July 27, 2010

Fat Kids

I'm going to use the F-word a lot. No, not that one. Fat. I promise that I don't mean to be insensitive or in any way offensive. Really. I don't want one email claiming otherwise.

We were at the pool the other day - because, let's face it, that's where we always are - and Beth and I noticed something. Or, rather, a lot of somethings. Fat people. This was not at all surprising because for the last decade we've all been told ad nauseum that the population is becoming increasingly heavy over time. But what caught my eye was the number of overweight kids.

I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, growing up in Texas where everything lives up to the expected reputation is bigger. Including portion size. Now, I'm pretty sure in the late sixties, Texas banned hippies from living in the state making small exceptions for college towns like Austin. But my mom broke the mold. She didn't wear long tie-dyed skirts or burn patchouli in the kitchen but she did make every effort to avoid crappy foods and eat naturally before eating organic was trendy. This is why I was, like, eight before I had a piece of candy and my Easter eggs were always filled with raisins and Cheerios. (My dad eventually could no longer take it, considering this something that bordered on child abuse and forced my mother into purchasing candy.)

These decent eating habits (though I will admit to the occasional candy-binge) combined with damn good genetics have allowed me to stay about the same weight for the last twenty years. (I realize I am the exception, not the rule.)

All of this is a very long way of saying that, despite the bigger is better attitude of my home state, I knew virtually no fat kids when I was growing up. In fact, I remember only one overweight kid through elementary school and junior high and thinking back, I'm not sure he'd really even fit today's standards of fat.

1. We're all too busy. It's so much easier to eat crap when you're in a hurry. This summer has really opened my eyes to that. With two kids needing to be different places, everyone in a hurry, events to attend, the easiest way to make sure they get something to eat has been jetting through a drive-through or calling for pizza delivery.

2. Good food is more expensive. It's just that simple. Vegetables cost more than burgers.

3. Kids aren't as active. There's more to do sitting down than I ever had available to me. Video games (okay, I did have an Atari 2600), computers and the internet all keep kids tied down to one place.

4. Security. When I was a kid, I'd take off on my bike in the morning and be back in time for dinner. Society has changed in the last thirty years. We're a little more concerned about the world being mean to our kids because it's been proven that we have to be. We let them roam a little less.

Your thoughts? Am I right, wrong, or just devilishly handsome?

Posted by Chris at July 27, 2010 7:09 AM

My mom insisted we each have out protien allotment. The only thing we could have seconds on was the vegetables. So I love veggies!
I also rode my bike everywhere. Hey, in the 60's you could do that and it was okay. I also walked everywhere too (including to the local store to buy milk, bread and cigarettes for my mother! lol)
I'm quite guilty of being an over-eater now. I love all forms of junk food, and when I do my best at Weight Watchers, it's when I eat simple. Simple broiled fish, chicken or very lean meats and LOTS of veggies!
Kids? Yes, some of the kids around here are also weight challenged. And it really makes me sad!

Posted by: Maribeth at July 27, 2010 7:34 AM

i've been thinking about that a lot lately... remembering my mom and grandmother making everything from scratch... and every meal had a vegetable and a starch and a protein...and even included dessert! and i was a skinny kid! now, even in restaurants you sometimes have to ask for vegetables... and like you, i came home when the street lights were on... except in winter, we had an ice rink... and on friday and saturday we got to go at night until 10! but we skated every single night!!! there came a point in my life (no kids) where i had a schedule that left little time to eat at all...so i just didn't... just made sure i had a very good breakfast every morning... now everything is some kind of processed and chemically grown... you have to wonder if even if it wasn't "fast" food, if the chemicals just add to the problem... i mean it took a while to figure out when i saw personal ads what they meant by "no muffin tops"!!!... you are right.........oh...........and devilishly handome??? eh...okay...but then again... i'm a lesbian...

Posted by: theunicorn at July 27, 2010 7:36 AM

You are right.
I have a few of my class pictures on FaceBook and looking at them - esp. 8th grade pics, we had maybe 2 overweight kids in a class of 25-30. The kids in the elem. school I work at there are probably 5 or 6 in a class of 20.
They eat junk - ice cream or chips - everyday, whatever is for sale. Some eat only the snacks, never they're sandwich or the hot lunch.
They don't go out to play when they're home. I could drive by a neighborhood with a high concentration of kids and there's no one out. My "little" says he doesn't play outside during the day, his grandmother makes him stay inside. Probably because she doesn't want him out there unless she's out there and it's hot out. He is 8 and chubby - because he eats only a bagel at lunch (usually because he's still full from snack when he had 2 chocolate packaged cupcakes).
Yes, it's a problem.

Posted by: NancyJ at July 27, 2010 7:45 AM

You are absolutely correct on all counts.

Now what?

Is there something that can be done?

What's the solution?

Posted by: Zissy at July 27, 2010 7:45 AM

So right on! My kids don't have the same priveleges that I had growing up in the 70's. But I do think that fat kids are a product of their parents. It all starts with us. My kids see us work out on a regular basis and they are pretty self aware. My 11 year old thought that he had love handles (which is crazy), so he started doing push ups. They do play lots of video games, what else are we to do when it's 115 degrees outside. But it's about finding a balance and sometimes when I don't want to, I have to get off my ass and take them somewhere to run and jump around.

Posted by: Nila at July 27, 2010 7:54 AM

I read your post twice and I fail to see any point here. Did you also notice more color in the pool??? Fat, skinny, white, black or yellow we are all just people and why notice?? Ohhh...I know...you are worried about your health care going up because fat people are are covered... Whatever...go gag on a doughnut and some overpriced coffee on your way to your white color job where you can notice some more fat people from your big office window. Loser!

Posted by: linda at July 27, 2010 8:26 AM

I happen to think your are right. Of course this is being said from someone that is now back at the gym trying to lose the weight that has crept up on her (brownies has been her way of dealing with stress in her life.)

But, heavy or not, I do agree with what you have said. I also blame media. Fast food/processed foods are pushed that they are "healthy" and easy for us. Media images are so ridiculous that no regular person can hope to achieve their look when you do not have 8 hours to spend in the gym, afford a personal trainer and chef and have someone photoshop all your magazine spreads.

But I'm blaming everyone else but myself so I guess I need to look inward. But back to you....yes I'm sure you are devilishly handsome.

Posted by: daisy at July 27, 2010 8:31 AM

I think you are a great writer and you have some really original thoughts. With that being said, I think this is an extremely unoriginal post. People have been making these observations for years. It seems as though you watched Dateline or one of those schnazy investigative journalism shows before writing this post! We are aware that kids are playing more vidoe games and watching more TV these days and therefore, are fatter than when we were allowed to ride our bikes miles at a time without worrying so much about being kidnapped or abused.

In any case, I am sure you must have a valid point because everyone else sees the same thing in today's youth.

I look forward to reading your future posts!

Posted by: Winna at July 27, 2010 8:36 AM

You're right and I could have written that post. I didn't read one word by the way making fun of overweight kids (or adults), just concern.

Posted by: Ann Elizabeth Adams at July 27, 2010 8:48 AM

You should read some of Black Hockey Jesus' posting on this. He talks about our society embracing fat "I am big and I am beautiful" mentality is hurting us.

Also, fat people sitting next to a pool is wrong, theyhave the opportuniyto tbe in the pool excercising.

Posted by: William at July 27, 2010 9:34 AM


Lack of nutritional education at home or in school combined with poverty and the belief passed from generation to generation in many families that fat kids are healthy kids are contributing factors.

Drastic budget cuts in the school breakfast and lunch programs here have hurt as well. Starch is cheap. Of course the same thing (starch is cheap) applies to poor families. When my three great-granddaughters that I was raising were in elementary school, I saved the cost of 30 meals a week with school meals. I made up the nutritional lack at home and the girls stayed slim and healthy.

I've seen one bright spot here. WIC has added fresh fruits and vegetables to its list. They hold nutrition classes and pass out cooking booklets. Now our local downtown Farmer's Market is accepting WIC and I see many young moms shopping there on my early Saturday mornings.

Posted by: Ann Elizabeth Adams at July 27, 2010 9:45 AM

This was my Facebook status update on Saturday.

"Witnessed last night at Cracker Barrel: A morbidly obese 12ish year old licking the plates after he consumed a dinner of nothing but assorted fried foods. I wasn't sure if I wanted to slap the kid, his parents, or all of the above".

Kids are definitely heavier today.I stumbled into my 2nd grade class picture recently and there is was not a single overweight kid in my class. We decided early on that both kids would have to have a sport that they participated in regularly. That seems to have worked as both kids are teenagers that are serious about their chosen sports, and both are in good shape. I wish I had steered them towards cheaper sports though...

Posted by: COD at July 27, 2010 10:11 AM

I think you're right.

I had to comment after seeing the comment about WIC providing fruit/veggies now. Yes, they do. However, there is a $10 a MONTH cap on that (for a pregnant woman with no other children under 5). $10 a month doesn't buy much, but it's a start.

Posted by: js at July 27, 2010 10:32 AM

You ARE devilishly handsome, but I have to agree with you on the whole fat thing. Nothing makes me so angry as seeing all the "extra wide" chairs that have proliferated in doctors' offices in the last few years.

Posted by: Heather at July 27, 2010 10:37 AM

It's the same for me. I didn't know but maybe one or two fat kids when I was growing up. Our standard meals were fried, and usually contained gravy. Still, I was never overweight and like you, have been the same weight for the past 20 years. I'm very active, and I limit my junk food (but still love it).

Almost daily, my kids ask, "Is good for us?". My answer is always the same (which makes me wonder why they continue to ask), "if it is a fruit or vegetable, it is good for you. Everything else is either just OK, or bad for you. We can eat OK things and bad things, but not too much of them." They usually finish my sentence.

I think you're right of course, but I hadn't thought about the free range nature of the previous decades. I bet that does contribute... however, I contend that my kids get more-than-average daily exercise within my eye-sight.

Posted by: Brad at July 27, 2010 11:32 AM

Probably a little of each. :-P

I'm a skinny person too. I am underweight (just a little) for my 6' frame and I eat whatever the hell I want and I don't work out. My husband is the same way, although his folks, not so much.

However, my ex-husband, and consequently, our daughter, come from heavy stock. Everyone in my ex's immediate family is built sturdily and has to work out to stay in a fit weight range. My daughter is 5 feet and change at 10 years old and weighs about 110 lbs. This borders on obese and causes me no end of anxiety. She doesn't really look "fat" unless you see her in a two-piece swimsuit. Her doctor waved me off and said, she's at the top of her height-weight range, but don't even talk to me about this until she's 13. She will probably struggle with this all her life and it breaks my heart because everyone else in the house is thin without trying. She doesn't have self-esteem issues right now, and I hope it stays that way.

She's an active kid, plays soccer and roller hockey with enthusiasm and success, rides her bike and Razor scooter. She doesn't spend much time in front of the laptop or TV. We eat square meals, no juice except on special occasions, rare candy. I don't know what else to do for her except repeat the doctor's mantra "Leave it until she's 13."

Posted by: Brooke at July 27, 2010 11:58 AM

I'm thin, my boys are bean poles, we are very active, and we eat pretty healthy.

I'm blown away by the absolute CRAP that parents eat, and that they allow their kids to eat. If I hear one more time "finish all of your chicken nuggest and fries!" WHY? The nutritional value is next to nothing when you count the fat, calories, and sodium.

I'm a single mom of two boys. I work full time. One races two nights a week at the track - 26 miles away. And that one has tennis practice twice a week. The other swims one night a week - 19 miles away, and plays piano one night a week. Then homework, church functions, etc. We are busy. It is NOT that hard to cook a quick meal that is a ton healthier than the Happy Meal. Ore Ida French Fries, grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, soup, canned veggies, frozen veggies, a quick, frozen pizza, pasta, grilled shrimp and Uncle Ben's rice . . . I'm so tired of the "we're busy" excuse. It's an EXCUSE. Quit using it.

And - I'm a free range parent. I don't buy that we really "have to be" more concerned about our kids now than 30 years ago. The statistics don't back it up, either.

These fat kids are being set up for a life long struggle with weight and the diseases associated with it. And really? It's their parents fault.

Posted by: Mindy at July 27, 2010 11:59 AM

I would add in that our portions are way out control. I was at the mall the other day and saw an entire overweight family (including 2 little kids) drinking supersized sodas. Those things probably contain an entire *day* worth of calories. It made me really, really sad. Six year olds don't need to be drinking soda (honestly, none of us needs to be drinking soda) and they definitely shouldn't be drinking soda in a container that would be too big for an adult.

Posted by: Hope at July 27, 2010 12:40 PM

"Drastic budget cuts in the school breakfast and lunch programs here have hurt as well. Starch is cheap. Of course the same thing (starch is cheap) applies to poor families."

Thank you Ann for pointing out that this is a problem of epic proportions for the working poor in this country. That fact that WIC only NOW allows fruits and vegetables on the list when the vast majority of people on WIC are children and the elderly is just insane.

The conversation around this issue has to do with money. Trying to make sure your kids have ANY food can sometimes reduce your choice in what food that is.

When our politicians say things like "How do we have hungry children AND a childhood obesity problem?" it really makes me angry. Do some research and find out how much of a problem this is in our country.

Here's a good link to a conversation about the expense of good quality food: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128671673

Posts like this where judgment is clothed as concern make me angry.

Still love reading you and will continue to do so but I think you made a misstep here in not researching the issue at hand. Posts like this encourage the whole "Fatties are disgusting" attitude. Just read through the comments.

Perhaps growing up and actually BEING hungry AND "fat" as a child has given me a little more compassion but I think the kind of contempt being slung around in these comments shows just what kind of person I DON'T want to be.

Posted by: tulip at July 27, 2010 12:42 PM

I too rode my bike everywhere. I would leave at 9am and bike 5 miles into town and trek back home at 4pm My mom wanted me to cross the highway in town before 4 - to avoid rush hour traffic. which.. in my town was usually a couple tractors and a few commuters..

I agree video games and hand held devices are contributing to the overweight-ness. I only allow the kids to use theirs when its raining out. However I've noticed with mine.. even if I send them outside.. they are usually sitting under a tree with a book. at least they're getting fresh air, right?

We try not to eat a lot of fast food. It really helps that the closest fast food resteraunt is about 20 minutes away.. with the acceptions of a few bar/grills in town.. its really just easier to eat at home. the kids love veggies too.. my oldest will take a carrot over a piece of candy.. the other two not so much.. but they do love their veggies.. just not as much as candy.

I grow a lot of my own veggies .. and for the things I don't grow I go to the Organic farm in town or the Farmer's market. I keep an abundance of fruit in the house... and my six year old surprised me last night by choosing a banana over a granola bar for a snack!

To me .. eating healthy most of the time makes those rare trips to McDonalds (etc..) seem more like a special treat rather than the norm.

As far as activity.. we're in martial arts 2xs a week.. the kids have been in summer rec programs all summer long.. and they take the dog for a walk on a daily basis.

Not sure if I answered what you were asking.. but that's what we do here!

Posted by: Molly at July 27, 2010 1:10 PM

You're certainly devilishly handsome, though I can't help but think your vegetarian diet has played a role in maintaining your weight. Just think about all those hormones and steroids in meat that you're missing out on!

I feel the same as you, but I'm going to go ahead and point the finger at the Western diet. I'm also going to go ahead and say that it's making us fat! I am placing the blame! On the corporations who make this "food" and have created an environment in which it's hard to avoid! That's right, I'm calling us Americans victims... we have the choice to change what we eat, of course, but it ain't easy. I don't know about you, but I don't have a marketing budget for fancy commercials, you know?

Anyway, you saw Food, Inc, right? The food we eat is drastically different from what our grandmas ate growing up and is not, in fact, food. It's changing the way our body works, it's effing up our endocrine systems, and it's creating chemical reactions in our brain that make us eat more, and the cycle is damn hard to break. I don't eat fast food much anymore, but when I do, I'm astounded at 1) the amount of food I eat and 2) the immediate craving to eat more. How am I not full?! It's amazing.

I don't think Americans are at fault. I just don't. Though these days I blame most things on Corporate America, yes, the Corporate America that pays me, I know, what a hypocrite I am. :)

Posted by: Erin at July 27, 2010 1:12 PM

To the security remark:

We are more AWARE of the problems, but from personal experience and from hearing from other people older than us, those dangers have always been around. There are always predators, always risks. We're just being honest about it now.

Posted by: alektra at July 27, 2010 2:08 PM

Great post...except the last bit about needing to be more worried about our kids. We're more safe today than in the past.

May I suggest checking out www.freerangekids.com ? I think it's a brilliant site that challenges our ideas of good parenting. Cheers!

Posted by: Tammie at July 27, 2010 2:16 PM

Please DON'T read those "Fatties are Disgusting and should all hate themselves" diatribes by Black Hockey Asshole, as suggested by William. What a complete load of elitist drivel.

I must admit that ater reading the first few lines of this post, I put my hand over my eyes and read between my fingers. All I could think was that I couldn't lose another favourite blogger to the FATTIES ARE DISGUSTING!!1! meme that seems to be circling the internets. Thankfully, you presented the issue in a non-blaming-ask-questions-before-you-shoot kind of way. Kudos to you, Chris.

Personally, I think there are a lot of factors that contribute to obesity: poverty, greater access to processed foods, even the lowering of the BMI standards (seriously, they recently lowered the weight to height ratio so that people who were previously just overweight by BMI were now classified as obese). See here for a great illustration of what overweight/obese/morbidly obese REALLY looks like:


Sorry, I'm not good at making links.

An aside to Heather: "Nothing makes me so angry as seeing all the "extra wide" chairs that have proliferated in doctors' offices in the last few years." Really? NOTHING makes you so angry? Not one thing? Not child abuse? Poverty? Murder? Making human beings comfortable in a waiting room makes you THE MOST angry? Interesting.

Posted by: Procrastamom at July 27, 2010 2:19 PM

I sometimes struggle to see the obese in society. Spending time with my family this weekend we have maybe 1-2 members who would be considered overweight, and neither of them are children. I think that if kids get out and play like we did...not sitting in front of a video game or tv then things would be different. I remember eating fast food growing up, but I also danced 3 nights a week, played soccer, and played "street ball" whenever I could. Very rarely was I sitting down and not moving. That is the problem...kids today don't move around--they sit in front of the tv or video games.

Posted by: Krush at July 27, 2010 2:38 PM

When I was a kid, we were expected to be out of the house for certain hours; summers, we were pushed out most of the day. As a result, we ran and rode everywhere. We played softball and whatever sport or activity we could find with other neighborhood kids. My sisters and I for the most part were skinny and very active. We didn't have or get much junk food.

I wish my son had some of this, but he's not a sports kid. He has some fine motor issues; his idea of exercise is walking or running on the track and shooting hoops. He works out when I drag him along, otherwise he isn't active.

I force him to eat fruit a few times a day. Working with him to make better choices as I realize that if I don't allow him anything that he's going to go nuts when he moves out. My hubby has had issues with his weight most of his life, so we are trying to teach our son moderation and how to lead an active, healthy life. Problem is today's kids lead different lives. I often regret allowing video games into the house.

We went to a local county fair a few days ago. I couldn't help, but notice in places like this how much bigger people are. The majority of people are heavier. We eat out more often than a generation or two ago.

Cooking was a priority in my grandparent's generation and they relished in making things from scratch. Most of us have gotten away from that for convenience and not everyone loves to cook.

There is no easy answer as we are creating a big issue with the younger generation. The military is getting huge numbers of recruits that they can't consider because they are simply too heavy and can't meet the physical requirements of military service.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at July 27, 2010 3:13 PM

Definitely a trend, but I think that there is more at work than bad parenting ( although that is a factor ). I was in CVS this morning, and since I'm currently on a health kick, got a bottle of water and at the front desk to checkout thought I'd grab something healthy to munch; then it dawned on me that of the entire 30 feet of display, there was _nothing_ that could be considered healthy. We're bombarded by really crap food choices.

So, we're a market driven / regulated economy, so let's get proactive -> give a tax break to any food / minimart type of place that offers healthy snacks marketed along with the "unhealthy" snacks. Make the rules that the price point has to be competitive with the unhealthy snacks ( no double dipping - getting the tax break _and_ scoring massive profit from markup ).

And let's take a look are really changing the rules for food manufacture. All the hype about high fructose corn syrup aside, the bottom line is that chemically it does not trigger the same response in the body as sugar, so you never get that "full" switch hit ( which is why you can scarf a bag of oreos but not a plate of home baked cookies; try it ).

Finally from my soapbox, let's work with Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft to get parental "play limit" settings on video games, and help channels like Nickelodeon continue their "Go out and Play" campaign, which encourages kids to not watch TV but to do something else. This needs to be coordinated and coupled with initiatives in the community to get kids outside and playing, whether it is neighborhood games with parent groups, or specific times for police presence to make parents feel better about letting their kids play.

OK, getting off the box now...

Posted by: metawizard at July 27, 2010 4:20 PM

I spent my summers in the pool. All day long. I also left on my bike in the morning and went home at dark. I was the fat kid in your school picture. I will not put on a swimsuit now nor do I own a pair of shorts. I don't want people staring at me at the pool and writing about me on their blog. :)

Posted by: sw at July 27, 2010 5:20 PM

While you make some good points, as do some of your commentators, I wish someone would have mentioned that you cannot tell why someone is fat just by looking at them. Seeing a fat person and thinking that they need to change the way they eat or exercise is simple-minded and ignorant, even if you do tend to blame other factors such as the affordability of healthy foods vs. processed foods. There are many reasons why someone could be fat -- from medications, to illness, to genetics. I for one, have a disorder (for which I take medication) that makes it very hard to lose weight, even if I am trying. A friend of mine is overweight following cancer treatments due to the medications she's taken. I sincerely wish that more people exhibited compassion and empathy for others around them rather than feeling disgust for fat people. Everyone is fighting their own battle, and you cannot tell what that may be just by looking at them.

Posted by: brittny at July 27, 2010 5:49 PM

i see soooo many heavy kids now. it's especially obvious at neighborhood fountains and pools during the summer. i honestly think it is a form of child neglect. granted, calorie-heavy foods are cheaper than healthy foods, but that excuse just is not good enough. it's not the sole responsibility of the schools and/or govt either (my sister works for the USDA child nutrition program). parents need to step up!

Posted by: kati at July 27, 2010 6:17 PM

Riding bikes everywhere in the 70s and 80s! Those are good memories. We were ALWAYS outside as kids -- at the playground, at each other's houses playing tag or other outside games, jumping rope, having bike races. If we asked for a snack during the day, it was always something like fruit. Unthinkable to have junk food, and soda (well, it's "pop" here) was for very special occasions only. My cousins who are 12-15 years younger had a totally different kind of childhood (video games and endless soda). How quickly things changed.

Posted by: Sandy at July 27, 2010 7:12 PM

Four words: high fructose corn syrup. And a lower activity level. Seven words?

Posted by: Jenn Benn at July 27, 2010 7:49 PM

Oh, what a can of worms! You're right on all counts. Number 4 is a major one for me. Life here is nothing like where I grew up. Those four reasons, however, can't begin to explain everyone's situation. The assumptions that some of the commenters make about lazy, negligent parents make me crazy. There are idiots who feed their toddlers 30 bottles of strawberry or chocolate milk each day, but they aren't the only ones with fat kids. For example, one of my daughter's friends looks enormous. She has kidney failure and is blown up like a balloon from edema. A casual observer who sees her eat a McNugget wouldn't realize that.

I suppose the reason that some of the previous comments have gotten under my skin is that one of my two children is heavier (considered "in danger of becoming overweight"), despite the fact that we eat a mostly fruit & veg diet and very little processed food. She is never full. She will literally eat sugar out of the sugar bowl if she doesn't see anything else she wants. Still, I'm not going to deny her the occasional "fun" food that her naturally skinny brother wants. I know that if someone sees her eating an ice cream cone in public that I am going to be judged harshly, but I have no desire to replace one food issue with another. It's a tightrope, and it sucks for her & for me.

And, Kati, the USDA is a major contributor to the problems Americans have with regard to nutrition. If you haven't, read The Omnivore's Dilemma (Pollan) or watch Food, Inc. or King Corn. The state of the American food system is infuriating & scary.

Posted by: Kate M at July 27, 2010 7:55 PM

K....we're from the north...Canada to be precise....not that that makes any difference in the world but.....and I am not a racist, I am not judgemental....far from it, in fact but.....

I've been down to the states many a time...with my kids and just recently a couple of times with my husband.....um...have you been to the "Cheesecake Factory"...totally yum, but....who can eat all that!?!?!? Even the McDonald's "big breakfast" is 30% bigger than ours.....and that's all I'm going to say because I don't want to turn this into a "hate fest"....we love you guys down south....if we didn't...we wouldn't visit!

Posted by: Lujza at July 28, 2010 2:20 AM

I think this is an issue that's easy to oversimplify! Some of your commenters have some good points.
There are also many health, mental health and sociological reasons behind all this. Also, I think that "Fat hate" is never okay, obviously. And as someone who is obese, I'm afraid I get an awful lot of that. Of course, sometimes I see it when it's not there, because I've been hurt before. I also know that my employment options are limited due to weight, which shouldn't be, but is. (And for sure, there are jobs where a certain degree of physical fitness is required, but I'm talking about on an appearance level.) There are a lot of assumptions people make when they see someone who is overweight or obese. I must be lazy, and full of self-hatred, ignorant, etc. I don't think that's particularly fair.
I think our idea of health needs to be less centred around weight, particularly as a number, and more about nutrition and activity level.
I have one very dear friend who wants to lose another 10 pounds. She is very fit - she runs, she mountain bikes, does martial arts, and eats very healthy. She FEELS healthy. But she wants to "look good" in a bikini, and it angers me that there is such a narrow definition of what "good" is.

Posted by: Heather at July 28, 2010 2:24 AM

I think your post raised some good questions and obviously generated debate on here, which is always a good thing. I thought I'd toss my hat into the mix.

I am overweight. Even from the time I was quite small, I was a "big" kid. That big kid grew into a big teenager and now a big adult. That is just one facet of who I am. Obviously, through those formative years, it was hard to be okay with who I was and what I looked like. As I grew up (shall I say smartened up?), I found that being thin was simply not part of who I am and I am quite comfortable with myself, I'm happily married and life, for the most part, is good to me.

That being said, the only thing that bothers me is the thought that some people look at me and assume because I am fat that all I do is eat junk food and don't exercise which is not true. I have never really cared for candy, I am not a huge fan of chips, I don't eat out at fast food restaurants (I haven't eaten out at a fast food restaurant in nearly 6 years). I don't eat fried food. I exercise. I take pride in cooking my own meals and taking care of my body. Sure, there is always room for improvement but I do my part.

I guess what I want to get at is that I feel that sometimes it's easy to demonize fat people, to think that all we do is sit on our lazy asses and overeat ourselves to death. That simply isn't true for everyone, at least not for me and not for a lot of heavy people I know. I believe that we come in all shapes and sizes and part of the beauty of the diversity in the world is that we're all different. So while I think it is important to comment on these things, to think critically about what our culture and our society has done to make us bigger, fatter, lazier, etc--I also think it's important to recognize and avoid stereotyping. I appreciate that you didn't do this at all.

Posted by: Laura at July 28, 2010 12:10 PM

Ooo, I missed all the controversy yesterday. I love to watch Top Chef, and one of the recent challenges involved the cheftestants (annoying term!) working in teams to cook a balanced, nutritious meal for middle school students, on the same budget that the school gets, $2.60 per student. WHA? It was a crazy challenge, but what is crazier, is that schools are expected to produce a meal, healthy or otherwise, on $2.60 per student. I don't think you can even buy a McNugget meal for that.

So what's the point? People are unhealthy for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is our societal values are seriously out of whack.

Posted by: MidLifeMama at July 28, 2010 1:26 PM

I think that you're right on a lot of points... it's *so* much easier to just zip through a drive through. It's easier to plop down on the couch after a long busy day. It's easier to say, "Honey go watch a movie/play on the computer." I know I see a lot of kids at school who absolutely see a lot of drive-thru and computer time. It has become increasingly frustrating to me when I see 6 year olds who are obese, and then watching them eat a lunch of cookies and chips. I wonder why their parents aren't helping them build healthy habits now, when it's monumentally easier to instill those good choices.

As someone who has a thyroid disorder that caused me to gain 85 pounds, I also see the flip side that there are occasionally other issues that cause obesity. It's taken me 2 years to lose 50 pounds... and it's overwhelming to think that I still have 30 more to go before I am truly good again.

But if you're at the pool and you see 87 overweight kids, odds are that many of them won't have any other issue besides lack of exercise and an excess of McDs. I hope that those parents realize that they'll turn their kids into the gelatinous creatures that Wall-E showed us if they don't start building healthy habits now.

Posted by: Kate M. at July 28, 2010 1:34 PM

My husband and I have noticed and commented to one another that overall we see more people, and precisely more children, who are severely overweight than we recall encountering during our own individual childhoods.
I agree with the societal changes you mentioned.

When I was a kid in the late 70's and early 80's we still sold Girl Scout cookies door to door on our own, and we grew up in a neighborhood where the moms were all SAHM's, knew all of the kids, and booted us out the door at sunrise in the summer and on weekends letting us in only for bathrooming, meals, and bedtime.

We bicycled, ran, walked played tag and hide-and-seek, and big-wheeled all over the neighborhood all day, and ran around on summer nights catching fire flies after dark.

Posted by: Karen at July 29, 2010 12:48 AM

Great blog.

Another issue could be is that MANY parents now don't have a clue how to cook, therefore dinner is at McDonald's 7 nights a week....

Posted by: Rose @Dozenroses13 at July 29, 2010 2:32 AM

I absolutely agree with you. I especially agree with the statements regarding the price of healthy food vs. junk foods and about how it is so much easier to just grab something when you are on the go. Hubby and I don't have kids yet, but we have hectic days and constantly changing schedules. Sometime it is just not possible to cook a meal from scratch and still eat before it is too late in the evening. Picking up something on the way home is just so much easier. We are trying hard to alter that though becasue obviously we don't want to expose kids ot that kind of lifestyle. I have also tried shopping for completely health orientated meals and, well, yeah, I'm not Rockefella. I have tried to strike a happy medium but it can be tricky and I do worry that when our kid(s) come along about making sure that they eat a balance meal and that they don't become overweight. Even just looking around when we are out at malls or picking up dinner somewhere (again), I have definitely noticed that there are a lot of plump / fat/ overweight kids. When I was growing up, that was almost non-existant. In fact, I was always the hefty one. Everyone else was skinny. For me it was a combination of a lot of factors which I won't go into here, but I certainly will try and make sure our future kid(s) maintain a healthy weight and are active.

Posted by: Delia at July 29, 2010 10:08 AM

You're right, and it's the same here in the UK. We didn't have a lot of money when I was a kid but my mum made sure we ate good healthy food (with treats of course) rather than buy us crap. We didn't have many holidays and didn't even have a colour TV until 1991 (when I was 14) but she totally made the right decision as a parent.

Posted by: Katherine at July 30, 2010 3:58 PM

I am always interested in this topic. Frankly, it's easier and often cheaper to eat unhealthfully.


Many people don't have access to the healthy foods required. Some people don't know better. Some people do know and don't care.

That's why i was so enthralled by Jamie Oliver's food revolution on tv.

My kids are very very active - but no, I don't let them roam as I did when I was a kid. I just don't feel like I can let my kids take off and then call them back when it's dinner time.

I think there's room in the average person's diet for some "junk". I LOVE SUGAR. But I'm active and I balance it out by making sure that otherwise my diet includes proteins and healthy choices. If I splurge on cookies, I workout a bit more to balance it out... It's a math thing. Intake of calories, expenditure of calories... I don't think it's that hard - but it's always been the way of life for me.

Posted by: sarah at July 30, 2010 10:41 PM

just to be clear, since i can't reply to Kate M directly, i am more than aware of how (excuse me) effed up the American food system is. and the Omnivore's Dilemma is actually one of my favorite books. my sister battles ridiculously powerful lobbyists and bureaucratic red tape literally day and night to try to increase funding for school meal programs and nutrition standards. it's unbelievable how hard it is for the government, democrats AND republicans to not only "do the right thing under the crushingly complicated circumstances" but to just plain "do the right thing". our kids deserve much better.

just wanted to stand up for my sister there. and myself :)

Posted by: kati at July 31, 2010 12:19 AM

J'ai pensé qu'il allait y avoir une certaine message ennuyeux, mais c'est vraiment compensé pour mon temps. Je vais poster un lien vers cette page sur mon blog. Je suis sûr que mes visiteurs trouveront que très utile

Posted by: Lancel at November 18, 2011 3:29 AM