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Child Obesity Support Programme
What's On Top
- Happy new year! Did you make a resolution? I made one but I can't remember what it was... Say no more! But the resolution to lose weight is one of the most widespread and enduring of all.
Unfortunately it's also one of the most easily broken. Why is that? Assoc. Prof. Roger Cook from Australia's Swinburne University of Technology suggests that "Diet plans, weight loss programs and exercise regimes typically do not address the psychological factors behind eating behaviour (such as binge eating), which can also be associated with depression and lowered self-esteem."
In other words, it's easy to say ''I'm going to eat better and excercise more'', but unless the underlying (psychological) reasons for not eating well and participating in physical activity are addressed, your resolution may be unlikely to succeed. Does that mean everybody with weight challenges also has psychological challenges? Does your chubby 5 year old need therapy? Probably not, but at the same time we should always keep in mind that obesity is a real medical condition, and that it's causes and effects usually go much deeper than simply eating too much and not exercising enough.
- The summer school holidays are an ideal opportunity to get obese kids interested in physical activity. This could be as simple as going for a swim, a bikeride, or going on a bushwalk or perhaps even an overnight camp. But to some kids with weight challenges the very idea of slogging up a hill or pitching a tent with no TV or Playstation is like being asked to submit to torture! How do you get your overweight child to engage in physical activity when all they want to do is stay home, lie back on the couch, eat potato chips and watch a DVD?
Most importantly, we need to realise that overweight children may be reluctant (defiant!) about engaging in physical activities because such activity can cause the child real physical discomfort. Often a significantly overweight child will find the simple act of rising to stand from a sitting position on the floor something of a challenge. Imagine what goes through such a child's mind when you ask them to come along for a hike in the bush!
Understand that your child isn't really being defiant or 'lazy'. Rather he or she is subconsciously considering the physical ability and limitations of his or her own body, and is responding accordingly. Don't be suprised if that sounds like defiance or disobedience: Often that's the only way kids know how to say 'no'.
So then what? Perhaps you could try a simpler, less physical activity to start with, maybe with some sort of (healthy) reward at the end. Kids love surprises too. Instead of saying 'we're going for a walk', you could try something like 'we're going on a mystery outing'. I know it sounds corny, but you might be surprised at the results!
Topics Of Interest
- Should surgery to treat the morbidly obese be taxpayer-funded?
This seems to be a highly contentious issue at the moment. On one side are people who say that obesity is a ''self-inflicted lifestyle choice'', and should therefore not be taxpayer funded. On the other side are people who say that obesity is a ''disease'', or the result of an ''addiction'' - like alcoholism, perhaps - and therefore should be taxpayer funded.
But does it really matter?
A person who drives drunk and injures him or herself in a car accident has made the choice to engage in an activity which has a recognisably high chance of resulting in personal injury. Only the most mean-spirited among us would refuse that injured drunk-driver taxpayer funded lifesaving medical treatment, so why would we seek to deprive a person who is obese (which is likely a result of far more complex dynamics than having a few too many beers) taxpayer funded treatment - which may save or improve his or her life?
Obesity in any given individual is usually the result of factors outside of the individual's immediate control or influence: Specifically, the path to obesity is more often than not established in childhood - a time of life which cannot by any reasonable means be considered self-determined. Blame society, blame McDonalds, blame the parents (if you really have to). Just don't blame the obese kid who grows into an obese adult... It's not quite as simple as telling them to excercise more and not to eat so much! Smokers will know what I mean: How many took up the habit after you turned 21? My guess - None.
I do understand how people can rail against taxpayer funding for the morbidly obese, just as I can understand how some would say that a drunk driver should be made to pay for his or her own medical costs. But then what? What about a kid whose parents tell him not to climb an old tree in the back yard because it's rotten and the branches might break? So the kid climbs the tree anyway and the branch breaks and the kid falls and breaks his leg. Do we deny that kid taxpayer funded medical support - or make him pay for his treatment - because he did what he wasn't supposed to do...?
In The News
- It seems that our ''Godzone'' Aotearoa New Zealand has the second highest rate of primary school bullying in the world.
This is a horrible stastic, because schoolyard bullying is a horrible thing.
Many of us tend to view schoolyard bullying as a one-off playground rumble that might end in a black eye or a broken nose. But often the most harmful type of bullying goes much deeper and hurts a whole lot more. A 13 year old boy I have recently been working with, after struggling to establish a natural relationship with a girl who genuinely seemed to like him, was denied that relationship because his girlfriends' ''friends'' convinced her she shouldn't go out with him because he was ''too fat''. So the girl ended the relationship (dumped him).
Would you consider that a form of bullying? Why or why not?
It's no secret that kids with weight challenges are often the target of bullying and / or exclusion, and most of us can remember the ''fat kid'' who got teased, picked on, or excluded from social activities from our own school days. Perhaps we were that kid. Perhaps we were the bully.
Obesity seems to attract adversity, even from a very young age. Why? I suspect it's all about natural selection and survival of the fittest - courtesy of Charlie Darwin. Does that mean we should let it happen? I hope not, and I hope that our current evolutionary status has elevated us to some level of social consciousness and regard over and above that of the apes, but these recent stastics seem to show otherwise...
- Apparently obesity in the USA is now more prevalent than overweight.
Obesity? Overweight? What's the difference? An 'obese' person (child or adult) has a Body Mass Index over 30. An 'overweight' person has a Body Mass Index over 25 but under 31. Body Mass Index may be abbreviated as BMI. Wikipedia has a good resource if you want to learn more about BMI, but do bear in mind that the BMI system is rather controversial, and that some health professionals reject it outright.
Put simply, an obese child or adult is more at risk of health problems (psysical and psychological) than an overweight one, and an overweight one is more at risk of health problems than an average-weight one. The thing is that there now seem to be more 'obese' Americans than 'merely overweight' ones, and that the impact on the health of each of these individual people is likely to be considerable as a result.
- A few email correspondents have put forward opinions around the idea that ''obese kids don't need support; they need discipline''. Fair enough, one man's opinion is as good as any other and all that... But the message I get (reading between the lines) is that obese kids ''get what they deserve''.
That, I don't accept.
I would like to ask those correspondents; did you never rail against the norm and do anything you weren't supposed to when you were young? Obesity is a very obvious result of contemporary social pressures and influences. Did you never do anything less visually comparible that went against the social norms and expectations of your own generation?
Get a life!
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