Sparkly & Slimming….a Weight Loss Blog

Samantha's journey to slim down, while remaining sparkly!

A mini-rant about overweight kids….

on July 14, 2011

I’m not normally one to jump up on a soapbox when it comes to obesity and America. I have my views, but I rarely feel the need to share them in public or with perfect strangers…..

Yesterday was an exception.

I came this (.) close to lecturing this woman in front of me at the grocery store. She was a few inches shorter than me and about the same build, so I’d guess she was 250 or so. She was well-dressed and nice to chit-chat with as we were waiting to check out. Then I noticed her daughter. She was about 7 and she was a BIG girl (probably 100 pounds or close to it). It made me so sad. Her outfit was too small, and you could see little rolls on her arms and her back. She DESPERATELY wanted Mom’s attention…and Mom was ignoring her. She danced, she sang, she tugged on Mom’s pants…nothing. But then, her reward for “being good in line”? A candy bar. A GIANT candy bar.

I wanted to scream: “PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR KID AND STOP FEEDING HER CRAP!!!”

The whole scene made me so sad. I kept fast-forwarding 10 years in my head. The girl would be 17 and have an awful relationship with food. It will be her crutch, her go-to when she needs to feel better. She would mask her feelings with food and resent her mother for not paying attention to her.

Now maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe this Mom was just having an off day, but if so how could her 7-year-old weigh nearly 100 pounds?! Sigh. I’m not a mom, I have no idea how hard it must be to balance work life, social life and a family….but I do not that giving your kids food-related rewards isn’t the way to build a happy, healthy child.

It reminded me of my friend Molly who would bring her daughter to work on occasion. Molly’s daughter was short, and overweight by the age of 6.  Molly left the company I work at now, but I ran into her and her daughter about a year ago. Her daughter was 11 and had asthma, juvenile diabetes and she actually had trouble walking! It broke my heart. This was clearly caused from overeating and choosing TV over physical activity…how could anyone let that happen!? Sadly it seems that more and more kids are “obese” at a ridiculously young age.

Now, I’ve mentioned before I was heavy as a child. But, I wasn’t neglected by my parents, or pacified with candy.  I was a crafty little kid, I knew where the food was and I knew how to steal it! In hindsight nearly all my memories from elementary school have a food association! I wish I could go back in time and tell my 8-year-old self that food wouldn’t make kids at school be less mean….it would just make things harder in the long run. I wish I could have told that little girl in the grocery store to choose strawberries over candy, and that she was beautiful. Part of me wishes I had said something, but really it wasn’t my place.

Does anyone else have a knee-jerk reaction when they see obese kids? Did anyone else catch this article? (For the record I think the concept is ludicrous. The problem isn’t going to be solved by shipping kids off to foster home, it’s going to be solved by educating kids and parents on healthy choices!).  When I have kids I really want to impress healthy options upon them in both food choices and exercise. I think when I was in school no one really understood the long-term effects of eating processed crap and having gym once a week. Now-a-days we as a nation are much more aware of the calories in/calories out model.

What do you guys think? For those of you with kids or who work with kids do you teach them how to live healthier?

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15 responses to “A mini-rant about overweight kids….

  1. Christine says:

    like you mentioned, the problem starts with physical activities not considered as an important aspect of “learning” and gym classes get cuts. This affects the kids health shape but also their mental health. No wonders we have an epidemic of ADHD.

  2. Aleksie says:

    I read this article yesterday about our relationship with food (I think that the comparisons at the end were a bit extreme): http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/33KMFu/www.good.is/post/is-it-better-to-provide-health-food-or-to-eliminate-junk-food/

    In terms of parenting, if she is rewarding her kid with a candy bar every time she is well-behaved in line, I think there are a lot of problems going on. One is that she is using food as a reward frequently and two, shouldn’t her kid be able to behave in line without a reward?

    Re. food (and this may or may not apply to where you shop) and kids, a lot of “fresh” fruits and veggies are appalling in taste from the grocery store, unless you’re willing to pay for better grown food. Even more expensive produce doesn’t translate into flavor; I’ve paid out the wazoo for what I had thought would be good vegetables to be disappointed in their bland flavor. I’m someone who does eat and enjoy vegetables and fruit, but I imagine it would be difficult to convince a kid that eating fresh foods is good for him/her when a lot of them frankly suck; that probably translates into using ingredients that enhance the flavor but are ultimately pretty bad for you.

  3. Kate says:

    I do notice what people buy in the grocery store and I am amazed at how many people only buy processed foods, they can’t all be buying their produce at the Co-op.
    i have been reading Mrs. Q’s blog on Fed Up with Lunch for a year now and it continues to amaze me the lack of nutritional education we all receive. With the debate of overweight kids at home and at school, it still won’t be fixed until parents 1. understand what makes a nutritious meal and 2. have the means to pay for nutritious food, which in this economy is harder for a lot of people.

    • Shannon D. says:

      Funny I often worry that other people are judging what I buy at the grocery store, since it would be more on the processed food end of things (cereal, yogurt, bread) – because we get our vegetables at the farmer’s market and our meat in our meat co-op, I don’t need to buy those things at the grocery store. suspicions confirmed – I am in fact being judged.

      • I think I speak for both Kate and myself when I say I don’t judge people who have juice/cereal/yogurt in the carts. However, when a carriage is filled with frozen dinners, chips and JUNK then I will think to myself “Really?!!?”

  4. I am of many minds on this issue, so bear with me while I play the devil’s advocate on occasion.

    Food is not a great reward choice, but sometimes it is great motivator. Having sweets be a reward is an easy trap to fall into, and my kids, although very aware of healthy eating, still want sweets and complain when they aren’t around – which they aren’t lately as I’m on WW with the hubby. That being said, training the taste buds to enjoy non-processed, high fat, low nutritional value food is key and you have tos tart from the very beginning of solid foods. Honestly, I am SO sick of people who insist “They won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets/white bread/mac and cheese/hot dogs. No child is going to willingly starve themselves, but once they figure out they have an option other than what you have prepared for the family meal, they are going to press their advantage and it becomes a power issue. Food is non-negotioable – this is what we are having, like it or lump it – I’m not making you something different. Many families don’t have time for family meal times – I get that – but then offer the child something healthy, not one of the “kid friendly” foods every restaurant offers on their kid’s menu – chicken nuggets, PB&J, spaghetti(if you’re lucky), pizza – usually the frozen overprocessed kind, mac and cheese – usually from an institutional can, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries. Why do they assume – even in a seafood or ethinc restaurant – that every kid wants one of those boring, over processed, over-presented items. And why are we surprised when they is all they will eat, and those bland, salty flavors are all they enjoy when they are older?

    I tried to feed my girls a wide variety of foods, but they both are heavy. It breaks my heart, and I pack them the healthiest lunches you can imagine and they eat them – but now that they are older they seek out the bad stuff with their friends. Genetically, they are doomed to never be tall and thin, and I’m watching their friends – who ARE tall and thin – battling severe anorexia and bulimia. Like your magazine blog showed, we send horrible mixed messages in all our media. Get thin or you’re ugly – but you just can’t eat only one of our super snack food! The exercise issue is a brutal one – kids sit all day in school without recess, gym class is a boot camp rather than a way of teaching students how to play various sports that might actually be fun and help kids enjoy activity – and then they come home to TV and ipods and computers with hours of homework. How do you force exercise (when they were little we’d get out and do things, but now they are resistant and frankly, life is busy!) and not give your child a complex?

    I AM angry when I see a child that is seriously obese, but I also think about what other factors may be at work – steroids for asthma or chemotherapy? I try not to judge – how can I? I’m fat and so are my kids! But then again I know what I provide for them as far as food is concerned. Should I send them to fat camp? Lock them in their rooms so they can’t get other food?

    One of my girls has really been adjusting their portions and trying to loosely follow what we are doing for Weight Watchers, but the other is eating more to rebel against her sister, and the whole self-image thing is debated daily. They pore over fashion magazines and modeling shows and hate themselves, yet they cry on gym days because they hate it so much. As a society we need to find a happy medium. The new rules controlling what is eaten in schools are a nice idea, but can be taken to extremes. I see nothing wrong with a child bringing in cupcakes for their birthday, but I see no need for a soda machine in the cafeteria. Also, I don’t think it is what they are eating at school that is the problem – it is what they eat at home and after school that has the strongest effects, but I think the exercise factor is just as big an issue.

    I know I’m not offering answers, just expressing the myriad frustrations of a fat mom with heavy girls who I wish I could save from the slights in their future.

    • I completely agree with your need for the world to find a happy medium. I think I love your girls because I totally relate to them. I hated gym, I loved fashion shows and I never felt good enough. My mom packed me healthy lunches but all my thing friends ate junk, so I did too. Then I would come home and lie, because I didn’t want to hurt my mom. Sigh. The whole is so frustrating!
      *hugs* to you, and the girls.

  5. I do feel sad when I see obese babies – and I’m not talking about babyfat. I’ve only seen it a few times but this is where the baby is so fat it can’t move – where the baby looks like it weighs 50 lbs. Because I know a baby isn’t choosing to eat junk food …
    For older kids, I guess part of me thinks about two things – a) my best friend through most of childhood was the girl who was just born to be overweight – she ate or acted no differently from the rest of us. People made fun of her – which made me so mad. So that’s my empathy side. and then I have my b) why are there so many more big kids these days? And how sad it is that they will have to battle their weight their whole life.
    For our own child, I haven’t been that perfect. You know, some people only give their kids healthy foods. I want him to have some of the treats in life too. Ice cream is delicious. What would life be without ice cream once in a while? But I have to be careful not to reward with food because I am sure I would do that in a heartbeat (heck, I reward MYSELF with food sometimes.) You can’t make a kid eat vegetables. I have in fact seen my child go away from the table hungry night after night not eating anything that we put on his plate (which I have independently confirmed to be delicious so…who knows).

    • My sister’s 4 year old, who would eat any food for the first two years, not eats about 3 things only and refuses everything else. She only wants to eat ice cream or chocolate. Her mother is a chocoholic, so I supposed she was born to it, but she is also a marathons runner and healthy eater otherwise. The dad is a serious extremem sports guy who doesn’t care a bit for dessert, but somehow the child has decided she will only eat chicken nuggets (and only about 1 and a half total), toast with peanut butter, or toast with Nutella. My sister is losing her mind, but her pediatrician told her he swears he didn’t actually see his daughter eat any solid food between the ages of 4 and 6. He told ehr to just keep offering the healthy options – which she does like crazy – and her daughter doesn’t appear to be withering away. I guess she gets her nutrients from the air. Of course you get concerned as a parent, but at the same time a child is not going to starve herself unless in a serious power game. The sad thing is how they push Ensure and Gatorade and such for kids – high fat, salt, and sugar – as a means of providing nutrition. Great for a child who is genuinely ill, but needed so rarely. I used to have a student – 7 years old – who was heavy with a little sister who wasn’t. EVery morning she showed up with McDonald’s for breakfast, until the doctor told her mother she was heavy, so the mother started sending ehr to school with a Slim-fast shake for breakfast and lunch – while still buying McDonald’s for the younger girl in front of her sister. I was furious!
      I was always heavy, my sister wasn’t. We ate the same foods in the same house – which was never processed commercial food – mom cooked and baked everything – but I’ll admit that I had a far greater appetite than my sister. In first and scond grade the school nurse would randomly search my lunch, making me come to her office and empty my lunchbox on her desk to see if she approved of my lunch like she was trying to catch my mother being a bad parent. She never succeed – Mom packed a lovely lunch. Some kids are goign to be heavier, and we need to let these children be accepted rather than mocked, pitied, or despised, yet I do not deny a severe upswing in childhood obesity for the reasons given – processed foods and horrible lack of physical activity. How many kids eat an unadulterated or dip coated veggie these days?

    • I understand about using food as a reward sometimes, I do it, you do it, we all do it! My issue was really with the little girl getting a KING SIZED candy bar simply for being “good in line” – the whole thing was just so crazy to me!

  6. Sandy says:

    I work at a small farm market that’s part of a bigger local farm company, and a woman came in with her kids. By the time they got up to my line, the kids were BEGGING for a cantaloupe, and the mom told them no, but she’d get them blueberry muffins. I mean WHAT THE HELL?

  7. Sandy, I am cracking up “the blueberry muffins suck but no one knows that!”. You should start telling people! 😉

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