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The Washington Post recently reported on a study that purports to predict which kids are most likely to become obese. This study claims that you can use a simple formula to predict which kids are more likely to get fat over the course of their lives. Apparently, worried parents can follow the formula (using a simple online tool) shortly after the baby’s birth to begin obsessing over the child’s potential chub before they have even brought their bundle of joy home from the hospital.
That’s just great, isn’t it?
The article goes on to suggest that doctors and parents will know shortly after birth, which kids can “benefit most” from interventions aimed at preventing them from becoming fat. The article admits that helping people lose weight once they are heavy “has yielded disappointing results”. So the article suggests, we might have better success in preventing kids from getting fat in the first place.
Hmmm. Based on what, I wonder? Is there any proof that these interventions work? Is there any evidence in the world to indicate that kids who receive these early interventions wind up thinner or more healthy than those who don’t? And what does it do to these kids to be singled out at such an early age?
Reading a little further in the article, I came across this little gem:
The authors note that such a formula if used in common practice could help physicians allocate health-care resources by steering those kids who most need help toward nutrition and psychological counseling. They further note, though, that their formula should not be used to stigmatize some families or to falsely reassure other families that their babies are not at risk of becoming overweight in the future.
Okay, so let me get this straight. The formula can help doctors figure out which kids to start badgering about not getting fat (starting at birth) but reassure us that those kids and families shouldn’t feel singled out (because we tell them not to). And God forbid you parents with kids at lower risk for obesity should relax your vigilance for even a minute. Your kid could wind up fat anyway. You just can’t be too careful.
How long before we have Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers for babies? How long until health insurance becomes more expensive for families of “high-risk” kids? How long before parents are crunching potential BMI numbers before they even decide whether or not to have a kid?
I don’t know about you, but this sort of thing really, really scares the crud out of me. It’s not enough that we have five and six-year-old kids with eating disorders. Nope. Now we’re supposed to be obsessing over the gene size and the jeans size of children before they even start solid food.
Why don’t we just make healthy foods and a safe place to play available to all kids? How about we don’t start messing with kids innate and intuitive skills for playing and eating before they even begin to form their first words? How about we teach all kids about Health At Every Size and give them tools for healthy, happy, expansive, joyful lives instead of teaching them to fear and hate their own bodies before they are out of diapers?
Let’s, at least for a little while, let kids be kids.
The Fat Chick