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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Experts Debate Labeling Kids Obese

I was directed to this article yesterday. Basically, doctors and parents are debating whether or not to call obese kids obese. Current guidelines are that overweight kids are called "at risk of overweight" and obese kids are called "overweight". An "obesity task force" is now proposing calling the first category "overweight" and the second category "obese".

My opinion on this matter is to call a spade a spade. We can sugarcoat the truth all day long, but it isn't going to help anyone. The choice boils down to:
a) protect Little Johnny's self-esteem and make him think he is only "at risk of overweight" (when in reality he is between the 85th and 95th percentile for his age group), but set him up for huge health problems later in life, or
b) hurt Little Johnny's feelings, show him that he is overweight and that, if he continues on this course, he will become obese, with all of it's attendant health problems.

The only thing that is going to make a kid change his/her habits and hopefully improve his/her life is to give it to them straight. Kids aren't as stupid as we would like to believe they are. Kids know if they are fat because their peers make sure to let them know. It isn't hard for Janey to look around in gym and see that she's carrying an extra 50% of girth compared to most classmates.

Frankly, all of this ridiculous political correctness infuriates me. As Dr. Reginald Washington says in the article, if it were cancer, anemia, or an ear infection, this topic wouldn't even be up for debate. Is someone with a mild ear infection told they are "at risk for ear infection"? Is full-blown cancer labeled as "a small tumor"? Until we face the truth that our nation is fat and getting fatter and that this problem is starting in adolescence and before, we will not find a way to address it. The PC-mongers are going to drive us to a happy state where everyone is free to blame their genes for every problem that affects them.

People that I know that have changed their lives and lost significant amounts of weight have mentioned that the thing that got them on their horse was someone telling them "you're fat!" A parent, sibling, or other relative at one point in time told these people what they needed to hear. We need to wake up and realize that we aren't going to run an end-around on obesity. This problem requires a focused, direct effort to ensure today's youth aren't the first generation that has a shorter lifespan than their parents.