In case you missed it, my big goal series this year is “A healthy 2012 means childhood obesity in America shouldn’t be taboo.”
I’m serious about this issue. Weight, exercise, calories and getting healthy as it relates to kids shouldn’t be taboo. At all. Still, seeing as how all of these same issues are, as of yet, fairly taboo for adults, it’s no surprise that when you bring kids into it, well, you face some major opposition.
People are hyper sensitive about their kids. “Not my kid” is more popular and more PC than, “Yes, my kid is overweight, and at risk for some serious health issues. I should hop into action.” Consider though that kids won’t stay kids forever. Kids do become adults, and your influence on said kid, can be as healthy or as non-healthy as you choose to make it.
Also consider that it’s MUCH easier to build healthy habits now, rather than later. Lastly consider that later on, any smart kid who becomes a smart adult will realize they could have had healthy habits earlier on, had someone (and by someone I mean their parent) seen fit to fill them in on the basics about calories, weight and exercise.
Martin Cizmar is a good example of one such adult. No clue if he was an overweight kid, but according to Cizmar, “Americans are disgustingly fat. I’m allowed to say so because not long ago, I was disgustingly fat.” Cizmar used to weigh around 300 pounds, but was fairly happy anyhow, noting, “I enjoyed massive portions of rich, delicious foods and took great pleasure in passively watching the shiny flat-screen TV in front of my leather couch. It was not such a terrible life.”
That all changed when Cizmar fell in love with a nurse who gave him the 411 about the health risks he was slowly accumulating due to his lifestyle choices. Long story short, Cizmar lost 110 or so pounds, then wrote a book about the experience, Chubster: A Hipster’s Guide to Losing Weight While Staying Cool. I haven’t read the book yet, but Cizmar’s piece in a recent Willamette Week, Confessions of a Chubster: The moral crusade against fatties, is an awesome read, especially if you’re a parent who may be in denial about your child’s weight.
Cizmar’s writing is remarkably straightforward in a world that refuses to discuss weight (beyond magical diet plans). He notes:
“Being fat is a choice. Genetics plays a role, sure. So does your upbringing. But you do not get fat unless you’re eating more than you need to nourish your body. That’s basic science. There are no excuses, no matter what someone from the so-called Fat Acceptance Movement wants to claim.”
Although worth a full read, the best part of the article is his ending:
“For the fat, that starts by admitting your weight is a byproduct of your choices. Then it’s a matter of recognizing those choices are unsustainable. I realized if I didn’t change my life, I was going to die—but not before burdening the people I loved and our hospitals, and not before missing out on the life I could have been living.
Too many diet pitches start with the premise that being fat is terrible. It isn’t, really. In contemporary American society, it’s perfectly possible to live a happy life as a big, fat slob. It’s also disgusting—not aesthetically, but morally—and don’t blame anyone for saying so. There is life behind the flatscreen. Get off the couch and start living it.”
I like that Cizmar doesn’t candy coat the issue. He was fat. He ate too much and sat around. He changed his habits. Now he weighs less, he’s active and, from how it sounds, he’s still perfectly happy.
Cizmar changed his habits as an adult though, something that many adults can’t manage or aren’t comfortable managing. He also seemed to have help. It was just his good luck that he fell for a nurse. What if you raise your child to think that massive portions are okay? That excess screen time is healthier than moving? That weight, calories and healthy choices aren’t something kids need to be bothered with?
Then, what if, later on, your child doesn’t fall for someone who can change their mind? What if your child can’t turn their health and lifestyle choices around? Then weight becomes their problem for sure. As an adult, your kid can’t blame others for their choices anymore, so as the parent, you’re off the hook. In theory anyhow.
Yet, wouldn’t you feel better as a parent, if you took the risk and said something now. What if you discussed weight and calories and exercise with your child? Would the world end? Would all the PC people rain down fire on you? Would offering your child the tools he needs to live a healthy life really hurt you so much?
It’s great to read the words of someone who has been there as an adult, yet did change his habits, all while being smart enough to not blame Happy Meals for his choices. He took responsibility and is speaking out against those who do make weight and calories a taboo topic, something we all need to do for our kids.