Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fat Kids Are NOT The Problem

The "fight against childhood obesity" is a pet peeve of mine and I'd like to take a few minutes to explain why.  There are a million directions I could take this, but a friend of mine has given me permission to share her story, so I'll start there.

Megan (not her real name) is 7 years old.  Megan, her mom, and her dad are vegan.  Megan's mom is a nutritionist and her dad works as a chef for a super-healthy local restaurant.  Her parents are health food nuts and even met and fell in love over a bond for healthy food. Megan has never had fast food or pop in her life. Her favorite foods are fiddleheads and stir-fried asparagus.  Megan drinks only water, plays soccer and swims almost every day, and doesn't even have a TV at her house. Both her parents are lean, athletic, and healthy.  Megan is healthy too; but at 7 years old, Megan is a chubby kid.  According to her BMI, Megan is overweight.  When you meet Megan, you notice she's sweet and friendly, but you also can't help but notice she's chubby.  Megan says that at school she's the "fat" kid, even though she doesn't eat junk food and tons of the other kids do.

Megan's diet is exceptionally healthy; most kids her age that I've met in my lifetime don't have diets that can even begin to stack up against Megan's.  I've known dozens of kids her age that have always been on a steady diet of junk food, processed food, and even pop.  Most of these kids were skinny little things, too, as kids often are due to their crazy fast metabolisms.  For example, check out Stacey Irvine, the lean 17 year old whose diet consists almost entirely of McDonald's nuggets and fries.  Stand Stacey Irvine up next to Megan and ask a complete stranger who they think is suffering from the "childhood obesity epidemic" and 100% of them would choose Megan, when in reality, no one should worry about her diet at all.

Now I understand Megan is an exception to the rule. I understand that most kids that are considered obese or even just overweight could probably stand to improve their diets some, if not a lot.  But here's the thing; by referring to the problem of poor diet as an "obesity" problem, you are only doing two things:

1.  Making fat kids feel terrible about themselves, whether their diets are poor or not, and whether or not they get enough physical activity and exercise

2.  Completely ignoring the horrible health problems that are happening inside the bodies of skinny kids that have terrible diets

Fat kids are not the problem. Unhealthy kids are the problem.  Crappy diets are the problem.  Kids not getting enough time outside is the problem.  Assuming that you can know the kind of diet a person has by just looking at them is the problem.

Fat kids are NOT the problem.

Until people start addressing this reality, there isn't going to be any real change or progress. And this is why "the fight against childhood obesity" is no fight of mine. 


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