HUCKABY: Put down the junk food and face the issue of childhood obesity

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

:Some kids are fat. I hope I didn’t shock you with that insensitive revelation. I don’t mean that some kids are cuddly or chubby or pleasingly plump. Some children — more and more each year in fact — are morbidly obese. Those children grow into morbidly obese adults, which is a dangerous thing — and the key to the term “morbidly obese” is “morbid.”

Words used in Webster's definition of morbid include abnormal, unhealthy, unpleasant, plus a couple of others -- namely death and disease.

Obese children are like the elephant in the room. Nobody wants to talk about it because feelings will be hurt and nobody wants to hurt anyone's feelings. Besides, nobody wants anybody else telling them how to raise their kids -- and so people say things like, "She is big-boned" and, "He hasn't outgrown his baby fat." Parents continue to indulge their kids by feeding them as much junk food as they can stuff in their face and allow them to lounge around the house and never make them get any exercise and they get offended if anyone notices and they talk about slow metabolisms and thyroid problems and continue to supersize at McDonald's.

Well, one group has decided to address the elephant in the room, and they are catching a lot of flak for it. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, in conjunction with other sponsors, is running a campaign aimed at making parents of obese children wake up and smell the Twinkies -- long enough to take them out of their children's diets.

The stated mission of Children's Healthcare Atlanta is to enhance the lives of children through excellence in patient care, research and education. We have a vision to transform pediatric healthcare and be the leading voice for the health of Georgia's children. I can testify from personal experience that they do a jam-up job of living up to that mission. My own daughter, Jenna, spent a very long week at Egleston one spring and received excellent care. I know other parents whose children have been cared for at Scottish Rite and Hughes Spalding and have been equally impressed. Just like their mission statement says, Children's is dedicated to educating the public and if you don't think the public needs to be educated about childhood obesity, you haven't been paying attention.

What "Stop Childhood Obesity" has done is put up billboards along Georgia's highways and byways with pictures of fat children. That, in and of itself, is a change because on most billboards we only see beautiful, slim models with Barbie doll figures. Either that or cows begging people to eat Truett Cathy's chicken. When you see something different on a billboard it tends to get your attention -- and that's the whole idea.

The billboards have rather blunt statements emblazoned over the pictures of the chunky kids. One, for example, reads, "Warning: Childhood obesity has increased 300 percent over the past 30 years." That is innocuous, enough. Plus it is true, but I ask you -- who would pay any attention to such a statement if it were accompanied by an equally innocuous graphic instead of a shocking picture?

Another says "Chubby kids may not outlive their parents." This one might be a little off-point because I believe that most "chubby" kids have parents who probably share their eating habits and may be in danger themselves.

The most in-your-face billboard declares, "Big bones didn't make me this way. Big meals did." Now that is about as cut and dried and to the point as you can get.

Will the billboards work? Who knows? What I do know is that they are stirring up a world of controversy from people who fear that the ad campaign may be doing more harm than good. The critics of the campaign say the pictures on the billboards stigmatize fat kids even more and potentially expose them to bullying and might lower fat children's self-esteem.

Heaven forbid someone's self-esteem be lowered.

One of the biggest critics of "Stop Childhood Obesity" is the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. I ain't making this up, y'all. We have a national association dedicated to accepting fat folks. They are, not surprisingly, calling for the removal of all the billboards.

I am pretty sure that they are also endorsing free sand at local zoos to make it easier for ostriches to hide their heads.

Look-a-here, y'all. Verily! The childhood obesity problem is going to be a problem for all of us. Even Michelle Obama says so. As we, the people, become more and more on the hook for everyone's health problems -- and accompanying medical bills -- we had better do all we can to promote better health for all. I say keep the billboards up and keep running the ads -- and if the clothing fits -- well, wear it. And if it doesn't fit -- cook your child some fresh veggies and help them lose a little weight.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.


radfatty 3 years, 10 months ago

I would like to recommend the free NAAFA Child Advocacy ToolkitSM (CATK) and other written guidelines/resources to assist you looking at programs.

A Yale Rudd Center report reviewed existing research on weight stigma in children and adolescents, with attention to the nature and extent of weight bias toward obese youths and to the primary sources of stigma in their lives, including peers, educators, and parents. As a result of weight bias and discrimination, obese children suffer psychological, social, and health-related consequences. http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/bias/StigmaObesityChildrensHealth.pdf

Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center further brings to light the stigmatization of large children in the following article. http://www.obesityaction.org/magazine/oacnews7/Childhood%20Obesity%20and%20Stigma.pdf

The NAAFA Child Advocacy Toolkit shows how Health At Every Size® takes the focus off weight and directs it to healthful eating and enjoyable movement. It addresses the bullying, building positive self-image and eliminating stigmatization of large children. The CATK lists resources available to parents, educators or caregivers for educational materials, curriculum and programming that is beneficial for all children. It can be found at: http://issuu.com/naafa/docs/naafa_childadvocacy2011combined_v04?viewMode=magazine&mode=embed


heresyafacts 3 years, 10 months ago

And I would like to recommend that adults check their BMIs and look at their - and their children's-- eating and exercise habits. Many children with weight problems have parents with weight problems, and eating fast food or spending hours in front of tv/video games/internet is not going to help that. Unlike the previous poster, I believe the focus should be on weight, because without recognizing there is a problem, you cannot take steps to solve the problem. I've no doubt that children and adults suffer stigmatization, but you will never eliminate that, nor can you continue to demand the supersizing of seating, beds, ambulances, and serving sizes. Life is filled with painful moments - we cannot avoid them. We have to face them. Obesity is not healthy or beautiful; it is crippling, both the individual who suffers it, and to the nation, which needs active, healthy and productive individuals. And any one season of the Biggest Loser demonstrates that fat is not permanent, and that individuals who accept that fat is unacceptable are able to change their diets, their activity levels and their lives. Fat is not 'rad'; it is a condition which goal-setting and hard work can and should change, for the better.


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