From BBC Breakfast Time to the BBC website, child obesity is yet again a BBC theme of the day. The topic is whether child obesity is a form of neglect.
Rather disappointingly, from a freak show point of view, four-year-old Kacey didn’t break the 20 stone barrier, or whatever the top mark on a set of bathroom scales is. She was only “off the scale” in terms of the percentile charts used to measure infants. (Just in case there aren’t enough normality hoops for parents and children to jump through, when they get to school….)
It turns out that the supposedly monstrously obese two-year-old Kacey is no longer obese but is in fact just tall now.
As a result of becoming obese when she was still a baby, Kacey has had a premature growth spurt and is now the height of an average 10-year-old and still weighs five stone (31.7kg).
So, was this even “obesity”? Don’t children put on weight before they grow tall. And if they are going to be very tall, they need something to grow new body from.
This got me wondering, is tallness a potential problem? Are people to have their children taken off them by social services for growing too tall at the wrong age?
Because that seems to be one implication of this compulsory normality madnes sthat is getting beamed at children and parents.
Her mum hopes that will continue and by the time Kacey is reaching her teenage years her height and weight will be much closer to the average child. By taking control of Kacey’s food her parents have transformed their daughter’s future.
Sentence One: WHY? Thor forbid that anyone should be on the outside edges of the human bell-shaped curve any more. Average is GOOD. Standard is GOOD. Diversity is BAD.
Sentence Two: Well, no, actually, it seems to me they have more likely set up a future teenage battle-ground that will end up with her becoming anorexic, bulimic or a compulsive eater. Food & control all tangled together, with subliminal Stepford-Wines style messages about how important it is to be like everybody else. Important enough to embarrass the future fiurteen-year-old Kacey (is that even a name or a set of initials?) with the existence of discussion and pictures of her as fat two year-old “problem child” in the national press. I can’t predict a good outcome.
I don’t blame this family for apparently turning a child’s weight into the centre of their lives. What else can they do? Thye have to show a willingness to change it. The other articles discuss the BBC’s apparently successful drive (no surprise there, resources flow to those who take the fashionable line) to find paediatricians who will agree that families with overfed children should be scrutinised by social services.
Now Social Services departments are well known for always improving the lives of kids who fall under their tender attentions …….
And there blatantly aren’t any enough children who are beaten or homeless or abused who could really do with some of this attention……
Doctors say they are now seeing children as young as six months old in their obesity clinics.
Come on. How on earth can a child under 6 months become “obese”? Small babies can’t even eat food. Even bottlefed babies are hard pushed to take in more than they can handle. Babies just stop feeding when they are full. And as soon as they start moving round, even chubby babies tend to burn up their stored energy.
Parents are allegedly to blame for feeding McDonald’s diets to their babies. Nonsense again, if we are talking about the poor* – because there is always an unspoken assumption in this that the poor are too stupid to feed their kids nutritious food – they can hardly afford to give babies a diet of BigMacs and Super-thick milkshakes, no matter how stupid they may be.
* At the children’s centre in the deprived Meadows area of Nottingham parents are offered support to improve their children’s diet.
Here is the one mysterious fact about the epidemic of obesity (and, yes, I do know that you can’t talk about an epidemic of something that isn’t a transferable disease, I was being ironic, ok?) As you can read in an old post here Everything about diets seems to be bull people actually eat LESS now than they did 15 years ago, according to the UK Office of National Statistics. I can’t repeat this too often. Even the BBC did in their quiz. It undercuts almost all of the food nonsense we get stuffed down our craws:
Men eat 6% fewer and women 3% fewer calories and both men and women eat less fat than they did in 1986.
Hmm, calories and fat. Aren’t we getting constantly told that it’s calories and fat that make us fat? This is obviously not completely untrue – there must be a relationship between how much we consume and how much bodyfat we store – but it can’t be wholly true either.
I can come up with a million crackpot theories involving additives and people not walking anywhere and residual estrogens in the water and so on. These remain personal opinion based on minimal or no evidence, so I’ll spare you them. Until we actually understand any of this, it is stretching credulity to assume that every chubby child is getting stuffed with KFCs and crisps and Big Macs and is doomed to a lifetime of Jerry-Springer-style immobility.
The one crackpot theory that I won’t spare you is the idea that the social meanings that we attach to food are demented.
We are so alienated from what we eat that we barely know it comes from farms (a/c to a spurious report on the BBC yesterday). We are obsessed with the weight of celebrities. Half the population is in a constant state of self-loathing beacuse they cant lose weight, but still despises other people for their fatness. And just in case adolescents aren’t disturbed enough about their bodyweight, we are now stretching the boundaries of concern down to babies.