Are we obsessed with our kids' weight?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  February 11, 2010 12:38 PM

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This week, First Lady Michelle Obama launched "Let's Move," her intiative to end childhood obesity within a generation.

It's not about looks, she says. One out of three U.S. children are overweight or obese -- a rate that's three times higher than it was in 1980 -- and obese kids usually grow up to be obese adults, which means we could have a national health crisis on our hands. The U.S. currently spends about $140 billion a year on treating obesity-related illnesses like type II diabetes, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, and asthma.

After a run-in with her kids' pediatrician, during which the doctor pointed out that their "busy, hectic lifestyle" was causing her daughters' Body Mass Index (MBI) to rise, Mrs. Obama cut out the juiceboxes, eliminated a few fast-food meals, and made other small changes to their routine. The results, she told PBS's Jim Lehrer on Tuesday, were significant.

Which is great, but I think most of the nation would agree that Malia and Sasha weren't in danger of breaking any scales. Has America's obsession with weight and fitness gone too far?

Even though Mrs. Obama has said that small changes can lead to big improvements, the popular focus still seems to be on searching for a quick fix. Reality television programs like The Biggest Loser on NBC show unsustainable weight-loss achieved by a soul-crushing, time-consuming regimin of trainer-driven exercise and extreme dietary changes; contestants who don't loose weight fast enough are booted off the show. Dance Your A-- Off (really, that's what it's called) on cable's Oxygen Network features overweight dancers vamping for the camera in a bid to drop pounds -- and are often still overweight by the end of the competition. And then there are "documentaries" like TLC's Half-Ton Teen, Half-Ton Mom, and Half-Ton Dad, which offer a voyeuristic look at the life of the morbidly obese, with subjects who literally weigh close to 1,000 pounds, can't physically move, and try to salvage their lives by undergoing risky surgery.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama threw the weight of the White House behind his wife's initiative, officially creating a task force to address childhood obesity; he also plans to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, the first lady said, and is proposing to commit $10 billion -- $1 billion a year for 10 years -- to help provide more-nutritious school lunches to those who qualify for the program.

I'm not sure that more education is going to do the trick by itself. After all, the people who are least likely to need intervention are often the ones who are most likely to pay attention to educational campaigns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been trying to educate at-risk people about nutrition and exercise for more than a decade now, and yet the obesity rate continues to rise. Though we know that the regular consumption of fast food can lead to all sorts of health issues (and Morgan Spurlock put it to the test by showing us what happens when you eat three fast-food meals a day in his documentary Super Size Me), the fast-food industry is hardly facing a lack of customers. And there may be cultural issues at play as well: In places like Senegal and Mauritania, "overweight" is considered a desireable body size because it implies wealth and prosperity.

In the US, though, overweight can also imply neglect -- with criminal consequences. Last May, Jerri Gray was arrested when her 14-year-old son's weight reached 555 pounds. The boy was put in foster care; the South Carolina mom was charged with criminal child neglect for allowing his weight to become "serious and threatening to his health," placing the teen in "an unreasonable risk of harm." Other cases in Indiana, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico prompted Time magazine to wonder if parents with morbidly obese children should lose custody of their kids. (Which begs the question: Should skinny parents of preternaturally thin kids or those with eating disorders like anorexia also be charged with neglect?)

In the end, the biggest hurdle parents may have to leap is their own perception of their kids. A 2007 study indicated that parents of overweight or obese children are often in denial about their children's true weight, possibly because they think that it'll change as the child grows older, according to Dr. Matthew M. Davis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan who led the study. Davis's study found that 43 percent of parents with an extremely overweight child who was 6 to 11 years old said their child was "about the right weight." Thirty-seven percent thought their child was just "slightly overweight," and only 13 percent said "very overweight." Others actually said they thought their children were "slightly underweight."

After spending years telling kids that they're just right the way they are, it can be difficult to admit that they've gained more than a pound or two. (The CDC uses a formula called the Body Mass Index, or BMI, to determine if a child is overweight. Click here to calculate your child's BMI.) Even Mrs. Obama was surprised when the pediatrician told her that her daughter's BMIs were creeping up.

"In my eyes I thought my children were perfect," Mrs. Obama said at the January launch of her initiative. "I didn't see the changes."

Parents: How much do you worry about your children's weight?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.



 

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15 comments so far...
  1. This is a timely post for me, because we just received a report home from the school nurse about our first grade son's BMI, weight, eye checks, etc. in her office. It is mandated by the state that schools will be sending home reports at some time during the year in grades 1, 4, and one other that I can't remember.

    My son is six years old and in first grade, but he is young in his class with a July birthday. That said, he is one of the three tallest. He weighs 58 pounds, which is in the 93rd percentile for his height. His BMI (which I can't remember off the top of my head) put him in the category of "at risk for becoming overweight."

    This little, er, big guy...takes a martial arts class 2x per week, swims 1x week and does an after school club 1x per week that is called "sports & games." His favorite activity on Wii? Wii Sports free run. My six year old can run a mile and a half without breaking a sweat or even huffing. If you take a look at him next to a couple of other kids his same height, you'd never guess that he weighs 8-11 pounds more than they do. He's slim. You can see his ribs when he changes his clothes.

    Yet the nurse's report suggests that we are doing something wrong. Could he eat a few more fruits and veggies and a little less sugar? Sure. So could I, to be honest. But how ridiculous is it that I now feel guilty about a Happy Meal once a month or the inevitable juice box and cake that appears at the weekly (yes, weekly) birthday parties?

    Our pediatrician says that he is perfect. He's very tall and yes, heavy for his age...but he IS NOT FAT, he is athletically built and muscular. BMI is a flawed tool that is sending some conscientious parents into a tizzy, mehinks unnecessarily.

    Posted by RH February 11, 10 05:24 PM
  1. This is, indeed, timely. Listening to "The Take Away" at the beginning of the week, this initiative was being discussed and it's efficacy was already being challenged. The larger issue that no one has really spoken to, the hosts argue, is that often times, obese or overweight children have obese or overweight parents. As hard as we may think it is for kids to change their routines (really, it's easier than we let ourselves believe), they said, it's even harder for adults to lose weight.

    And they're right. As I struggle with my own weight, I have silently fretted about how my diet will affect A. We don't eat out very much at all - and we don't eat fast food. At all. A has got to be an anomaly amongst her peers in that she doesn't even like french frieds (she's tried them three times and never finished one). I have to significantly restrict my caloric intake whereas her father has an extra high metabolism (which she seems to have inherited) and has to eat every hour or so...and eats a lot of junk himself because it's the only way to maintain his weight (and he's still trying to gain). As an aside, his diet is approved by our physician due to the fact that he needs very high calorie foods to maintain - but if I so much as look sideways at a bag of chips, he's lost 5 pounds and I've found it. >: \

    I don't think that BMI is accurate or adequate to measure a person's health though. Like the commenter above, I eat minimally and a lot of whole grains and vegetables. I exercise daily. I still gain weight and it's not muscle mass.

    But more importantly, how does the First Lady propose to address American "food deserts" that exist in major urban areas as well as rural ones, where healthy offerings are slim and healthy food, when found (i.e. fresh fruits and veggies and lean meats and whole grains) is out of the price range of those who live there? These areas are hugely responsible for the American malnutrition (you can be obese and be malnourished) but like you say, education alone isn't enough as the ones who least need it tend to be the ones who can afford the healthy shift - and who will pay attention at all.


    Posted by Phe February 12, 10 07:36 AM
  1. RH & Phe,

    You're both right that BMI is not a perfect measure of health. Although I haven't researched the topic, I would lay money on it having been developed from studies of people who are not too far from typical, i.e. not overly tall for their age/gender (like me, like RH's son) or short, not particularly active (like RH's son or an athlete), no metabolic extremes (like Phe & her husband). In any case it is not & was never intended as the end-all be-all statement about a person's health. "Normal" BMI doesn't mean you're the picture of health & "overweight" BMI doesn't mean you're going to drop dead of a heart attack tomorrow.

    BUT it is a simple number that most people can understand (and we all know how American's prefer simple & easy), and it is probably a good indicator for 90% of people. Anyone whose BMI is in the overweight & especially in the obese range, should take a hard look at their habits. And Mrs. Obama was right to be concerned that her daughter's BMI was moving upward & make some changes, even if it was still in the healthy range for now. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (pun intended).

    P.S. RH, I do hope that the nurse did not say anything negative to your son about his BMI. (That would just make my blood boil if anyone did that to my son!) But I also hope you keep an eye on his BMI & eating habits as he grows up. As a very tall woman, I've dated a number of very tall men & the ones who end up shopping the largest sizes at the Big & Tall store as adults (and had health issues, both minor & major, related to their weight) were very athletic as kids. It is something that worries me concerning my own son.

    Posted by GradSchoolVeteran February 12, 10 09:13 AM
  1. I agree that BMI is not a perfect scale, but by far and large it is a good indicator. I also listened to a few of the NPR reports and remember hearing that some of the other initiatives that could start to make a real difference is changing the school lunch guidelines. It is a shame that ketchup can be considered a vegetable.

    As to not being able to afford healthy foods... there are certainly food deserts in this country. BUT... with some help and education I am sure we could make some strides. The real problem is that fewer and fewer people know how to really cook. And by cook, I mean from scratch (or at least minimally processed foods). Things like dried beans, frozen veggies, hardy vegetables, and some fruits can last for weeks between shopping trips and are quite affordable. The real problem is the lack of knowledge on how to cook them and incorporate them into a balanced diet.

    That and a total societal blindness to portion size. What you get served at a restaurant is often 3-4 times what you should actually eat in one sitting. Even eating at home (which I do 99% of the time) I often serve food onto my plate, take a look, and realize that I probably put twice as much onto the plate than what I actually need.

    And don't get me started about soda....

    Posted by bostongrl February 12, 10 09:49 AM
  1. Another side of this coin is the unhealthy fixation that some parents start to have on children's weight -- especially girls -- at a very young age. As in, being worried that their 6-month-old is "fat," calling their formula intake "greedy," being proud of their 1-year-old's being underweight, etc. Babies and toddlers NEED high fat diets to develop their brains adequately and often to get enough calories. It worries me that focus on childhood obesity often doesn't include the idea that babies and toddlers are healthiest when they're pleasingly plump, and that only later does this become a concern.

    Posted by Carriefran February 12, 10 09:55 AM
  1. While I agree that BMI can be a flawed tool when used in a vacuum, without considering anything else, I also agree that it is generally a useful tool to give some insight into one aspect of a person's health.

    We need to stress to kids - and parents - the importance of daily exercise, and teach them how to choose and prepare healthy foods, and how to eat in a healthy way (slow down, chew thoroughly, give your body a chance to realize that you're full).

    Over the past two years, I've seen a lot of positive changes in the lunches served at my kids' schools - more fresh fruits and veggies, more whole grains, more variety, fewer junk meals like nachos. I'm encouraged by this, and think that if that sort of improvement can be made around the country as part of this initiative, that would be fantastic. If there's also a way to add funding so schools can lengthen the day and bring back more recess, that would be even better. Kids need to move and let off steam, and it always baffles me when teachers take away recess as punishment for bad behavior.

    Posted by akmom February 12, 10 11:57 AM
  1. bostongrl: If you were listening to those reports, did you hear the interview with the head chef for the DC Metro school system? He plans menus for over 80K kids each day, a huge majority of whom live in what he, himself, categorized as a "food desert". He also pointed out that the school lunch menus he creates are often their only healthy meal of the day and, in many cases, their ONLY meal of the day.

    Most people don't know how to cook from scratch anymore because of the time or perception of time involved. Since I became a mother, I rely more on canned vegetables than fresh these days myself simply because of time. And for parents of the hardest hit in the childhood obesity epidemic, working multiple or long-hour jobs may mean more time at work than home.

    I don't disagree though, that cooking properly can be done on a tight budget. It's more a matter of telling people to stay home and cook though. It's a matter of re-evaluating ourselves at a very basic level and what our priorities are (work or family?) and what we can give up in order to spend more time being productive in either place.

    The initiative doesn't seek to address any of that.

    Posted by Phe February 12, 10 12:07 PM
  1. I've been fighting that 'healthy food takes too long' myth for years.

    I almost never spend more than 20-40 minutes putting together a weekday meal. We're vegetarians, so I'm not cooking roasts or whatever. But whole wheat pasta, pasta sauce with added veggies, and a salad takes no time. Tofu stirfry takes like 10 minutes, and the rice takes 9 minutes in a pressure cooker. There are whole cookbooks devoted to meals that are quick but healthy - it just takes a little research and preparation.

    It also helps to train kids from a young age to help in the kitchen. One of my sons' regular chores is to help cook dinner. It may take a little longer - they are slower at chopping and peeling things - but it gets done, and they are more willing to eat it if they helped cook it. Then they know I am not sneaking the dreaded mushrooms in, LOL.

    Posted by BMS February 12, 10 01:19 PM
  1. It appears that some of the above commenters might not have taken the time to find out what the First Lady's initiative really entails before they went ahead and critiqued it. Check out the website. I, for one, am encouraged. It's a step in the right direction, and it's far better than doing nothing.

    Posted by M. February 12, 10 01:37 PM
  1. I really don't think BMI is the best tool. For those of you concerned about what your child's BMI is, don't worry. You've done the first thing which is being concerned. To the first poster, if you honestly feel your child gets lots of exercise and eats pretty well, than he probably does, and I wouldn't fret too much.
    Most kids do need better nutrition and more exercise though. I've been a substitute teacher in many schools, and have been appalled at what kids are fed each day. At many schools its not even made in house anymore. I'm not that old and at our schools the cafeteria was staffed with moms and dads of the students, and while the ingredients were basic, they were able to pull together some decent and nutritious choices every week. Of course, with some junk thrown in to make it appealing. But it worked.

    Posted by lala February 12, 10 01:49 PM
  1. I was intrigued by the idea that parents could be criminalized for encouraging/allowing their children to be too thin. Anorexia and bulimia can cause emotional scars and lifetime weight struggles just as obesity can, so it's important for parents not to shift their children toward extreme weight loss OR gain.

    Posted by turtles19 February 12, 10 03:21 PM
  1. Personally I'm going to leave my children's health care up to their pediatrician, not the school nurse or Michelle Obama!
    My oldest is in kindergarten, but next year I will be signing the form to opt. of of the BMI measurements at school. I am a good parent, I trust my pediatrician, and follow his orders. For my family that's all we need to remain healthy.
    I worry about kids exchanging and comparing their BMI's there is already so much pressure on our kids why give them one more thing to stress and worry about w/o proper adult ie: parent supervision.
    Health is a personal thing and my family will be dealing with it on a personal level, at home and with our primary care doctors.
    Just my 2¢.

    Posted by Ida Seaver February 12, 10 03:49 PM
  1. Body Fat Percentage is by far a more important indicator of health than BMI. BMI is VERY flawed for athletic individuals. BMI was developed by insurance companies using non-athletic "couch potatoes" as a reference. If you kid is a couch potato, then BMI may have some use as a rough guide. If you kid is tall, or of average height but muscular, then BMI is not very useful.

    Posted by CarveMaster February 12, 10 11:32 PM
  1. First they stuff them full of aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, bleached refined flour, soda and heaven knows what else then complain that they are unhealthy. Next they will try to sell diet pills to kids to "cure" the problem

    http://healthjournalclub.blogspot.com/

    Posted by Philip February 14, 10 04:50 AM
  1. The thing is..some people may go overboard, and some people are well aware of what's going on. However, way too many people have no idea or concern about their child's weight and think kids have a right to eat junk food and soda because "they're kids". The sad thing is that a lot of the people who feel this way, are the people who are overweight with diabetes now. It's like they think it's inevitable, so why make the kids suffer now, instead of realizing that if you are even a little bit aware now, the kids may not have to go through that at all when they are adults (or sooner)! I don't know enough about the White House initiative, but I do know that not enough people are concerned about their children's eating habits and activity levels.

    Posted by Michelle February 14, 10 11:56 AM
 
15 comments so far...
  1. This is a timely post for me, because we just received a report home from the school nurse about our first grade son's BMI, weight, eye checks, etc. in her office. It is mandated by the state that schools will be sending home reports at some time during the year in grades 1, 4, and one other that I can't remember.

    My son is six years old and in first grade, but he is young in his class with a July birthday. That said, he is one of the three tallest. He weighs 58 pounds, which is in the 93rd percentile for his height. His BMI (which I can't remember off the top of my head) put him in the category of "at risk for becoming overweight."

    This little, er, big guy...takes a martial arts class 2x per week, swims 1x week and does an after school club 1x per week that is called "sports & games." His favorite activity on Wii? Wii Sports free run. My six year old can run a mile and a half without breaking a sweat or even huffing. If you take a look at him next to a couple of other kids his same height, you'd never guess that he weighs 8-11 pounds more than they do. He's slim. You can see his ribs when he changes his clothes.

    Yet the nurse's report suggests that we are doing something wrong. Could he eat a few more fruits and veggies and a little less sugar? Sure. So could I, to be honest. But how ridiculous is it that I now feel guilty about a Happy Meal once a month or the inevitable juice box and cake that appears at the weekly (yes, weekly) birthday parties?

    Our pediatrician says that he is perfect. He's very tall and yes, heavy for his age...but he IS NOT FAT, he is athletically built and muscular. BMI is a flawed tool that is sending some conscientious parents into a tizzy, mehinks unnecessarily.

    Posted by RH February 11, 10 05:24 PM
  1. This is, indeed, timely. Listening to "The Take Away" at the beginning of the week, this initiative was being discussed and it's efficacy was already being challenged. The larger issue that no one has really spoken to, the hosts argue, is that often times, obese or overweight children have obese or overweight parents. As hard as we may think it is for kids to change their routines (really, it's easier than we let ourselves believe), they said, it's even harder for adults to lose weight.

    And they're right. As I struggle with my own weight, I have silently fretted about how my diet will affect A. We don't eat out very much at all - and we don't eat fast food. At all. A has got to be an anomaly amongst her peers in that she doesn't even like french frieds (she's tried them three times and never finished one). I have to significantly restrict my caloric intake whereas her father has an extra high metabolism (which she seems to have inherited) and has to eat every hour or so...and eats a lot of junk himself because it's the only way to maintain his weight (and he's still trying to gain). As an aside, his diet is approved by our physician due to the fact that he needs very high calorie foods to maintain - but if I so much as look sideways at a bag of chips, he's lost 5 pounds and I've found it. >: \

    I don't think that BMI is accurate or adequate to measure a person's health though. Like the commenter above, I eat minimally and a lot of whole grains and vegetables. I exercise daily. I still gain weight and it's not muscle mass.

    But more importantly, how does the First Lady propose to address American "food deserts" that exist in major urban areas as well as rural ones, where healthy offerings are slim and healthy food, when found (i.e. fresh fruits and veggies and lean meats and whole grains) is out of the price range of those who live there? These areas are hugely responsible for the American malnutrition (you can be obese and be malnourished) but like you say, education alone isn't enough as the ones who least need it tend to be the ones who can afford the healthy shift - and who will pay attention at all.


    Posted by Phe February 12, 10 07:36 AM
  1. RH & Phe,

    You're both right that BMI is not a perfect measure of health. Although I haven't researched the topic, I would lay money on it having been developed from studies of people who are not too far from typical, i.e. not overly tall for their age/gender (like me, like RH's son) or short, not particularly active (like RH's son or an athlete), no metabolic extremes (like Phe & her husband). In any case it is not & was never intended as the end-all be-all statement about a person's health. "Normal" BMI doesn't mean you're the picture of health & "overweight" BMI doesn't mean you're going to drop dead of a heart attack tomorrow.

    BUT it is a simple number that most people can understand (and we all know how American's prefer simple & easy), and it is probably a good indicator for 90% of people. Anyone whose BMI is in the overweight & especially in the obese range, should take a hard look at their habits. And Mrs. Obama was right to be concerned that her daughter's BMI was moving upward & make some changes, even if it was still in the healthy range for now. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (pun intended).

    P.S. RH, I do hope that the nurse did not say anything negative to your son about his BMI. (That would just make my blood boil if anyone did that to my son!) But I also hope you keep an eye on his BMI & eating habits as he grows up. As a very tall woman, I've dated a number of very tall men & the ones who end up shopping the largest sizes at the Big & Tall store as adults (and had health issues, both minor & major, related to their weight) were very athletic as kids. It is something that worries me concerning my own son.

    Posted by GradSchoolVeteran February 12, 10 09:13 AM
  1. I agree that BMI is not a perfect scale, but by far and large it is a good indicator. I also listened to a few of the NPR reports and remember hearing that some of the other initiatives that could start to make a real difference is changing the school lunch guidelines. It is a shame that ketchup can be considered a vegetable.

    As to not being able to afford healthy foods... there are certainly food deserts in this country. BUT... with some help and education I am sure we could make some strides. The real problem is that fewer and fewer people know how to really cook. And by cook, I mean from scratch (or at least minimally processed foods). Things like dried beans, frozen veggies, hardy vegetables, and some fruits can last for weeks between shopping trips and are quite affordable. The real problem is the lack of knowledge on how to cook them and incorporate them into a balanced diet.

    That and a total societal blindness to portion size. What you get served at a restaurant is often 3-4 times what you should actually eat in one sitting. Even eating at home (which I do 99% of the time) I often serve food onto my plate, take a look, and realize that I probably put twice as much onto the plate than what I actually need.

    And don't get me started about soda....

    Posted by bostongrl February 12, 10 09:49 AM
  1. Another side of this coin is the unhealthy fixation that some parents start to have on children's weight -- especially girls -- at a very young age. As in, being worried that their 6-month-old is "fat," calling their formula intake "greedy," being proud of their 1-year-old's being underweight, etc. Babies and toddlers NEED high fat diets to develop their brains adequately and often to get enough calories. It worries me that focus on childhood obesity often doesn't include the idea that babies and toddlers are healthiest when they're pleasingly plump, and that only later does this become a concern.

    Posted by Carriefran February 12, 10 09:55 AM
  1. While I agree that BMI can be a flawed tool when used in a vacuum, without considering anything else, I also agree that it is generally a useful tool to give some insight into one aspect of a person's health.

    We need to stress to kids - and parents - the importance of daily exercise, and teach them how to choose and prepare healthy foods, and how to eat in a healthy way (slow down, chew thoroughly, give your body a chance to realize that you're full).

    Over the past two years, I've seen a lot of positive changes in the lunches served at my kids' schools - more fresh fruits and veggies, more whole grains, more variety, fewer junk meals like nachos. I'm encouraged by this, and think that if that sort of improvement can be made around the country as part of this initiative, that would be fantastic. If there's also a way to add funding so schools can lengthen the day and bring back more recess, that would be even better. Kids need to move and let off steam, and it always baffles me when teachers take away recess as punishment for bad behavior.

    Posted by akmom February 12, 10 11:57 AM
  1. bostongrl: If you were listening to those reports, did you hear the interview with the head chef for the DC Metro school system? He plans menus for over 80K kids each day, a huge majority of whom live in what he, himself, categorized as a "food desert". He also pointed out that the school lunch menus he creates are often their only healthy meal of the day and, in many cases, their ONLY meal of the day.

    Most people don't know how to cook from scratch anymore because of the time or perception of time involved. Since I became a mother, I rely more on canned vegetables than fresh these days myself simply because of time. And for parents of the hardest hit in the childhood obesity epidemic, working multiple or long-hour jobs may mean more time at work than home.

    I don't disagree though, that cooking properly can be done on a tight budget. It's more a matter of telling people to stay home and cook though. It's a matter of re-evaluating ourselves at a very basic level and what our priorities are (work or family?) and what we can give up in order to spend more time being productive in either place.

    The initiative doesn't seek to address any of that.

    Posted by Phe February 12, 10 12:07 PM
  1. I've been fighting that 'healthy food takes too long' myth for years.

    I almost never spend more than 20-40 minutes putting together a weekday meal. We're vegetarians, so I'm not cooking roasts or whatever. But whole wheat pasta, pasta sauce with added veggies, and a salad takes no time. Tofu stirfry takes like 10 minutes, and the rice takes 9 minutes in a pressure cooker. There are whole cookbooks devoted to meals that are quick but healthy - it just takes a little research and preparation.

    It also helps to train kids from a young age to help in the kitchen. One of my sons' regular chores is to help cook dinner. It may take a little longer - they are slower at chopping and peeling things - but it gets done, and they are more willing to eat it if they helped cook it. Then they know I am not sneaking the dreaded mushrooms in, LOL.

    Posted by BMS February 12, 10 01:19 PM
  1. It appears that some of the above commenters might not have taken the time to find out what the First Lady's initiative really entails before they went ahead and critiqued it. Check out the website. I, for one, am encouraged. It's a step in the right direction, and it's far better than doing nothing.

    Posted by M. February 12, 10 01:37 PM
  1. I really don't think BMI is the best tool. For those of you concerned about what your child's BMI is, don't worry. You've done the first thing which is being concerned. To the first poster, if you honestly feel your child gets lots of exercise and eats pretty well, than he probably does, and I wouldn't fret too much.
    Most kids do need better nutrition and more exercise though. I've been a substitute teacher in many schools, and have been appalled at what kids are fed each day. At many schools its not even made in house anymore. I'm not that old and at our schools the cafeteria was staffed with moms and dads of the students, and while the ingredients were basic, they were able to pull together some decent and nutritious choices every week. Of course, with some junk thrown in to make it appealing. But it worked.

    Posted by lala February 12, 10 01:49 PM
  1. I was intrigued by the idea that parents could be criminalized for encouraging/allowing their children to be too thin. Anorexia and bulimia can cause emotional scars and lifetime weight struggles just as obesity can, so it's important for parents not to shift their children toward extreme weight loss OR gain.

    Posted by turtles19 February 12, 10 03:21 PM
  1. Personally I'm going to leave my children's health care up to their pediatrician, not the school nurse or Michelle Obama!
    My oldest is in kindergarten, but next year I will be signing the form to opt. of of the BMI measurements at school. I am a good parent, I trust my pediatrician, and follow his orders. For my family that's all we need to remain healthy.
    I worry about kids exchanging and comparing their BMI's there is already so much pressure on our kids why give them one more thing to stress and worry about w/o proper adult ie: parent supervision.
    Health is a personal thing and my family will be dealing with it on a personal level, at home and with our primary care doctors.
    Just my 2¢.

    Posted by Ida Seaver February 12, 10 03:49 PM
  1. Body Fat Percentage is by far a more important indicator of health than BMI. BMI is VERY flawed for athletic individuals. BMI was developed by insurance companies using non-athletic "couch potatoes" as a reference. If you kid is a couch potato, then BMI may have some use as a rough guide. If you kid is tall, or of average height but muscular, then BMI is not very useful.

    Posted by CarveMaster February 12, 10 11:32 PM
  1. First they stuff them full of aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, bleached refined flour, soda and heaven knows what else then complain that they are unhealthy. Next they will try to sell diet pills to kids to "cure" the problem

    http://healthjournalclub.blogspot.com/

    Posted by Philip February 14, 10 04:50 AM
  1. The thing is..some people may go overboard, and some people are well aware of what's going on. However, way too many people have no idea or concern about their child's weight and think kids have a right to eat junk food and soda because "they're kids". The sad thing is that a lot of the people who feel this way, are the people who are overweight with diabetes now. It's like they think it's inevitable, so why make the kids suffer now, instead of realizing that if you are even a little bit aware now, the kids may not have to go through that at all when they are adults (or sooner)! I don't know enough about the White House initiative, but I do know that not enough people are concerned about their children's eating habits and activity levels.

    Posted by Michelle February 14, 10 11:56 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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