Saturday, February 10, 2007

Childhood fat can be fatal

I was on line with my husband Coach Stu for the fantastic White House years exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois this past weekend. My mom raved about the exhibit, which she had seen earlier in the year and loved. She was watching the boys, and we were refreshingly child free as we waited to get in.

Right behind us in line, two women were having a scathing conversation about a mutual friend who is a toddler mother. I like to imagine if I had Z with me, they would have toned down the mama bashing a bit.

"So, did I tell you she doesn't let him have French fries."

"She doesn't?"

"No, she makes him eat the apples with the Happy Meal or something ridiculous like that. Says the fries are fattening or something."

"Hmmmm. Tsk tsk"

"Oh, and she doesn't let him drink pop. She can have twelve pops a day, but she won't give any to him." (Ha. "Pop". We call it "soda".)

"She doesn't??!! How old is he?"

"Almost two."

"Well, WHAT does he drink?? Milk? Punch?"

"I don't know. Water I think."


I turned red with anger and shame. These women were talking about a mother as if she was abusing her child for making some of the same choices that I make daily. I have to admit Zach has had his share of French fries on our few fast food and restaurant experiences (almost exclusively while traveling). But, I would never dream of giving him soda, and even closely restrict it in my seven year old. Although I have total sympathy for parents who rely on fast food for their family, I love to cook and healthy food is a priority for me, and the French fry exposure is kept to a relative minimum in our household too.

Let's get this straight. I am not judging parents who make different decisions than me in their priorities. I am simply pointing out why I identified with this mom that these women were tearing apart.

A recent study in the Annals (no giggling) of Internal Medicine concludes that teenagers who are the most obese are almost three times as likely to die before the age of 44, which was the end of the study. An easier to read article on the study claims the heavier subjects were also more likely to smoke and to commit suicide. (Kurt Vonnegut argues that smoking cigarettes is a slow form of suicide).

Thinking of how much I have to struggle with my weight, and I was not obese as a child or adolescent, makes me paranoid about the future of my children and the children of America. Childhood overweight and obesity is an epidemic right now. I guess I will have to take some people talking smack about me and moms like me, because I am going to stand by my no soda for my toddler decision.

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