Yesterday, we discussed a new public service ad campaign designed to fight childhood obesity in Georgia. While the ads are, admittedly, painful to watch, they’re certainly getting a lot of attention. But in addition to raising awareness about childhood obesity rates in Georgia, the ads sparked a lot of debate about who exactly is responsible for this problem. Based on the poll we took yesterday, 78% of you believe parents are to blame.
The ad campaign states that 75% of parents of overweight kids ignore the problem. Perhaps they think it’s just “baby fat” and that their kids will grow out of it. Maybe they are overweight themselves and don’t have any health issues, so they assume their children won’t either. Or perhaps they just want to blame the schools, the food manufacturers and advertisers for the child’s weight.
Yes, we agree that advertisers are bombarding our kids with commercials for fast food, soda and packaged foods chock-full of sugar, sodium and preservatives. And yes, we can say that the temptation for fast food is at every corner, making it a “convenient” dinner choice for parents who are over-worked and too busy to prepare a home-cooked meal. And we can even agree that things like soda machines at schools, convenient stores strategically placed right near schools, and the influx of video games and the internet generation is causing our kids to pack on the pounds. But can we really blame society for making our kids fat? Not really.
Some will even say that it’s the kids fault. They’re the ones making the choices to eat the sugar- and fat-laden foods. And they’re the ones who are too “lazy” to walk or bike to school and get off the couch to go play. But who are their role models and where are they getting the permission to behave this way?
It boils down to the parents. Because here’s the thing: Thirty years ago when childhood obesity rates were one-third of what they are now, cookies, cakes, chips and soda were already there. McDonald’s was already there. And TV was already there. The difference between then and now, from my point of view, is that parents don’t say “no” nearly as much as they used to. No, we’re not going to Burger King for dinner. No, I’m not buying those Oreos. No, you can’t order a Coke with your meal. No, I will not drive you to school. No, you can’t watch TV or play on the computer.
Some will even say that because we live in a country where two-thirds of all adults are now overweight or obese, the parents don’t know how to teach healthy habits when they, themselves, don’t know what to do.
One Blisstree commenter, lalala, wrote:
It’s definitely a true message, whether or not it’s a good idea. I was an overweight kid who also happened to be incredibly active, but my mom was overweight and my dad was overweight, and at dinner they constantly told me that I needed to be a member of the “clean plate club”…..they cooked insane amounts of pasta, being Italian, and I loved it. We had dessert every single night. I didn’t learn proper portion control…
Others agree that, no matter what, it’s the parent’s responsibility to teach healthy habits. AlphaBette wrote:
I was an obese child and spent years and years depressed as a result of the shaming, bullying, and abuse I received, from both my peers and my family. I attempted suicide twice. Shame the parents. A 5-year old (in my case, 2-year old) has no understanding of what they are doing ‘wrong’. They only get the sense that they, themselves, are ‘wrong’.
But not everyone believes that parents are to blame. ANNA wrote:
Sorry but let’s stop blaming the parents and the Kids. The root cause is the USA government. The Food today has more drugs than a pharmacy. The “Fake food” created by the USA and now used in the UK and Australia is the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis. The lawsuits would be too many for the Governments of the USA, UK and AU to pay so we need a scapegoat…called McDonalds. 4 million people died in 12 months from Diabetes.
And pfhunt wrote:
Really, if you want to solve the obesity problem in this country you would start with the food manufactures who put all the surgars, fat, harmones in our food and then put thousands of adverstasments on TV, billboards, magazines for those foods aimed at children and their parents!
Certainly there are exceptions to all of this. I have seen some very healthy and active parents struggle with a child who is overweight. Sometimes there is a health issue. And sometimes low self-esteem, certain psychological conditions and other emotions can lead a child to comfort themselves with food, which is really sad.
Regardless of whether you believe the parents are at fault or not, the bottom line is this: Kids are not to blame. The commercials and the fast food restaurants and the packaged foods are not going to go away, so the best way to deal with childhood obesity is to teach and model healthy habits at home. And to just say “no.”
Tell us if you agree.