Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Everything But The Right Thing On Childhood Obesity

A lot of people, most notably First Lady Michelle Obama, are out there "doing something" about childhood obesity.

Or at least trying.

Most of it won't work, because it doesn't get at the root of our obesity epidemic. The First Lady's plan, called "Let's Move," has all kinds of ideas, many focused on getting kids off their butts and into healthy physical activity.

There's nothing wrong with getting kids to be physically active, as it will make them healthier. But it won't do much on the obesity front.

Obesity is a food problem, not an exercise problem. Some studies have even shown that more exercise simply makes people hungrier (but still healthier) and causes them to eat more.

As for the food problem, a lot of the suggestions you hear, including from Ms. Obama, are focused on "less sugar," or "more vegetables," or "less processed food," and "more natural food."

Those won't necessarily do the trick either.
For example, replacing those "bad" "sugary" sodas with "healthy" "natural" juice and milk may be counterproductive. Here's a quick quiz: which has more calories, an 8 ounce Coke Classic, glass of whole milk or glass of orange juice? Surprise! The milk has the most, with 150 calories, followed by the OJ at 110. The Coke: 97 calories.
The key to fighting obesity is LESS FOOD (or most accurately, fewer calories)! Today's portions--of EVERYTHING--are far too large for most people, especially children. Portions of practically every food--including "healthy" foods like salads (many of which are killers because they're so large) and even fruits (which have gotten bigger over the years thanks to selective breeding)--have grown over the past 40 years. Yet, there's no engineering change to the human body over that span that would allow humans to ingest considerably more calories without getting fat.

So, if you want to do something about obesity in children, you need to give them, and their parents, and educators in schools, some very clear guidance about how MUCH food they should be eating in any given meal or day. The advice has to be practical. The federal food pyramid suggests so many servings of fruits, veggies, grains and dairy, but you'd be hard pressed to figure out what is an appropriate SERVING SIZE for all those servings.
So, telling a kid to lay off the soda and drink milk or juice instead is probably only going to hurt. It would be much better to tell the child "you can have soda, but only this much [8 oz.--not a freaking Big Gulp!].

There's nothing wrong with a single patty hamburger accompanied by a small bag of fries and an 8 ounce drink for lunch or dinner for many kids. The problem is that you can't get that size meal at most of the places where you might reasonably go. The "small" "value" meal at Wendy's has a drink size and box of fries that would have been UNHEARD of at a fast food restaurant when the Curmudgeon was a kid. The large portion in the 1960's was smaller than today's "small" portion.

In contrast, get your child a salad at most sandwich shops and you'll get a lot more calories than the burger, fries and drink outlined above.

So, what about some programs aimed at portion control? Some commercials showing what a complete meal should be for kids of various ages; some governmental guidelines on what would constitute an appropriate portion of various popular kid's foods (french fries, drinks, hamburgers, pizza, chips, chicken nuggets, etc.); and some clear definitions of a serving size for all those servings on the government's pyramid (our bet, for example, is that most of today's giganto oranges in the supermarket are two serving sizes on the pyramid).


Vivian J Paige said...

Good post

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Thank you for sharing!The article is very well.There's nothing wrong with getting kids to be physically active, as it will make them healthier.

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