Fat and Not Afraid

Respect and love are for EVERY body.

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Childhood Obesity-Now with 5-2-1-0 more rules!

January 17, 2012

When you google the words 'childhood obesity canada' the first site that comes up is the Childhood Obesity Foundation, a registered British Columbia charity that's "dedicated to educating Canadian children, their families and care givers, educators, business and government about the problem of childhood obesity." As a website it's bright and colourful, well laid out and easy to navigate. The other day I went straight to the Facts/Complications of Childhood Obesity section to see what was in there and it didn't disappoint: did you know obesity can lead to dementia? Me neither! However, under the "Who's At Risk" section, buried under the usual calories in, calories out arguement, were these reasons a child might be overweight or obese: 

  • comes from a family of overweight people where genetics may be a factor, especially if healthy eating and physical activity are not a priority in the family
  • comes from a low-income family who do not have the resources or time to make healthy eating and active living a priority
  • has a genetic disease or hormone disorder such as Prader-Willi syndrome or Cushing's syndrome

Well huzzah! Something based in reality and studies, not stereotypes! The site also acknowledges here that kids who are overweight or obese face a lot of social stigma, bullying and are at risk of depression and suicide. Just ask the kids in Georgia what that's like.

Under "What Familes Can Do" there is a 5-2-1-0 plan, where 5 is for servings of fruits and veg, 2 is the maximum amount of screen time a day, 1 is the desired amount of hours of physical activity per day, and 0 is the number of sugary drinks kids should have.  There is also a list of other things, like be authoritative when it comes to meal times, snacks, etc, don't set your kids up to 'fail' by keeping junk food in the house, and have a healthy pregnancy, as both underweight and overweight infants can become obese. (The only study I've seen shows that infants who are hungry in the womb go on to put on 'extra' weight because their body is deep in survival mode and never really leaves it.) Finally, at the very bottom, is a note on diets. Again, this is a positive thing and if it were my site it'd be at the top of the page.

"Placing a normal or overweight child on a diet is known to harm a child’s health. It can affect their normal growth and development, and damage their delicate self-esteem. Focusing on a child’s weight can stigmatize a child and may cause further over-eating. Focus on the child, not their weight. Regardless of your child’s weight or shape, help them to love and respect themselves by praising their skills and strengths."

The entire Schools section is a repeat of the 5-2-1-0 thing, but under Government is something a bit scary. The Childhood Obesity Foundation thinks that the government of Canada needs to fund more obesity treatment centres, lamenting that there are only a 'handful' across the country. What is an obesity treatment centre? That sounds like a specialized fat camp to me! Nothing says "love your kids just the way they are" than sending them away to a treatment centre to 'fix' them, especially when noone knows how to permanently make a fat person thin.

On the Board of Directors are doctors, lots and lots of doctors, and a lawyer, all here in my very own province of British Columbia. Their Mission Statement is as follows:

The mission of the Childhood Obesity Foundation is to identify, evaluate and promote best practices in healthy nutrition and physical activity to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity.

The vision of the Childhood Obesity Foundation is children and youth of Canada free of chronic diseases that ensue from obesity.

Good luck, folks (and I mean that sarcastically) as there have always been, and always will be, fat people. Somehow I think these doctors have forgotten that correlation does not equal causation. Even if every kid in the country followed the 5-2-1-0 rules, had a neighbourhood where they could go play and be safe outside, had parents who could afford healthy nutritious food at every meal, had time then to eat those meals with their kids, do every single good thing to promote health and not thinness, there would still be fat kids! Then what are they going to do? Throw them in an obesity treatment centre?

Overall the site is definitely not something I would send a friend too if they wanted info on childhood obesity. It's a lot of scare-mongering wrapped up in assumptions and I think might do more harm than good, despite the little gems of 'no diets' and 'fat can be genetic or economic/class related' hidden away in there. Is there a childhood obesity website out there written by a FA person? If there isn't, I know what my next project will be, and I know just who to get to help me out.

In the meantime, here's a pic of Gabe telling the COF to chill out.

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