The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Bigger Doesn't Mean Better

Continuing what I wrote earlier about fat kids. It’s the parents that are the problem.

After all, we’d think nothing of condemning a parent or parents for starving their child to death. The adverse consequences for the child’s health, short-term and long-term, are obvious. Parents who neglect to feed their children, who deprive them of nourishment, are obviously unfit for the job and require either (preferably) guidance or (unpreferably) replacement.

And yet we don’t look at parents of fat children in the same way. We should. The adverse consequences for the child’s health are as great, if not greater, because once you’ve become fat, and once you’ve developed that lifestyle and eating pattern, it will require extraordinary amounts of willpower to correct (compared to a malnourished child who requires only a few decent meals). Overweight children tend to become overweight adults who are overweight for the rest of their lives. That’s what parents do to their kids. In a way, it’s not so different from a parent encouraging their children to smoke, drink or take drugs. It has the same addictive capacity, the same I-do-it-to-make-my-feel-better-when-I’m-sad quality, the same I-do-it-to-celebrate-when-I-feel-happy quality. And ultimately it’s as bad for their health.

Why do parents over-feed their kids? I don’t have all the answers, but one of the answers I do have is that, like all parents, they want their kids to be happy and to reciprocate their love, and one way of getting that parental validation is by giving the kid their favourite treat. In contrast to the feelings of bad-parent-ism you would get from a kid kicking and screaming because they’ve been forced to eat something which isn’t yellow or brown. It’s negotations, tantrums, and power games, kids being neophobic and wanting control over what gets shoved in their faces.

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