The Blame Game: American Obesity

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So for awhile, I’ve been semi-following the media coverage that has surrounded the American obesity epidemic.

Even though I’m passionate about food and healthy eating (which you’d never guess by my relentless posts about baking and subsequently eating every kind of cookie imaginable) I am somewhat aloof to topics concerning kids. I don’t have them, I don’t plan on having them anytime soon and there are enough headlines out there that I actually DO need to read, like political satires and information about my plummeting life savings (luckily, there wasn’t much to begin with).

But reading article after article about how today’s youth are sedentary and overweight, gorging on Krispy Kremes and chugging soda by the gallon, I’ve noticed one common trend threading through most of these articles: blame.

Recently, the New York Times reported that a recent survey of more than 10,000 fifth graders in 40 states revealed that when researchers compared the soft drink consumption of children at schools where it was sold and children at schools where it was not, they did not find a big difference.

I’m not at all surprised at the results of this study. While soda isn’t the most health-conscious beverage to choose, there are plenty of people who drink it without falling into the obesity range. Granted, I’m not a doctor, a scientist, or even a parent, but I’ve had my own weight struggles and I think that we need to look at childhood obesity the same way we look at adult obesity. And we need to look at it as we would any other issue: constructively and with the intention of finding a solution rather than focusing purely on the problem.

It’s up to us, as individuals, to make good choices and set good examples for those around us, whether they be children or other adults. We all influence each other as a society and practicing moderation is the key to a balanced diet.

My strongest belief in food is that it’s great to maintain a healthy diet and choose salads instead of fried appetizers and to skip the whip on your morning latte.

But only if that is what you like.

I enjoy eating fresh vegetables and making brightly colored salads to accompany dinners. But if it just so happened that I loved fried onion rings, I would hope that I could enjoy those in moderation too without depriving myself.

I care about eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight, but I happen to have a sweet tooth and if it means skipping the side of fries or holding the salad dressing, then I’ll do that to balance out my diet and maintain my weight.

Of course, nothing is foolproof and what works for me might not work for everyone else. And it might not work for me 100% of the time; however pointing the finger at soda machines that have been around for fifty years or ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup is not the root of the problem. They may not be the best thing for you, but eliminating them is not the answer either.

However adverse HFCS is to one’s health, it isn’t the only culprit. FDA-approved Red-40, an artificial coloring used in foods like Lucky Charms Cereal, Kraft Barbecue Sauce and even in some canned fruits, has been linked to hyperactivity in kids, yet we aren’t seeing commercials urging parents to stop poisoning their rambunctious toddlers with low-fat yogurts. Red-40 has also been linked to migraines, bloating and indigestion in adults.

No matter what the trend on television, we have to think carefully about everything we are eating – not just the culprit du jour.

There is no magic wand.

There’s no secret ingredient that’s causing waistlines to expand and diets to fail. Maintaining a healthy diet is about moderation. Calories in < Calories out.

That might mean chocolate cupcakes on the weekend, it might mean an extra long run on Saturday morning to offset the chips and margaritas on Friday night (I know both well).

I think that if we want to make a change, as individuals or as a greater society, the key is looking at our own diets and lifestyle habits and saying “what can we change” before looking outside and blaming the foods and ingredients that we’re choosing to put in our bodies.

What are your thoughts on childhood obesity? Do you think there is someone to blame for the current epidemic? What do you think we as a society can do to fix it?

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