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"Each of us must come to care about everyone else's children. We must recognize that the well being of our own children is intimately linked to the well being of all other people's children. After all, when one of our children needs life-saving surgery, someone else's child will perform it. When one of our children is harmed by violence, someone else's child will commit it. The good life for our own children can be secured only if it is also secured for all other people's children. But to work for the well being of all children is not just a practical matter-- it is also right!" - Lilian G. Katz, Phd.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Children and Food

I was reading Mo Pie's Big Fat Deal today, and following the comments post the excellent NY Times article on the 'fatosphere'.
I ran across this comment:
Also, palates are developed through how we grow up. Parents who eat cheeseburgers have kids who eat cheeseburgers. Americans have developed a taste for salt, but there is evidence that if we stop eating it we stop craving it. We’re making some strides, in terms of breaking down portion sizes and educating the public. And governmental paternalism — especially in progressive states like NY and California — has forced eateries to be more forthcoming.
I wish it was that easy. I love vegetables, I enjoy interesting tastes, and I feed my family accordingly. My children skip more meals because they are "gross" than they eat. I try to divert their snacking to fruit, veggies, and whole grains. Even so, I can't tell you how many times I have walked in the kitchen to find Konal stuffing cheese down his throat as fast as he can.

Both the boys are overweight. Some of it is genetics, some of it is medical, and some of it is lifestyle. Aidan was skinny until he started getting homework. Now he spends all his time after school doing homework, until it is too late to head out and play. Konal has multiple medical issues. So imagine what I felt when I got this a couple of weeks ago from Aidan's school:
ACTIVATE AMERICA is a framework which the YMCA of the USA is using to develop policies and procedures that YMCA's can use to initiate local programs to address the Obesity [it was capitalized in the notice] health crises facing communities to create an environment for health seekers to find a means that allows them to achieve a healthy lifestyle. The initial program that the Valley of the Sun YMCA's are offering is a Youth Fitness Program that is intended for children between the ages of 7 and 14 that are deemed clinically overweight. The SW *** YMCA has partnered with the L. Elementary School District to bring this program to the students in the L. District free of charge. The program is called "Activate America with LESD". The key elements of the program are shown below.

"Activate America with LESD" is a program aimed to educate the child, along with the family, about healthy lifestyle choices surrounding nutrition and physical activity. Included in this program are nutrition lessons for children and family, food demonstrations, physical activity education and guided physical activity sessions.

The basic design of the program:
  • Targeted age group of children 7 to 14 years old.
  • Pre and Post data will be collected on health statistics. Example: body mass index, percentage of body fat, blood pressure, and exercise frequency.
  • The program will be 10 weeks in length.
  • Each program will accommodate between 15 children and their parents.
  • The program will run Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in the after school/early evening hours.
Each week the program will provide:
  • Two, one hour segments of physical fitness per-week.
  • Half-hour nutrition lesson for the family.
  • Half-hour behavioral health counseling for parents.
Kids will understand 9 Key concepts of exercise:
  1. Regular exercise promotes, maintains, and increases physical fitness.
  2. Understand what level of fitness is required for good health.
  3. Regular exercise has a directly positive effect on the heart.
  4. Muscular strength is the maximum weight a muscle can lift.
  5. Endurance is a muscles [sic] ability to repeat a movement.
  6. Every one has some fat but too much is unhealthy.
  7. Cardio training begins when intensity, duration, and frequency are sufficient.
  8. Muscles get strong and develop from regular exercise.
  9. Flexibility helps prevent injury.
From participating in "Activate America with LESD" it is expected that children will:
  • Gain self-awareness, self-confidence and self-respect.
  • Acquire an understanding of how the body responds to diet and exercise.
  • Participate in a learning experience which engages and educates their family.
  • Aspire to continue on their new path of healthy lifestyle.
*Emphasis Added...
Now, I am going to try really hard not to slip into rant mode. My first issue was that they picked my son out to give this to, as well as speaking to him so he really wanted to do it. He has already done a YMCA summer program. He was told he was picked to do this program because he is a student leader, but I was told it was because they were concerned since he was overweight.

If the program had never mentioned obesity, if it had only focused on fitness and nutrition, like in the areas I italicized, then I probably would have been an enthusiastic supporter. Instead, my children got to see me being a Fat Activist. I will probably go to hell for that, I am sure. I spoke with the principal and outlined my concerns and told him why my son will not be participating in this program.

Body Mass Index is not a good predictor of health, especially not in children. Fat, especially in children who are growing, is not necessarily a predictor of poor health.

And I am smart enough to realize that 2 children, born to 2 fat parents, who have their own food preferences and activity levels, are not going to suddenly become thin because we deny them food and force them to exercise (not even fun exercise). In fact, it will probably just screw up their relationship with food more.

Oh wait! I forgot! It is all my fault, which is why I need counseling in order for my child to lose weight. I am obviously screwing something up, or I wouldn't have fat children. Maybe I just don't know my child is fat? (Registration needed)

I call for a toast! To our next generation of disordered eaters. May you see the light that this generation is just now getting a glimmer of before it is too late.