Obesity among children, which according to various reports ranges up to 25 percent or higher, is threatening to cut short the lifespan of today’s children.
When I see elementary school students waddling along school corridors, or sitting poolside with roll upon roll of abdominal fat bulging over their waistlines, I want to cry. Kids are kids. They eat what they like even if it is deadly to their hearts, livers, and arteries. And when their Moms buy and serve fat-, salt- and sugar-laden foods, what choice does the child have?
Now some governments are coming down on parents who have allowed, in fact aided, their young children to gobble their way toward life-threatening weight gain, heart disease, liver failure and arterial problems. In rare cases, the law has stepped in to remove obese kids to foster care.
One instance, a 13-year-old who topped the scales at 525 pounds was taken from his parents. Within a year the boy had lost about 100 pounds through healthier meals and increased daily activity.
Some mothers fail to recognize they have become “food pushers”. A 4-year-old child who weighed 120 pounds was followed by cameras in his home. Though the mother claimed she was being careful of what she fed her son, cameras caught her in the kitchen late at night bargaining with the boy. “If you finish eating these French fries left over from supper you can have a Twinkie.”
The kid had become accustomed to eating sweets, fatty treats, and other foods not recommended for anyone. When denied, he raised a fuss, screamed, struck out, threw himself on the floor. He even tried to climb the shelves of a storage cupboard well stocked with all his favourite but forbidden snacks which the Mom then attempted to limit.
Worst of all, the mother failed to recognize she was encouraging the kid to overeat by promising one off-limit food for another first forcing him to eat what he didn’t want and shouldn’t have to get the sweet he craved.
I love the reality TV programs where a nutritionist enters the home and scoops into a garbage bag foods filled with transfats, salt, sugar, and low fibre. Often when the job is done the family’s cupboards and fridge are nearly empty.
One family had a freezer stacked with pizza. At mealtime every food on the table was deep fried brown; not a food was green, yellow, orange or any shade of fresh produce.
In a recent Journal of the American Medical Association article, Dr. David Ludwig, a pediatrician at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Lindsey Murtagh at Harvard School of Public Health, caused an uproar when they wrote in support of the state removing obese children from their parents in extreme cases where the child was at imminent harm because of over-eating.
“It’s not really the obesity itself that underlies the removal of a child from a parent’s custody,” Dr. Murtagh said,” but the parent’s documented refusal or inability to intervene or to follow dietary or exercise guidelines imposed by state or medical agencies involved in the child’s care.”
“Protecting the well-being, and life, of the child trumps the sanctity of the family,” Dr. Ludwig said.
Ludwig explained that state intervention could include financial support to families, social services, access to safe recreation areas and even parenting courses.
“The ultimate answer to the obesity epidemic is not to blame parents, it’s to create a more healthful and supportive society,” Ludwig said.
“But,” he asked, “until we get there, what do we do about that 14-year-old, 400-pound child who’s not facing increased risk of illness 20 years from now, but who’s facing life-threatening complications today?”