Monday, December 10, 2012

Childhood Obesity

According to the CDC, childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years (since 1982). I'm not surprised. I was an obese child. I was an overweight child. In pictures I was a normal looking kid until about three. I was kinda cute. The next images I have of me of being overweight. From the age of three to today, I have not been at a healthy weight, ever.

I say this because I read an article today about a 9 year old girl who lost 66 pounds. The doctors who saw her through the years told her parents that she would outgrow the weight. She would grow into it. Really? Interesting. I don't doubt one bit that the doctors said this to her parents. Why? Because that's what the doctors told mine as I was growing up. She's going to be tall (5'8") and will grow into the extra weight. No need to worry.

Well, let this 37 year old tell you, not worrying about it doesn't mean it will go away. It doesn't mean the child will "grow into" the extra weight. What if the child does? What if the child does happen to grow tall enough to distribute the extra weight so they are "normal?" Does this mean the child will now know how to eat healthy? Exercise enough to keep their weight there? Or will they continue the poor habits and never actually "grow into the weight" because they are constantly gaining and putting that healthy range out of reach? 

Because that's what happened to me. I didn't get to 5'8", I got to a nice 5'5" (alright...alright...5'4.5"). So all those extra pounds that I would grow into? Yea. Didn't happen. Not only did I gain weight, but never grew into those original extra pounds.

I applaud Breanna Bond's parents. They obviously realized their daughter's weight was a problem. It's neither here nor there if it is their fault her weight was too much. We don't know their circumstances. What I applaud is their action. They chose to make a change in their lifestyle. They chose to see another doctor. To see if there was a reason for their daughter's weight gain. They ran tests, which came back negative. Their daughter was healthy...other than her weight. So what did they do? They changed their habits. They started exercising. They changed their diet. They made a commitment to help their daughter. Nothing would stop them from helping her.

In my opinion, there needs to be more Mr. and Mrs. Bonds in the world. There need to be more proactive parents who do whatever it takes to make their children's health their top priority. There need to be more parents who see that an overweight child is not healthy. A doctor's prognosis of "growing into the pounds" is not the solution. Doctor's should not be telling parents of overweight children they will grow into the weight and instead tell them how to combat the extra pounds - eat more fruits and vegetables, cut out the sweets, exercise more, don't use food for comfort/reward/presents.

There are days I feel as if I need to get involved in childhood health initiatives. I need to become a nutritionist who specializes in childhood obesity to help combat this problem. I remember how awful it felt to be the biggest person in my class. I remember how it felt not being able to run and play like the other kids. I remember what it felt like to know my clothes were so much bigger than everyone else's. I remember how embarrassing it was to go to the mall with friends and know I couldn't fit into any of the clothes they shopped for. I remember what it was like to be the biggest girl in all the pictures. I remember what it felt like to not be asked to the prom. It's not pleasant. I wouldn't wish that on any little girl (or boy). 

The solution isn't going to be easy, but for the sake of the future we need to find something that works.

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