Friday, September 26, 2008

Childhood obesity

If underfeeding your child is considered negligence, would overfeeding your child be considered the same thing? I don't necessarily mean forcing food down your kid's throat, I mean more along the lines of feeding your child lots of empty calories day after day after day and allowing him or her to eat junk food on a daily basis.

When you see a kid who is obese - not a little bit pudgy, but honestly 20-30 pounds overweight - how do you feel?

This discussion came up on a forum I read every once in a while. Some people were saying that allowing your child to become fat is a form of child abuse, some people were saying that becoming fat is genetic and can't be blamed on the parent. I don't think either statement is entirely true, but this subject hits home from me. I was taught AWFUL eating habits in childhood (Daddy thought eating at restaurants nearly every night was an acceptable lifestyle) and am still fighting it on a daily basis as a 28-year-old. I'm busting my hump to make sure the same doesn't happen to Ace.

What is y'all's opinion in this regard? Do kids become fat on their own because of the choices they make, or do parents allow/force it to happen?


i'm black betty said...

i think it's a combination. as parents, we are responsible for teaching our children the healthy and correct way to eat.

the diva? she probably consumes 3,000 calories a day b/c she is STARVING (SUPER HIGH metabolism)!!! i feed her fruit, veggies, cheese, yogurt, whole wheat bread...GOOD foods. she is only allowed chips, coke, and chocolate on occasion. also, she eats more than chicken nuggets b/c i MAKE her try other foods. she knows she won't get anything else for dinner unless she eats those foods in front of, she eats them. we don't cater to her. never have. :D

good post. xoxo

Amanda Wells said...

I agree with black betty. I think it's up to the parents to a degree. I think that you should introduce your kids to healthy foods early on and they'll be more likely to eat them. My daughters eat lots of fruits and veggies, but still do eat the occasional mac and cheese or chicken nuggets. Kids still have to be kids. But the point is, they have diversity in their diet. And I think parents have to practice what they preach. If I eat crap, my daughter will too.

mayberry said...

I don't think you can deny the role that the parents play in their kid's lifelong eating habits. I know I was told "Don't waste your food." a lot growing up and that really stuck with me.

Parents in general are so lazy these days about setting boundaries for their kids and eating habits fall into that category. I think it's a little far fetched to call it abuse though - some parents just don't get it, or don't care.

Sharon said...

I think it's a combo thing, with both genes and lifestyle being triggers.

I wasn't brought up with the best eating habits. As parents, I do think we could be at fault for not teaching our kids healthy eating habits. Easier said than done.

I struggle with my weight now. It's an every-meal-challenge for me, and I hate it.

My dh, on the other hand, has a ridiculously fast metabolism. Same for his family. He could eat Sonic for dinner all week and not struggle. He barely reaches 180 pounds (and he's 6-3)

One thing I've learned at Weight Watchers: it's not good to tell your kids to clear their plates. We'd be teaching to overeat, which is how I grew up. It's good to teach them to try some of everything on their plate.
If I see Aidan scarfing down his potatoes and not eating his green beans, then yes, I tell him he has to eat half the veggies. But if he's eaten some of everything, OK.
Also, I'll make sure he's not NOT eating just for the dessert. If he says he's full and tries to eat junk, he can finish that dinner!

As with all things, I do think some parents could be abusive in this manner. Over all, though, NO, I don't think obese children are results of abuse.

From the Doghouse said...

Definitely both. It's our job to feed them properly and teach them good habits. Sometimes, though, genetics overrules.

Jo said...

When I was growing up, we went out to eat at a buffet place every Wednesday. I always took too much, of course. If I couldn't finish what was on my plate, my mom would make me walk around the restaurant until I could finish what's on my plate. And as a result I was taught to ignore the "you're full" trigger.

Do I blame my mom for my weight issues? To a point I do. She should have been more concerned about my eating healthy, than the money they were paying for the food.

I feel it is the parents' responsibility to teach a child how to eat healthy, to make healthy choices. I heard a conversation about this same thing several years ago on the radio. A person was complaining because her 4 year old was overweight and didn't eat healthy. The DJ said, "Last time I checked I don't hand my 4 year old the checkbook and send them to the grocery store."

Exactly! The PARENT buys the food and prepares the food. If the child is eating junk, then it is the parents fault because that is what is available.

When I taught Head Start, I had to do home visits. Often they were in the morning, and we we often see 2-4 year olds having "breakfast" while watching TV. And the breakfast consisted of a bag of chips and a bottle of soda. The parent was right there... but did nothing.

Now I am not saying that my son NEVER eats junk food. But there isn't a vegetable or fruit he doesn't like. As a matter of fact, when he was 3 or 4 he'd order broccoli when we'd go out to eat and the servers were always shocked, "Did he just say BROCCOLI?" When Bob Evans added mac n cheese with broccoli to their menu, Blake was CERTAIN they did it just for him :)

So... now, after this long ass post! (sorry) I agree that it is up to the parents to teach children how to make healthy eating choices. Trust me, I am on high alert about Blake's weight and if it starts to become an issue we will be jumping on it immediately. I don't ever say anything to him about it, however, because I don't want HIM to be obsessive about it.

I also believe that it is neglectful to allow your child to be that overweight... but I don't think Child Protective Services would agree. I believe that if you were to call and report it, they wouldn't even take it as a report. Which is really sad.

Great topic!

mrs. misenar said...

the bottom line...
parents are the ones who prepare the food, buy the food, feed the child, etc.

if you are only taugh bad habits, then you will always eat poorly.

even someone who comes from a family who might find it hard to loose weight...can still maintain a healthy balance!

chicken nuggets and fries day in and day out should not be allowed...every once in a while is OK...but all the time???

RhondaLue said...

Kids follow the parents example and if we don't bring the junk INTO the house then they won't be consuming it on a regular basis.

I think an occasional treat or eating out is fine but it's not OK to let our little kids become obese. It is the parents fault..they don't want to say NO-you've had enough. Or "if youre still REALLY hungry then you can have an apple but other than that the kitchen is closed."

Having said that, I have 3 teenagers who often earn their own money and I cannot control the junk they purchase at school for "lunch". I'm disturbed at the choices offered to kids who can't really decipher the long term consequences of poor nutrition (or think they are invincible). In this case all I can do is try to teach them to make the proper choices and HOPE they do make responsible decisions the majority of the time.

I don't want my kids to struggle the way I have.

Lauren said...

Children definitely learn their eating habits from their parents, and for young children, the parents are directly responsible for what foods the kids eat. But if the parents don't know about proper eating habits, then neither will the child. If mom and dad are regularly consuming empty calorie foods, or even if they eat good foods but don't understand proper portion sizes, then the child will learn their bad habits.

Once a kid gets older, and has more money and freedom and access to get their own food, the responsibility shifts away from the parents and onto the kid, and you can only hope that the kid picked up what the parents tried to teach them.

My mom did a pretty reasonable job of setting an example of what to eat (whole wheat bread, skim milk, restricting sugary foods), but she never explained WHY she made some of those food decisions, so when I got on my own, I abandoned some of what she had showed us, and it wasn't until I got into weight watchers that I saw the reasoning behind her choices. In retrospect, I wish she had taken me to weight watchers or a nutritionist/dietitian when I was in high school, so that I could have learned the tools to make better food choices earlier in life. Assuming I would have listened, of course, which I probably wouldn't have.

shiksa said...

I'm not a parent so I don't have any insight about my own children to share, but I know that my mom always made sure we ate fresh, home-cooked, and healthy. On the flip side, my MIL made egg noodles with margarine and cream-of-mushroom soup and called it 'casserole,' so my husband became an amazing cook. I agree with all of these other posters - you do what you can to instill good habits and model good behavior for your kids. When they're adults, they will reap the benefits of your hard work and live longer and healthier to thank you for it.

Jen said...

Growing up, my Mom always cooked from the garden and we had cows that filled our freezer...SO, alll our food came from the land. MAC & CHEESE was a TREAT at Thanksgiving so we didn't get to eat out or eat junk. HOWEVER, I have always struggled with being 20-30 pounds over the "national average" but I do NOT consider myself obese. I wear a 10 or 12, I am curvy & pudgy.. My size is GENETIC, pure and simple. My brother is shaped similar to me and we both take after my Dad. No DOUBT it is genetic. I eat healthy now and could eat a little better but if I want it, I am eating it, with restraint.

Now, parents are responsible for teaching a child good and bad food..If I didn't want it, I didn't eat. I ate WHAT my mother cooked. Too many parents now a days are made to order chefs for their children. I think they should eat it if you cooked it. Period.

Now, if a kid is eating twinkies and ding dongs and hostess cup cakes ALL DAY every day for meals, yea, that parents needs their head smacked.

KEY IS: YOU ARE THE PARENT, YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR CHILD! not the other way around. the kid does NOT set the rules.

ok, shutting up.

The DP said...

I think it is a combination of genetics, parenting and choices. My mom wasn't around enough to teach me healthy eating and was also a big proponent of restaurants- at the same time, I had healthy eating and exercise role models around me, and I chose not to emulate them. Finally, dieticians have told me that I have ridiculous muscle mass and it is highly likely that even following a strict diet I would still be in the low 130s if I tried hard enough, which is the upper limit of acceptable for my height, and where I was at weight wise in hs and college until assorted health problems. I would have been a chunk anyway due to genetics, but a smaller chunk than I am currently. So in other words, I think 70% of my tonnage is my fault. Married to skeletor, I have been eating a lot healthier since I got married and moved to Europe, but as everyone knows, it is a whole lot easier to gain than to lose. I am not worried about my kids tho due to my husband's lifestyle, which dictates what is in our fridge at a given time. The only thing that scares me is having children who take after my side of the family in body shape and my husband bugging out because they aren't stick people like his family and imposing diets on them too young. While some people claim genetics to mask their laziness, there is some truth to it.

Melinda Barton said...

I go for combo. My half-sisters and I were raised in the same house, eating the same foods. I ate the same or less than they did and was OBSESSED with certain vegetables (while they ate more junkfood). I was also a bit more active since I was into the tomboy stuff. BUT I'm much bigger than they are and always have been.