The conventional approach to the childhood obesity epidemic frames the problem in terms of REHABILITATION. Conventionalists first see obese kids. Then they set out to identify all the culprits that cause kids to eat too much, exercise too little, and to become obese. Once the culprits are identified, this group seeks to rectify things by systematically reducing and/or eliminating the culprits that are causing the problem.
Over the past decade and a half lots of culprits have been identified.* And the general consensus is that they collectively conspire to create the epidemic which we’ve labeled childhood obesity. Conventionalists are also quick to point out that, due to the sheer number of culprits, THERE’S NO ONE SOLUTION TO CHILDHOOD OBESITY.**
In their view, we must work on all fronts simultaneously (very complicated), and spend billions annually (very costly) over at least a generation (very time consuming) in order to have any hopes of bringing this pervasive problem to a satisfactory conclusion. The trouble is, the conventionalists have failed to make any genuine progress in over two decades. Yet they continue pushing the same old shtick.
Clarifying the Conventional Cacophony
The question at this point becomes, how can this completely confusing conglomeration of conventional cacophony be SIMPLIFIED/CLARIFIED enough to allow those folks who actually want to solve the problem (instead of just talk about it) to generate the genuine progress that to date has so effectively eluded the conventional community?
Prevention Eliminates the Need for Weight Loss!!
One possibility is to re-frame the problem in terms of PREVENTION because in doing so, you IMMEDIATELY ELIMINATE WEIGHT LOSS from the conversation. After all, these kids are not obese YET. But if projections are accurate, many of them will be obese in the future unless they actively do something to prevent the problem.***
In other words, instead of focusing first on the 10%**** of kids who are obese and trying to rehabilitate the problem into submission, why not start young, FOCUS FIRST on the 90% of kids who have yet to become obese (the low hanging fruit), and figure out ways to help them maintain their current winning ways? *****
For example, what if we decided to help kids learn to climb a rope, and to maintain the ability, because human beings who can climb ropes are almost never obese? What if we decided to help kids learn to do hand stand push ups or parallel bar dips and maintain the ability, because human beings who can do either one are almost never obese?
Physically Pulling Your Own Weight
Or why not help kids learn to physically pull their own weight – to do conventional pull ups – because statistics prove (and everyone intuitively knows) that kids who can do EVEN ONE CONVENTIONAL PULL UP ARE ALMOST NEVER OBESE! And if they maintain the ability (which requires decent eating and exercise habits) THOSE KIDS WILL NEVER BE OBESE!!
Furthermore, if they know how to approach this task, it’s pretty easy for parents or teachers to help most kids learn to physically pull their own weight in a predictable amount of time. And because it’s always cool to be strong, most kids are NATURALLY SELF-MOTIVATED BY THE OPPORTUNITY TO GROW STRONGER along with their friends on the pull up bar.
What About the 10% Who Are Obese?
Once a successful prevention project is established, THEN the question becomes, what can be done about the 10% of kids who are currently wrestling with obesity and all the related issues? How can they benefit from this prevention oriented, simplification process?
The answer to that question can be stated one word – MOTIVATION. In order to learn to physically pull their own weight (and rehab themselves), obese kids have to improve their eating and exercise habits in order to become STRONG ENOUGH AND LIGHT ENOUGH (both are required) to physically pull their own weight. There’s no choice.
But once they understand that the ability to do even one conventional pull up eliminates one of their biggest problems, obese kids can get SELF-MOTIVATED ENOUGH to improve their eating and exercise habits, on their own, without outside help in order to achieve this one simple goal. At that point, just get out of their way and let ‘em do it!
*Culprits range from Ronald McDonald and our fast food culture, to TV’s and computers that render kids sedentary, the lack of PE in school, kids no longer walking to school, junk food in school cafeterias, food deserts in poor neighborhoods, the lack of safe play grounds and bike paths through neighborhoods, to name just a few.
**They make this claim despite the fact that beating obesity (i.e. weight control) is simple matter of calories in VS calories out. It ain’t rocket science. It’s basic math.
***If we waited until kids got polio before vaccinating them, we’d still be battling a polio epidemic in the 21st century. And since no epidemic has ever been rehabbed into submission, isn’t it about time we began actively PREVENTING OBESITY???
****Yes, the CDC estimates that “a third of kids are obese or overweight.” But those are two distinctly different categories. A couple extra pounds makes you overweight, but NOT OBESE! To confuse the matter even more, this estimate is based on the concept of Body Mass Index or BMI which is like using a tape measure with no markings to determine your height or waist size. In other words, BMI contributes almost nothing of value (it actually confuses things) when it comes to documenting changes in obesity.
*****As prevention is systematically increased, the need for rehab is simultaneously reduced. That is to say, the two concepts are inversely related.