Why are our waistlines increasing?Mar 25, 2022
I clipped a horrible headline from 2008: Fat kids die earlier. At the time, I clipped it because it reinforced my approach at the time: identify issues, educate, act, and avoid. That is the first article that I remember talking about obesity in childhood, but there are plenty more in the early 2000’s.
Over the past 2 decades there has been an increase in the prevalence of children being diagnosed with overweight and obesity.
The jury is out on that. Could it be the processed food, the portion sizes, the composition (macros), the ready-access, the emotional eating, distracted eating, the preservatives or hormonal disruptions? Could it be us: our genes, our eating habits, our sedentary lifestyle?
Buried inside the question about why waistlines are increasing is the search for an answer, a culprit to blame and something to fix.
Consider this: what if the answer is to stop focusing on the waistline and the scale?
The vast majority of the approaches to childhood weight is to focus on it in order to control it. We label the weight, first with numbers, then BMI and then overweight or obesity. But as we have learned on the playground, when a label is given to you by others, it produces shame by indicating that something is wrong with the person.
Parents approach overweight and obesity in their kids in a very understandable way: fear, worry for their children’s health, long-term impact of weight, as well as social pressures and bullying.
We think that if we change the weight, we will have better health, better social interactions, and no bullying.
That is the wrong focus.
Fear is a potent motivator to get us moving into action, but fear puts blinders on us - all we see is what we have to fear.
When we focus on the weight, the food, the exercise – we create fear and diet-mentality for our kids under the guise of trying to avoid the consequences of heavier body weight.
And fear is exhausting. Willpower is used to avoid foods, to stick with an exercise plan. And eventually, the willpower RUNS OUT.
When will power runs out, when we become exhausted – we seek comfort. And do you know an amazing source of comfort that a lot of us find? Food.
Food is not the enemy. Food is not bad. And neither is our weight. It’s just a small part of the story.
Fearing obesity, putting so much focus upon what we are trying to AVOID is not the answer.
It’s time to focus on what we DO want. Freedom from food rules, freedom from focus on weight and the scale to determine what kind of a day/week/month we’re having. It’s time to focus on improving our relationship with food, our bodies, and our kids.
I took over as the Obesity Champion for the medical society. First order of business: removing the word obesity. We do not work to champion something that has all the connotations of fear and avoidance. I embrace championing for what we want. I was briefly the Artist Formerly Known as the Obesity Champion. And then I became the Healthy Lifestyles Champion.
It’s not a perfect name, but it is moving toward something. And I am a strong proponent for moving towards what we want, not just looking at what we don’t want, running away, yet constantly keeping an eye on it. Create a goal - a vision - an inspiration, and work towards it.
What do you want to move toward? What do you want to create for your family?
Check out the Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD Podcast!
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