Historically speaking, no epidemic has ever been rehabbed into submission. Not polio, small pox, diphtheria, or measles. Not typhoid, malaria, cholera, yellow fever, HIV, swine flu, or Ebola. But as long as childhood obesity experts FOCUS FIRST on those 10% of kids who are already obese AT THE EXPENSE of the 90% who are not yet obese (rehab at the expense of prevention) we’re destined to continue losing the battle against childhood obesity.
A Matter of Priorities
In contrast, check out what happens when we FOCUS FIRST ON PREVENTION. For starters the problem becomes VASTLY SIMPLER because WE’RE NOW FOCUSED ON THE 90% OF KIDS WHO ARE NOT OBESE. I repeat, these kids are NOT YET OBESE!!!
So they don’t need to change their eating or exercise habits. They don’t need to reduce their screen time. They don’t need more PE in school, better playgrounds, or bike paths in the neighborhoods. They don’t need to wait a generation for researchers to find a cure. And in the sunlight of PREVENTION, weight related gender, genetic, race, ethnicity, and economic issues fade into the sunset. These complicated, semi-contrived, pseudo-issues suddenly become secondary, if not a waste of valuable time and resources.
How About Some Good Advice?
In this context most kids need little more than solid advice on how to arm themselves against obesity for life, before it becomes a problem. For example, what if parents helped their kids learn to climb a rope, and to maintain the ability? In that case PREVENTION IS DONE because human beings who can climb ropes are ALMOST NEVER OBESE. What if teachers helped their kids learn to do hand stand push-ups or parallel bar dips, and to maintain the ability? Again, prevention is done because human being who can do either are almost never obese.
Physically Pulling Your Own Weight
Or, what if parents/teachers helped their 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 demands decent eating and exercise habits), odds are THOSE KIDS WILL NEVER BECOME OBESE!!
Furthermore, if they know how to approach this task, it’s pretty easy for most 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 alongside their friends on the pull up bar.
So What About the 10% Who Are Already 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 (not rehab) oriented, simplification strategy?*
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 must improve their eating and exercise habits in order to become STRONG ENOUGH and LIGHT ENOUGH (it requires both) 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, and once they begin experiencing frequent success in pursuit of this goal, 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!
*In the big picture Prevention and Rehab are inversely related. That is to say, as prevention increases the need for future rehabilitation automatically decreases. When one goes up, the other goes down.