R – Responsibility – Whose is it?

 

Obsesity - Cancer COuncil

I am tired of talking about myself and my weight loss.  It’s all going well, after 5 weeks, it seems my change in diet and activity are becoming more of a habit and certainly the increase in activity and the decrease in the calories doesn’t seem like such a chore now. 

I have been thinking about why our children are becoming so fat, and what their futures will hold for them if something isn’t done to help them now, before they become teenagers, or adults and the control is completely in their hands.

I work with children every day, and have done for years and years.  Our children are becoming enormous.  Shoot, my children became obese, despite my efforts to feed them healthy foods and provide them with all types of activities.  I fed them homemade baby food, and tried to limit the junk that came into our house.  But they were barraged with advertisements for McDonalds, Burger King, sugary cereal, green ketchup (that was when the Shrek movies came out) and it was a constant battle, riddled with emotional meltdowns and the constant wail of “I saw it on TV.” We would end up at fast food places, because they wanted to buy the newest action figure, available only through the purchase of a Happy Meal.

I see kids at work who have such severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea, because of obesity, they require tonsillectomies, and a stay in the Intensive Care Unit postoperatively because of their obesity.  When I was working Surgery, we saw younger and younger children coming in with gallbladder disease, requiring them to have their gallbladder removed. 

And I think back to all the arguments I had with my kids, about why we shouldn’t stop at that fast food place, or why we shouldn’t buy that cereal or caloric dense snack food, but they pushed and pushed and I relented.  Our pantry ended up with boxes of juices, snacks, cereal emblazoned with cartoon characters and the newest movie characters and I felt like the crappiest parent ever, because I couldn’t beat the call of the food company sirens, they won pretty much every time.

I did some research prior to writing this post, about the effect advertising has on kids.  It is a huge issue, and there are all kinds of propositions for limiting the amount of food advertising played during kids shows.  The food advertisers say if it wasn’t for them, there would be no kids’ shows on TV. And of course, there is the argument that parents are the parents and therefore they should impose their parental control.  I know from personal experience, kids are really good at wearing you down (and in fact, there is actually a scientific term for this – it is called the “Pestering Factor”), and they will push, and throw themselves about until they get what they want. 

And the thing is, even if one realizes their child has a weight issue, and tries to do something about it, there is very little help or assistance out there.  I took my kids to all kinds of weight-loss programs.  But I paid out of pocket for every program I took them to.  The insurance companies will deny any services related to weight-loss.  I took my children to a nutritionist, and received a $600 bill.  Despite being referred by our Pediatrician, the service was still denied, the insurance company would not cover a dime of it.  I guess they wait until things are so dire, and the child requires surgeries because they are so obese, then the insurance company will cover that.  I was researching clinical weight-loss programs for kids, and even the most respected institutions state there is financial assistance, because apparently, their pediatric based weight-loss program which costs about $3500, is not covered by insurance.

I don’t look down my nose at the family with the obese children.  I know what a battle it is.  I know those families are most likely as concerned as I was with state of their child’s weight.  But it is such battle and the families are stuck in the middle, between the food advertised to children, trying to offer them healthy choices and the insurance companies who are unwilling to help.  It is really an awful, awful situation and seems to be getting worse and worse for everyone involved.

I was thinking, there may be a small answer, a little glimmer of hope.  What if everyone cut their cable and only streamed TV into their house?  We did that about a year or so ago, and I have not seen one food advertisement since. What if we just said, enough is enough, and cut the advertisements out completely.  Kids could watch their shows on Hulu, or Netflix and not be constantly barraged by food advertisements, enticing them to annoy the crap out of their parents until the parents break and purchase them the unhealthy food item. It may be a little step, but it is a step parents can take, and it might even save them some money (no more cable TV bills).

It’s just a thought.

And so – whose responsible for all of this?  It’s hard to say.  We all have a hand in the increase in obesity in the pediatric population – the food companies, the advertising companies, the TV networks, the parents, the schools, the insurance companies, and the government.  What are we going to do about it?  Stand by and let it continue to happen? That is not an option. I say  we can start by “cutting the cord”, and minimizing the advertisements our children watch.  As I said, it is a little, tiny step, but it is a step forward. 

Photo credit: Cancer Council

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