Overblown Obesity: Childhood Obesity Not Epidemic

A new study shows childhood obesity rates have leveled off from 1999 to 2006. Good news for those parents, including myself, who sometimes feel guilty slipping our kids a treat or two. Guess we can relax. Or maybe not completely. Sixteen percent of kids are obese according to the researchers from The Centers for Disease Control reporting in this month's Journal of the American Medical Association. And then there's the fact that the rates of childhood obesity have tripled since 1980. Oh yeah, let me guess the usual suspects: sugary foods, prepackaged snacks, soft drinks, computers, videogames, and yes, the great and almighty arbiter of evil and obesity, the television.

The New York Times quotes several experts still clearly worried about the rates of childhood obesity, obviously there's a host of poor outcomes attributed to being obese.

And yet most kids are not obese. Not even among minority and poor families who have significantly higher rates of obesity. But once again, it's difficult to make a single proclamation about children or parents for that matter, like "all parents should not worry about their kids weight" or "everyone let your kids eat cake until they gag". Looks like we still have an obesity epidemic in some parts of the country. And for others, not so much. Don't need my doctorate in social psychology to realize we're a divided country on many parenting issues - be it breastfeeding, extracirricular activities, or obesity.

Thing is, I wonder how the one-size (no pun intended!) message from pediatricians and assorted other health authorities (CHILDHOOD OBESITY...SUGAR BAD...TV BAD) negatively influences kids who aren't at risk. Freaking out their parents who get overly anxious and restrictive in the kitchen and the grocery store thus spawning control issues and ultimately eating disorders. I sometimes feel on tenderhooks navigating the nutrition recommendations and exhortations while preserving my own sense of sanity not to mention preferences and yes, cravings. And I have two young girls that each deserve a lifetime of healthy and pleasurable eating.

Cynthia L. Ogden, PhD; Margaret D. Carroll, MSPH; Katherine M. Flegal, PhD. (2008). High Body Mass Index for Age Among US Children and Adolescents, 2003-2006,
JAMA, 299(20):2401-2405.

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