullet solutions and begin recognizing that children's development is keenly tied to their ability to remain active.  Not only does it increase their health/fitness, but it provides potential opportunities for them to develop skills beyond those of simply generating a high score on an xBox.  Wii bowling is not exercise.  Guitar Hero is not musicianship.  Besides these types of activities, we are also creating a psychologically deprived generation that believes that simply scoring well on a video game is synonymous with doing well in an actual "real world" activity.  It's a generation of wanna-be's and we need to stop this trend if we expect a brighter future for our children.
    Mundus vult decipi
    kwombles
    Absolutely, to all of your comment.
    By judging other parents rather than looking at how society has changed, we're not going to get anywhere. It's about personal responsibility--but it's also about accepting that people's worth is not tied to their physical attributes.
    We need to provide opportunities for movement and encourage active lifestyles; it's not easy, though. Priorities have to change.  Education and opportunities for exercise and the money to put good quality meals on the table would be a start, though. We need to begin to really address this issue, but to do so in a way that takes into account how we've set our world up to make us obese. Tacky comments on Huffiington sure won't make that happen.

    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    «(...) but it's also aboutaccepting that people 's worth is not tied to their physical attributes» But life is crual, unfair and we don't evoluate into a kindergarden. All of us, all the living creatures, are growing into a competitive world... and I can respect an individual who wears many pounds in overweight, but nobody will convince me that to much fat is OK...

    To deny the problems who come with this problematic won't solve it. Whoever wants to lose weight, have to learn to tame the joy of cooking fresh foods, share it with his family or friends.

    I would agree as well that the obesity issue in America is complex and has many factors. I do not, however, agree that making excuses and placing blame on society for promoting unhealthy food, or the ease of access of high-calorie foods and fast food is the only way to address the issue. Parents are not the only role models a child has, but they are one of the most influential.

    People are becoming content with being overweight and accept the health side effects that come along with it. Losing weight and keeping it off is not an easy task, but maintaining a healthy body weight is a lifestyle change and one that is not out of reach of anyone.

    You are right, a person’s worth does not lie in how much they weigh, but their health does, and as a parent you should be invested in your child’s health.

    kwombles
     I do not, however, agree that making excuses and placing blame on society for promoting unhealthy food, or the ease of access of high-calorie foods and fast food is the only way to address the issue. Parents are not the only role models a child has, but they are one of the most influential. 
    I didn't say it was the only way to address the issue. And contrary to your second assertion, the influence that a parent has wanes significantly by the time children reach adolescence. So does their control over what children eat and how much they exercise.

    You are right, a person’s worth does not lie in how much they weigh, but their health does, and as a parent you should be invested in your child’s health.

    Me personally, or a universal "you"?  Did you not notice this paragraph: 

    I'm trying to teach my children that moderation and movement are key while also promoting the belief that a person's value lies not with his or her looks or weight but instead with who a person is, the character of the person and how he or she treats others.
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    Yes, I did see that paragraph and I did not criticize it at all; I actually agreed with what you said.

    And it was a universal "you," I think a child's health should be one of the top concerns of a parent.

    I am not arguing that all blame can be boiled down to the parents, but I think they need to take more responsibility. Many campaigns are aimed towards parents because they do still have control over their children, whether you believe they will follow you or not after reaching adolescence.

    Obesity is an epidemic in America and has major health side effects. It is not easy, it takes a lot of work, but a healthy lifestyle is attainable by anyone if the effort is there.

    I see that my first comments disappeared ??? So, I am gonna lay down again my ideas.

    Here, and in general, most of comments, about obesity, accuse different factors but rarely the most common psychological dynamic of all : The reverse Oedipus complex and the reverse Electra complex. Quickly, it means that parents are not the best advisers when comes the time to speak about it.

    In this phenomenon, the mother, unconsciously, denies her girl's weight problems because she wants to make her daughter and rival become unattractive for her husband...

    The same phenomenon happens when a mother become to close from her son. First, she psychologicly castrates him and second, as she wants to keep her son for her, she prefers him to be fat for becoming unattractive for girls...

    That is tough but the role of the mother during the psychosexual developments of her children is crucial : She has to know it and find masulin models for her sons and she has to take care about what happens between a father and his daughters...

    The ideas are not from me, but from Freud via a Québec famous psychiatrist : Dr Mailloux.