If only people felt like they could TALK about the obesity epidemic!

Seriously, that’s the take-home message from this article on the Herald about how terrible it is that children are fat.  You don’t need to click through to find the balanced, definitive science on this, because what more could you possibly need to know than the identity of the first person quoted:

The director of SureSlim New Zealand, Phil Pullin

A scientist and a gentleman if ever there were one.

A major issue I have when I get into arguments about THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC with otherwise critical, analytical people is this:  how do you not see the ridiculous, head-desking contradictions which abound in all “reporting” on this “problem”?

The article starts off talking about putting children as young as 6 on commercial diet programmes – and even Weight Watchers thinks that’s a silly idea, for context.  But then of course there’s the handwringing:

[Phil Pullin, man who runs a programme which puts 6-year-olds on diets] said weight problems among children was an increasing trend.

… [Spokeswoman for Fight the Obesity Epidemic, Dr Robyn Toomath, said “It’s much more that we don’t appreciate the extent of obesity.”

Yet a mere 9 newspaper paragraphs later:

Good Talks speaker on body image Rachel Hansen said children were bombarded with unattainable messages from the media, peers and even their parents that girls should be thin and beautiful and boys strong and muscular to be accepted by society.

“I’ve seen children as young as 3 and 4 saying, ‘I’m too fat, I can’t eat that’.”

Ah, yes, three-year-olds rejecting delicious food.  A clear sign that “we” don’t “appreciate” how terrible a lifetime of fatness is.

And yet so many otherwise-analytical people will immediately jump up to say “oh yes that’s a problem, that’s terrible reporting, that’s a contradiction, but obesity is still a problem.”

It’s like someone’s adapted the script of a terrible sexist two-dimensional sitcom mother:  “Oh sure you like living alone and you love your apartment and your last relationship ended horribly and you’re trying to get comfortable with your own identity, but don’t you think it’s time you found a man?”


    • QoT

      NO! NO I AM NOT. I’m just suggesting you could see a lot of benefits from a healthy lifestyle change with my miraculous new Points system.

      • V (verbscape)

        Points? Well, that sounds like something concrete and measurable I can cling to as a shield against society’s nebulous and contradictory standards! Where do I sign up?

  1. Frank Macskasy

    I think there’s a world of difference between the obesity problem (I refuse to call such things “issues”) afflicting the West, with it’s high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar content of ultra-processed foods and sedentary lifestyles – and that of putting six year olds on diets.

    A far simpler and less disturbing (for the child) option is simply encourage them to be active outside (where possible); walk to school (ditto); more good food, and less of the junk food that we westerners seem addicted to. (And I raise my hand in shame that I have a particular fondness for Burger King and our local fish and chip shop run by a luvly Cambodian couple. As well as selling great fish, they’re teaching me Cambodian! )

    All fairly common sense, really. But dieting for kids to lose weight?! To me that seems to be skirting the real problem and unnecessarily “medicalising” the problem.

    It is true though; media images of “perfect bodies” is now starting to impact on our children. Not only have we adults totally messed up our self-esteem – we’re raising the next generation to self-loathe as well. It may be damned nigh-on impossible to avoid this culture of the Perfect Body – but I think we can “arm” our children by raising their awareness (in age-appropriate terms) of the media onslaught against them.

    PS: don’t forget: Wednesday is Soylent Yellow Day! (http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/when-the-future-arrived/)

  2. Frank Macskasy

    That’s interesting info, QoT.

    I note this bit from the USDA report, which opens up more questions,

    “In a report comparing food consumption patterns in 1977-78 versus 2005-2008, Biing-Hwan Lin and Joanne Guthrie from USDA’s Economic Research Service found that on average, Americans consumed 75.2g of fat in 2005-08 compared with 85.6g in 1977-78.”

    Does the term “average” mean that some Americans are eating less fat and more healthy, unprocessed foods – whilst others are eating more? If so, that means some are getting healthier (theoretically) – whilst others are not.

    ” Americans consumed 75.2g of fat in 2005-08 compared with 85.6g in 1977-78″. By itself it’s not just the fat, but excess calories in products such as sugery drinks, refined foods, etc. In which case it may be perfectly feasible to consume less fat but more sugar, making the stats look good.

    Also, another factor is exercise. Does the USDA compare the level of wexercise in 1977-78, as compared to 2005-08? I have a gut feeling (excuse the pun) that as computers proliferated throughout society; as manufacturing jobs were exported to low-wage nations; that increased sedentary work may mean that even if we consume less fat and sugar – that we’re still seeing obesity increase, because we’re doing (on average) less work.

    I haven’t looked into this issue so have no answers to the above questions (or even if I’m asking the right questions). But it leaves me wondering…

  3. Pingback: Obesity is Getting Out of Control, Don’t Ya Know | That Girl, Fae