This post is about weight loss.  It’s about basic physiology, and personal responsibility (ooh, dirty words).  I recently tweeted a bunch on a subject I wrote about three years ago.  The number of responses I received was incredible.  The subject was on giving the cholesterol lowering medication, statins, to children.  In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommended screening children as young as two-years-old for high cholesterol.  If a child is found to have high cholesterol, the Academy recommended putting him or her on statins to prevent future cardiovascular disease.  My response today is the same as it was three years ago–it’s a freakin’ crime!

I know too much about physiology and human health to accept this as a treatment option for children, let alone the first line of defense.  Statins have side-effects, and they are also based on a faulty premise–that low density lipoproteins (LDLs) are the most important factors in cardiovascular health.  While definite contributors, LDLs are simply not as important as high density lipoproteins (HDLs) when it comes to cardiovascular risk.  To consider giving drugs that most people take for a lifetime to children as a preventative is purely irresponsible.

But, really, the criticisms I encountered weren’t about points I made on statin use in children.  They were mostly directed at a particular line, an idea,

“Childhood obesity? Excuse my language, but…that’s effin’ child neglect and abuse by lazy, undisciplined, ignorant parents.”

Now many people said, “Bravo! Thank you for telling it like it is.”  Many others, however, felt it was callous, off-base and out-of-sync with the real causes of obesity.  Some tweeters informed me that my understanding of basic physiology was prehistoric, and that my solution to the obesity problem (I didn’t know I had actually given one) was short-sighted and erroneous.  So in the next few posts I will attempt to clarify my thoughts on weight loss/weight gain, the obesity epidemic and parental responsibility as it relates to the weight–and health–of a child.

I am actually going to start with my thoughts on parental responsibility.  I contend that if you as a parent are not responsible for your child and his or her health, then who is?  This question is only obvious to those parents who share this philosophy, and won’t be to those believing (either consciously or subconsciously) that health is the responsibility, and byproduct, of something outside themselves.

Every parent will say that they take full responsibility for their child, but far too many act otherwise.  What you do your children will do, period.  They eat what you eat, they think like you think, and they care for themselves in the same way you care for yourself.  How is your child’s weight, then, independent of you?  Oh, you didn’t shove the cookies down his or her throat…but did you buy them?  Maybe you thought it was harmless to feed your child cookies as a baby…I hope you know better now (Plenty of tweeter critics claimed to not feed their children junk food…listen, your obese child is eating junk food–WAKE UP!)

Parents of heavy children have lots of support for their innocence.  The concept that “your illness is not your fault” is preached by many doctors, psychologists, talk show hosts, media celebrities and support groups; and while it’s true that illness is not a fault, it certainly isn’t true that we have no hand in how our health plays out.  More importantly, though, everyone has the potential to achieve and maintain great health, no matter what the current circumstances.

When health issues arise, the most important thing to do is determine where changes need to be made.  Whether talking about major lifestyle modifications–like quitting smoking, or changing food habits, or exercising–or simply getting checked by a professional, change is an absolute necessity in correcting any health problem.  How soon you make that decision can mean the difference between life and death.  Symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something needs attention.  Ignoring them is the worst possible approach you can take toward your health.

Obesity, as a morphological symptom, is a major change–and it just doesn’t happen overnight.  Once parents see it unfolding, they have a responsibility to act (neither children nor teens can make this decision on their own) and create change.  For parents of chubby or obese children, this also means how you decide to change.  A child isn’t going to change independently from his or her parents.  Are you going to change your diet to a more healthful one?  Are you going to eat less, and decrease your intake of junk foods, fast foods and sodas?  Are you going to work out, play sports with your kids or take fitness classes together?  Your child isn’t going to change without you–you’ve got to change as well.  And simply dishing them off to Little League will not do either, as building their confidence before they compete in groups will be paramount to their psychological health and well-being.  The bottom line is that parents must get actively involved in the obese child’s life, if they are to stand a chance of losing weight.

For new parents, it simply begins with creating good habits from the very start–the foods you expose your children to, the activities you share, how much television you watch, and so on.  You control the environment, and your choices contribute to your children’s bodies, and their health.

Obesity is reversible, that’s a fact.  How you see things, and how you approach the world determines your chances of overcoming (or your child overcoming) obesity.  Too many people lose weight for it to simply be a ‘hopeless situation’.  Blaming obesity on genetics, hormones, depression, lack of health insurance or anything else will not change the fact that everybody is capable of being either obese or anorexic, as well as everything else in-between; it just comes down to one’s habits in determining where one will weigh-in on the scale.  You have the power to change anything with regard to your health, or that of your child’s.  Understanding this, and fully embracing it, is the only way to create lasting changes.  Denying it will only get you the same, which is definitely your prerogative, but don’t act as if you have no hand in the matter.

8 Responses to Parents Are Responsible for Child’s Weight

  1. steph_yoga says:

    I completely agree. Nothing makes me more angry than seeing an overweight child…angry at the parent. How can you do that to your child? The physical and psychological impact weight has on a child is mind blowing. And in every case I have witness first hand it is out of laziness. Yes every child would prefer junk food, don’t give it as an option. Teach your kids that healthy food is how you take care of them. My kids get it. When they are away they say no to offered sugary drinks. My son explains “My mommy wants to keep me really healthy and I hate being sick” It’s really not that hard. Kids are smart. Just give them the tools and knowledge

  2. Anonymous says:

    You can’t put sole blame on the parents. Obesity is a symptom not a disease, obesity is your bodies response to stress like all disease. WE manifest these things through our lifestyle not just our own choice but other people choices also influence our own health ( marketing agencies, Cafo’s, etc). The notion of Eating less and exercising more is just DUMB all experts will tell you that this just plain nonsense. Dr. Keys demonstrated this in his starvation study where all patients gained all their weight back PLUS more after the study was concluded. Don’t cut out food but replace calorie for calorie with a healthy choice. Another issue is obesity is a stress from an infection in some cases and nutrition alone will not solve the problem. Obesity is as complicated as all disease and it’s not just a matter of losing weight(that’s easy, just starve yourself) the point is to become healthy so the extra weight does not need to exist. Everyone seems to be getting their health degrees from google university. GET TESTED. I had trouble gaining weight(mostly muscle), got tested, found out I had H pylori, treated it, and put on 10 pounds of muscle with solid nutrition and moderate exercise. Not saying this will work for everybody but underlying factors need to be addressed, not just cutting out sugary drinks! Obesity is a symptom/a response to a stress. This is what we call a Brain.

  3. Anonymous says:

    A few things us parents should consider:

    What is labeling kids eating based on quantity of food they eat doing for them? Some of my relatives compare grandkids, nieces, and nephews as “good eaters” or “poor eaters” or say “you eat like a bird, I don’t see how you can stay alive”, based on quantity of food they eat. I heard this one myself growing up from relatives and friends parents. It’s the same relatives that say these things that have weight and eating issues. My spouse gets annoyed, “kids don’t eat enough!”. When my kids are full, I don’t make them eat more even if they left their fruit or vegetable at meal time. I tell them when they do get hungry, they have to eat a fruit or vegetable before they can have anything else.
    Another thing along these lines to consider as parents, grandparents, etc. is portion size. I’m shocked at the portions one of the kids’ grandmas dish up for all family members when she makes a dessert.
    These are the same relatives who stuffed baby food down their childrens throats past the point of hunger. No doubt the “good eater”, “poor eater”, and portion size thinking stemmed from the family and way of thinking that these relatives grew up around. They are unknowingly passing these ways of thinking down to their kids and grandkids.
    Thirdly, think about how healthy (or not) the school cafeteria food is. When I was in college, there was a standing joke, “the freshman 15″ meaning that many freshmen gain 15 pounds their first year in college because of eating cafeteria food. It this is the case, then what about our kids in elementary, middle school, and high school eating primarily cafeteria food most days if not every school day. Is this good for our kids? Parents need more healthy lunch box ideas.
    Then, when friends or peers of your kids talk about “skinny”, “fat” to each other, talk to your kids about what their peers say and how they should think about these things in healthy ways. Watch the influence of peers on your kids. A relative of mine had a controlling boyfriend in high school. No one in my family knew about the messages he was telling her about eating(or not) and staying skinny. She became anorexic, depressed, and suicidal which she didn’t have an eating problem until she was influenced by her boyfriend. She got better but not until she got so bad that her parents finally realized and got her help.
    KW

  4. Anonymous says:

    KW

    I think you are missing the point. Yes portion size is important but obesity goes much farther then just eating too much (which by the way does NOT cause you to get fatter). There are studies done on OVEREATING and again and again they show that this does not make someone fat. Review the work of Matt Stone http://180degreehealth.blogspot.com/. Obesity is starvation it’s your bodies response. The People who diet the most tend to be the most metabolically screwed up and tend to just get fatter and fatter. Cutting calories/portion size is not the answer and never will be. You can’t go from a diet of cheese burgers and ice cream to salads and carrot sticks. Your going to get sick and feel worse. People can also gain lots of weight after a traumatic event (death in family, divorce, STRESS in general)Once again its your bodies response that causes the weight gain not eating too much good wholesome food. This is what we call a brain.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, I am big too on sticking to the point of a topic. Thanks for clarifying a part I may have failed to mention or sounded misleading on. In a sense we are on the same page since we are both saying that long-standing mind-sets should be questioned and not just accepted.
    I knew I was not sticking to a point, but threw out some thoughts from my own parenting trenches of some of the things I encounter and question, one being kids getting labeled for their eating habits. I wrote into my post too much harping of my own frustration encountered in extended family meals. You are soo right . . . if my kids’ cousins are eating a lot but are eating primarily healthy then great! If my kids eat smaller but are also eating healthy than great! But praising kids who eat more and criticizing kids who eat less? What is that doing to the child? I mentioned being praised merely for quantity not quality of foods. Kids should not have labels put on them period even if not eating healthy foods. How will being labeled help them be healthy?
    The main thing is that we all question what we are doing and thinking when it comes to health. My examples were mindsets that my family has adopted over the years and never questioned. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in regards to my post as I will take your thoughts into consideration in my own questioning of my health and family and thanks for the recommended link.
    KW

  6. Anonymous says:

    Im to fat to cross my legs on the floor at school i currently weigh about 110 lbs and i am only 11!! how do i lose weight cos i dont my fat belly

  7. First is diet–how you eat and how much. Eating whole, natural foods is best–fruits, vegetables, real meats, cheeses, cereals, grains, nuts, etc. Also eating just enough to get by, so you might feel hungry in the beginning, but it will pass (filling your time with things you love to do will help you overcome the mental component to cravings).

    Next is exercise and movement, so finding something that you enjoy that makes you active is best–can be anything but you must break into a sweat. If you’re getting bullied, too, then let me suggest a martial art (I like Krav maga). Whatever you choose, stick with it for at least a year and watch your body transform. Get plenty of rest (sleep, sleep, sleep), get out in the sun, and just know you are awesome no matter what your weight, and I mean this. Check this article I wrote on the subject: http://www.drnickcampos.com/health-newsletter/LosingWeight.html

    Hope that helps.

  8. Gordon says:

    ThankmYou Dr. Campos
    Knowledge is power I have to be responsible when it comes to what I eat. Technology is a gift so, I use it to my advantage. Eating is important to sustain me and water. A semi-Vegan diet, and yoga. That is what sustains me. There is a Quote by Sidhartha Gotma (Buddha) “What We Think We Become.” So, borrowing this nugget from Buddha “What I Eat I Become.” And lastly my mindful personality asks me why would I put this food or that food in my body. We are adults our children need an example “What we eat or think we become.” This Childhood obiesty issue is apauling although there are genetic illnesses but, the responsibility relies on choices and I choose to promote healthy, wholesome, and fulfilling.
    Namasté

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