My daughter’s birthday bash was this last weekend. I watched children of all different ages, sizes and shapes play together. Tall, short, chubby, curvy, stocky and muscular but not one child had the exact same body shape. They all consumed the ice cream and cake with joy and did not worry about their waist line or fitting into their jeans. Happy go-lucky children enjoying a birthday party the way they should with no judgment for their size or the number on their shirt tag.

Photo Credit strong4life.com

Strong 4 Life Campaign

I look at this photo and I do not see a happy go-lucky child. I look into her eyes and my heart hurts. She would be a child at the birthday party sneaking food in shame or not eating at all to be “skinny” like the other girls. The Strong 4 Life campaign in Georgia to fight childhood obesity has got it all wrong. At least they acknowledge a problem and have good information on their website but the billboards and advertisements are troublesome, in my opinion.  I agree with my friend Leah the weight loss Mamavation Queen and Inspiration, when she says these little faces and soles are being exploited to fight a nationwide epidemic. The state of Georgia probably had a fancy PR and marketing team come in and think of this great campaign and all the while they neglected to think of the children involved and um, the core issue here being not the children but the parents, the caretakers and yes the government and the food approved for childcare, school lunches and government assistant food programs. We blame the victim but as quoted from the Huffington Post and ABC News:

Dr. Miriam Labbok, director for the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told ABC News:

Blaming the victim rarely helps. These children know they are fat and that they are ostracized already.

Get Real

Though older children can sneak food, buy sodas, hit the vending machines and overeat we need to look at the upbringing, the emotional issues connected to obesity and overeating. Did we also forget what schools serve children and what our government deems as an acceptable school lunch might have something to do with this problem? I have seen my son’s school lunch which we do not purchase and healthy is very much questionable. It is a lunch I would serve in moderation! There is a correlation between our obesity epidemic AND…

>Increased Unemployment

>Depression related to Unemployment

>Increase in Homelessness or there could be in 2012

>Decrease in health care for U.S. Employer Based Health Care Coverage

>Decrease in U.S. Income

>Decrease in social services and can Non-Profits really cover the cost

>Government FDA approval of healthy school lunches {OR NOT}

>Chemicals in our food

Child Development Stages & The Whole Child

Children go through stages where they gain weight and then sprout up and you wonder how they went from a size 4 to size 6 when you just bought them new jeans. We all inherit genes that determine where our fat cells collect and body types.

istock.com

Genes aren’t something any of us can change.  A change in child development weight gain does not necessarily indicate a concern.

Personally I will tell you my daughter went from being below the 50th percentile on her growth chart for almost 4 years and then this last year she sprouted right up. Height and weight increased and it put her over when we took the BMI calculator test. The doctor said something and I promptly replied that this is a short segment in her growth stage and we could talk about this with her out of the room or in another year and re-evaluate. Letting her hear comments about her weight only will cause weight issues and self-esteem issues. Trust me, when my biological dad told me I was a heavy weight in 4th grade it has left everlasting scars!

Body Mass Index (BMI) is important but it should be looked at overtime and not just one glance in a child’s growth and development. Looking at the whole child and their life style, activity level, sleep, health, medical history and past is very important. We are all complex and a child’s life is complex with many variables, especially if there are multiple life circumstances and caretakers. There is more than just a number and a child to look at but whether there is a family history of obesity, how does the family eat and live and if there is something going on in a child’s life.

Take a Look in the Mirror

When my child’s doctor {whom I adore} took that snap shot of my daughter and raised BMI concerns I looked in the mirror. I started thinking about anytime foods like vegetables and fruits and pointing out these healthy choices for snacks and that sometime foods such as cakes, pizza, ice cream are to be eaten in moderation. Sesame Street has adopted this for teaching children about healthy eating and it makes sense.  I’ve looked at what I buy processed and where we get our food. I account for“busy” days and know that counting my own calories each day is hard let alone two growing children! Giving my children good choices, role modeling and accepting the “bad” stuff in moderation is what I can give my children.

Blaming my daughter or making her feel shameful will not help her. Making changes in myself and our family lifestyle will make a huge difference long term! Teaching her how to cook, where food comes from, to understand when she is really hungry and how to cope with emotions and stress is my job as a parent and will help her live a healthy life. As an educated adult with a Master’s degree in Early Childhood I can say that I find the ads and videos troublesome. My 7 year old son watched them and cried. Feeling so terrible for these children and feeling like these children were at fault for their weight.  My husband was shocked and most of what I show him does not shock him or worry him but he felt terrible for these children.

The children at my daughter’s party were not judged by a roll, double chin, size on a tag, body shape or if they asked for a second piece of cake. Should any child be?

 

 

 

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