Most of us seem to be pretty clear on child abuse. Hitting a kid, breaking arms, blacking eyes…that’s abuse, right? (except when the hitting is spanking and it’s discipline “for their own good,” but that is another post entirely) Right? Abuse? We wouldn’t dream of it being okay to endanger our child’s life by shoving him out into a busy street, would we? But when it comes to obesity and kids — morbid obesity — the rules seem less clear, if not downright fuzzy. How do super-fat kids get that way — nature? Nurture? Whose fault are fat kids?
[Non-PC Disclaimer Statement: With now 17% of this country's youth now squarely in the fat camp -- considered medically obese -- I don't see why I should tiptoe around the term. Fat. These kids are fat and I think there is no excuse and I am so going to use the word.]
I can see a case for blaming fat kids on Mom and Dad. After all, who buys the food in the house? Who sets the standard for healthy eating? Who locks (or doesn’t) the larder when Junior starts to outweigh his peers twice over? Is letting your kid get really really fat the same as abuse?
I can see a case for blaming pop culture. Mickey D’s. Taco Hell. High fructose corn syrup. Diet Coke for breakfast. The proliferation of cheap processed “food”. Long supermarket aisles devoted to snacks stuffed with hydrogenated fats and sugar. An endless mindsuck of TV commercials, mostly food-related. Yum.
I can see a case for blaming our food delivery system. Fresh whole foods, grown and treated without chemicals and minimally processed, are out of reach for many families stretching food dollars. I am surprised at the number of people who have never made a pot of beans or cooked a whole chicken, but a huge number of people have just never been exposed to much real cooking. It’s way easier to rip open a bag of Doritos than it is to make a salad. I get that.
I can see a case for blaming genetics. Born this way. Right? Fat kids have fat genes. Okay.
I can see a case for protecting fragile feelings. Who wants to hear a hard truth about himself? “Hey Johnny, you’re fat and you’re going to die early and you’re a drain on the medical system…” No one wants to hear that. Or be the one to say it. We have trained ourselves to instead say, “I love you the way you are. I love who you are INside.” We have so much unspoken judgment about appearance. It helps us feel better if we don’t have to own our judgments.
I can see a case for tough love. Boot camp. Full length mirrors. An army of support: personal trainers, therapists, nutritionists.
I am a little horrified about reports of obese kids being removed from their parents and placed in foster care, but on the other hand, is letting your kid get really fat a form of abuse? Who owns kids, anyway? Can the state just come in and take kids away if they’re fat? Should they?
I would like to think that most of us parents take true responsibility for our children. Most of us, if one of our children started tipping the scales too far, would take action. Get help. Be loving support. Make change.
I am a lot horrified that morbid obesity happens at all to children. I cannot imagine what it might feel like to be a prisoner of your own body that way. I cannot imagine NOT doing something to help someone from having to live in such an uncomfortable state.
I still don’t know whose fault fat kids are. I hope we start to wise up soon and figure it out before we all disappear into our couches.