Written by Jonathan Aluzas

Why Don’t You Just Buy Your Kid a Pack of Smokes – Child Obesity (Part One)

This is not the kids' fault, it's the parents.
Is this healthy eating?

Long before the data began pouring in about the staggering increase in child obesity I began noticing that kids just seemed fatter and more out of shape than they used to be.? It was just an observation, but seemed terribly obvious to me (it was one of those things that, when studies came out, I thought “Good lord, someone actually paid for a study on this?? You can look around for FREE and come to the same conclusion!”).

In recent years I’ve noticed a cultural shift in our children.? They don’t move.? They just don’t move.? When I was a kid, everyone played sports, and everyone played multiple sports.? There was no down time, we’d just transition from one uniform to another as the year went on.? Everyone climbed trees and played tag, everyone played Danish or dodge ball at recess.? Keeping us inside on rainy days was cruel and unusual punishment and usually ended with us being ejected into the wet outdoors just to shut us up, even if it meant having a kid come home covered in mud.? Even the heavy kids were active, they were just, well, larger.? It seems that the minority of them play organized sports and even fewer are active on their own accord.

When we were kids they used to have to drag us in by the hair when the sun went down.? My brother and I would be in the cul-de-sac playing baseball in the complete darkness, unable to see the ball, swinging wildly into the blackness but screaming “One more inning, Mom!” when she’d come to the front door to yell at us to come in for dinner.? And then, after we pounded down some Rice-a-Roni and Mackerel patties (the most disgusting meal on Earth and one about which I still consider contacting Child Protective Services) we’d run back out the front door for a game of ditch or Army with the neighbor kids.? Now, it seems like you have to take a baseball bat to a kid to get him OUT the front door.? So, instead of looking at this issue through a filter of my own prejudices and yearnings for days of yore, let’s take a look at the agreed-upon facts:

1.? Kids are fat and getting fatter.

This goes beyond observation to accepted fact.? In the last generation, obesity rates have more than doubled for children 2-5 years old and ages 6-11 years old and, even worse, have more than tripled for kids ages 12-19 years old.

2. And they’re getter fatter and fatter because?

So, why the sudden change?? I’m sure there are profit-motive driven vultures out there who would have you believe it is due to carbs, or hormones in chicken or sugar or something, but the answers are, as always, much simpler:

  • Less physical activity – 1 in 3 high school youth do not engage in vigorous physical activity.? That’s right, 33% of all high school kids don’t do ANY reasonable physical activity and less than 30% have gym or P.E. class.? LESS THAN 30% OF KIDS DON’T HAVE P.E. IN SCHOOL!? How is this acceptable?? (Why is it that whenever bureaucrats take the red pen to school programs, art programs and physical fitness, two of the most important developmental activities, are the first to go?)
  • More calories – Obese children tend to eat larger portions and crappier food, which, compounded with less physical activity, results in weight gain.
  • Technology, designed to simplify lives, is living up to it’s purpose.? In fact, it’s simplifying kids’ lives so much that they don’t have to move, think or act creatively.? Cool.? Fact:? Kids who spend more time watching television and playing video games are at a higher risk of becoming overweight.
  • Rarely, a medical condition will contribute to obesity, and there is research being conducted to see if environmental factors play a role and blah blah blah.? But, seriously, it’s the extra calories and the sedentary lifestyles, people.

3.? And the obese kid becomes the obese adult.? Isn’t that nice?

It’s true.? Statistics show that obese children are likely to become obese adults.

4.? And obese adults become:

Sick.? Then dead.? Asthma, diabetes, gallstones, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver problems, menstrual problems, sleep disorders, high cholesterol, bone and joint problems, cancer, osteoarthritis and social and psychological problem.

5.? But here’s the one that makes me want to cry:

Obese teens are as likely to die young as heavy smokers. Did you catch that?? I had to do a double and triple-take when I first saw the article.? If you allow your child to become obese he is as likely to die young as is a heavy smoker.? Here it is:

So, what do we do with all of this gut-wrenching information?? Because, certainly, the purpose of this post isn’t to simply yell fire in a crowded theater. This isn’t about making fun of overweight kids.? This isn’t about blaming the kids at all, this is about taking a look at where lack of leadership and parenting are setting precedents that result in behavior that is unhealthy for our children.? Kids do not parent themselves.

This isn’t about appearance.? I don’t care about the aesthetics of obese kids except to the extent that it causes social isolation and confidence/identity issues for the child.? This is about health.? Creating an environment of permissiveness devoid of boundaries does not honor the value of the child.

But we have to assess the problem before determining the proper approach to solution.? So, chew on this for a while, and in a future installment of this issue we’ll start to dig into solution.? Because, the good news is, there is a solution.

Jonathan Aluzas is the owner of Arena Fitness in Encino, California.