Childhood obesity: Whose fault is it?

This picture came up on my Facebook timeline and I felt compelled to go on what was originally a little rant. As usual, I started writing this in the comments on someone’s status. As my comment grew, I decided to copy it into a word document and before I knew it I was writing a blog.

I’m looking at this from both angles, from that of an outsider and from a parent’s point of view. It’s became quite prevalent that we have an issue with children being overweight, kids are sicker, lazier, fatter and unhealthier than ever. The purpose of this blog is to explore the reasons behind this and maybe come up with some solutions.

First of all, I feel this picture is a poor example as to why adolescents have weight issues. Tap water is fine to consume and is completely free, 2B-Fit sell water for a very reasonable price of only 50p and you can buy a huge bag of salad for less than £1. So there’s the illustration of this picture completely shot down straight away! This example clearly comes from a fast food chains menus, which begs the question, if you have a child with weight issues, why are you there in the first place? Surely, it doesn’t take an educated person to understand that these sorts of food aren’t great for our health. Certainly we live in a society where people want to push their money as far as it can, especially in this current economic climate, so if presented with these circumstances where, according to this, you can buy pretty much 5 burgers to 1 salad, and 3 cokes to 1 bottle of water, and you only have a budget of £7, people are more inclined to make the poorer food choice.

I was walking down the front street just the other day and noticed how sick society looked these days. We live in an over stressed, over stimulated, under nourished and under active world. And then I noticed how overweight the kids were. These kids, no older than 10 were drinking what looked like coke with their stomachs hanging out of the bottom their T-shirts. I didn’t pass judgement, as I don’t with adults. When they have a problem in terms of weight & health, they come to us to help resolve that problem, and we educate them and give them the tools for long term success. But the issues comes when the children are learning what is ‘normal’ from their parents. We have to honest and come to terms with the fact that being overweight is and indication of poor health, then we have the fall back of even more issues off the back of this., not just mentally, but physiologically

 
 

I believe a huge contributor is a complete lack of education on behalf of both parents and children being the main culprit. Not through their own fault, but most adults don't know what good nutrition is for themselves never mind the nutritional requirements of their children. If parents are overweight, have poor nutritional and exercise habits, what hope do their children have? This begs the question, how can we educate the masses of people what need to get heathy? I’ll get onto that later.

Then we have the reward basis of poor nutrition that parents have in place with children where food is concerned, in my day (yep, I said it), a treat was a treat, an occasional chocolate bar, and if you were really lucky, a take away to share or a trip to McDonalds. My mother was brought up by her mother that taught her how to cook basic dishes using fresh ingredients, broths, dinners etc. My gran was brought up in a different time, where television was new and only had 2 channels, cars were a luxury, cheap processed food was pretty much none existent. Most of the women were size 6’s and the guys had 28 inch waists, and they were hardly going to the gym 5 times per week performing squats, deadlifts and other forms of physical activity, not everyone was trying to get jacked in those days, yet they carried a hell of a lot less body fat than modern society. They ate proper breakfasts that was cooked in butter and consisted of eggs and bacon, yet they were a healthier generation, this is the sort of breakfast that I not only eat, but promote to my clients. I feel the fear mongering, anti-fat 70’s and 80’s didn’t help where people were told that all nutritional fat should be avoided, a myth that has rightly been well and truly squashed now, but is clearly still the message in terms of marketing and promotion. The government’s guidelines recommended high carbs and low fat, yet, quickly after these recommendations were released, the world became a sicker and unhealthier place, obesity rates, diabetes and heart disease rates soured.

Teachers have a duty of care when it comes to a child’s health, so when they are put in the situation of having to inform a parent their child is overweight/obese, this is quite often met with a defensive reaction, and even some times anger. If I’m honest, I feel it’s unfair that someone should be put in this situation in the first place, having to tell a parent their kid is fat. No one wants to hear their son or daughter is fat, so the self-justifications/ excuses begin; ‘genetics, they’re growing, it’s puppy fat’. Adults are the same with themselves, it’s always someone or something else’s fault but their own, complete denial and responsibility of the situation as it’s usually always something that they have no control over.

‘Genetics load the gun, environment pulls the trigger’… Do genetics do the food shop? Did genetics order that pizza? Do genetics keep us glued to the couch? Genetics can make a difference, I’m not denying that, some body types handle certain nutrients differently, so we need to eat according to the expressions food presents when eaten. Adults and children are not too dissimilar in terms of nutritional requirements in my eyes, they require a diet based on their activity levels, food intolerances & genetics. Experimentation and patience is the name of the game here, but what we should all be agreement of, is that things need to change.

Marketing has a lot to answer for, there is a huge enthuses placed what we call ‘fake health foods’. Foods that are promoted to help improve your overall health, but actually don’t. ‘Start the day with this, eat this, blah blah blah!’ Clever marketing for you to part with your money, that’s all it is. It’s the same with these shake based diet representatives, preying on the uneducated and desperate. It isn’t your fault as a parent, you just don’t know any different, again, that’s where we come in.

“There’s no such thing as a bad diet, just bad habits”

This is especially true if parents have set these habits off from an early stage, and breaking poor habits is hard enough for an adult to cope with never mind a child, this can lead to a great deal of resistance. Habits take around 4 weeks to develop, so if years of poor nutritional and activity habits have been developed, trying to turn that individual’s life upside down is often an impossible feat.

People question why great food is so expensive but never why cheap food is so cheap? I’m betting the beef from that burger pictured isn’t organic or from a grass fed source, in fact I’m betting there’s a few fillers in there too, I’m also betting the bread has been made using cheap ingredients and preservatives in order to maintain its shelf life (see Liam regarding bread information haha), and don’t get me started on coke. It’s all about profit for the producer of these products, and people never ask when buying things (whether it’s food or not), how much did it cost to make? Where did it come from?

This of course brings up the subject of money. Certainly parents that rely on benefits or a low incomes have a more difficult time affording ‘good food’. And yes, premium food carries a high asking price, so not everyone will be able to afford organic, hell I don’t even go fully organic. This begs the question, does the average person truly require premium, organic, expensive produce? Yes they carry more nutrients, and for premium health and performance goals, they would be more beneficial, but not everyone is striving for these goals. Good food doesn’t have to be really expensive, popping down to your local Aldi will show you this. Their vegetables are that of a very reasonable price. Buying meat in bulk from places like Makro saves a great deal of money and can be frozen for later use. Parents could budget so that health and nutrition is the priority of the household. I prefer the term ‘trade-offs’ to ‘sacrifices’, so it may be important that certain thing may have to be lost in order to afford good food. The way I see it, if it’s a priority, people can find a way, even if it requires a little more thought and research on behalf of the parents. But not being able to afford ‘good’ food surely isn’t an excuse for lack of physical activity?

Another reason I feel kids are overweight is due to technology. I’ve seen children that can use IPads before they can even talk, but through clever marketing, they are ‘educational tools’. Then we have computers and game consoles keeping the rest stuck in their rooms. Thank god we were brought up in a virtually technology free era! When I was a kid, we were out every day, playing football or getting up to some sort of activity and a little bit of mischief. Parents, are understandably afraid to let their kids out these days with the fear of what’s outside their front doors. But there’s after school clubs available that encourage both parent and child to get active. One word, GOOGLE. The point is simple, kids don’t move any more than they have too these days, they’ve became lazy for one reason or another, and would rather play on their computer and interact with others via the internet. We live in a labour saving world where gadgets are used to make our lives easier

Ownership has to be put on to the parents unfortunately, if kids are ‘fat’, what are we doing about it? If you are overweight, what are you doing about it? Kids don’t know any better unfortunately, they learn from what their peers do. So if the habits in the household are poor, then what do you expect the child to do? Last time I checked, they’re not put in charge of the grocery shopping, when a parent can’t be arsed to cook, the child isn’t the one ringing the take away place. In my eyes, it feels like being unhealthy is considered normal in modern society and very few people have experienced what true health actually feels like, therefore how would we know the difference? Personally, if I have a poor nights sleep, eat something that doesn’t agree with me, or have a night out, it leaves me feeling awful, in some cases, for days. 

The solution:

ACCEPTANCE is always the first step, we need to realise what the issue is in the first place before tackling the rout cause. People are in denial of their own personal health or weight, never mind their children’s, and as mentioned, it’s a very taboo subject to bring up with a loved one or friend, Parents need to look at themselves and their children and be honest in terms of whether they’ve done or tried absolutely EVERYTHING to make their family a healthier one.

EFFORT… if something is worth doing then it’ll require a great deal of this! If you look at the positive steps Jamie Oliver took in order to promote healthier dinners at school, these are the steps that we must take in order to get our future generations healthier. Teaching children about nutrition, how to prepare meals, where food comes from, why poor food should be kept to a minimum in the diet. This of course is something that should be looked into, researched and applied, because knowledge is useless without proper application. Take a read of Claire Wake’s blog, this is a great example of a woman that instilled some great habits to make her family and herself healthier and happier.

No parent should have to put their child on a diet, as no parent should really have to go on a diet themselves. Though creating habits that can be sustained within the family circle, the problems can be certainly helped or even better, prevented. Parents need to fix themselves in order to fix their children in my opinion. Bairns aren’t to blame, as eating s*** and not exercising is normal to them, and they are just doing what those around them are doing.

When identify a problem, I don‘t look the other way, I sort it out straight away! And hopefully, my passion for helping others can be seen in this document. So here’s what we are going to do.We are going to teach the parents how to become healthier, from that information, they can get their kids healthier.

How I hear you ask?

We’ve been looking at this for a while. My self and the 2B-Fit team, including co-owner and coach Stephen Brewis are going to start recording informative video logs that will be available for FREE. We are going to cover various subjects which will include:

  • Health 
  • Diets
  • Training
  • Nutrition
  • Mind-set
  • Q&A sessions
  • And so many more awesome things in the pipe line

This is a very exciting step in where we want to go as a business. Helping people on a one to one basis is awesome, but helping hundreds, maybe even thousands of people would be even more rewarding. 

I’d love to hear your feed back on this, so please leave a comment below or email me directly on [email protected]

Thanks for reading

Ian Bickle