Well, right now, it's Childhood Obesity (booga-booga!). There's a reader-submission contest for your solutions to this horrible problem. I was just ignoring the prompt and clicking to different articles for the last few days since it first showed up. Tonight, Slate decided not to want me to read it. Because a pop-up advertising the contest came up. And when I clicked the "close" button, not only did it NOT close the giant window-filling ad about how to Cure Childhood Obesity, but opened a page in another tab about the contest.
I wish I were eloquent and well-studied and brave. Because I want to answer this the way I think the majority of the FA community would. Stop the War ON Childhood Obesity. Stop teaching young fat kids that they are lazy - that they MUST be lazy and eat too much if they are overweight. That they should cram as much physical activity into every day as possible, even the thin ones, lest they become Fat Lazy Overeaters. Food Ogres. Stop teaching the thin kids that fatness is caused by a lack of self-responsibility, because it just gives them ammunition to further the bullying that fat kids already get for being unattractive or unathletic.
Start caring that fat kids are bullied. Stop thinking that shaming them for their weight is only a good thing if it causes them to start dieting in elementary school.
Start caring about the kids who develop eating disorders out of fear of Obesity. The fat kids who are told that they need to lose weight or they will die, and hear nothing but praise for how well they've done losing. The thin kids who diet for fear of becoming fat, who go unnoticed because it's expected that they need to diet in order to stay thin.
How to solve Childhood Obesity? Stop making such an enormous deal, start promoting healthy, balanced diets (that include healthy, balanced treats) and encourage physical activity as simple as playing outside for ALL children.
But I don't know how to say that, and be taken seriously.
I don't know who's reading this blog, what experiences you have had, what medical knowledge and social knowledge you have. But if anyone feels up to the task of putting that out there...if anyone feels willing to tell Slate that solution, please, someone do.
I've read through so many archives that I can't find specific posts very easily. But I will say that a search for "school" or "children" or "childhood obesity" in the Junkfood Science archive turns up some pretty heartbreaking posts (leave yourself some time, it's easy to spend a lot of it here). This post in particular always sticks in my memory:
"If we have a 6-year old girl who is 3 foot, 9 inches tall she would be considered to be a “healthy, normal weight" at 49 1/4 pounds (BMI 17.1). If she gained 1/4 pound more, however, she becomes “overweight” at 49 1/2 pounds. For untold numbers of children classified as “overweight” they are within a fraction of a pound or few pounds of “normal.”
However, if this little girl grew a mere 1/8 inch, she would be considered to be a “healthy, normal weight” again!
At 54 1/2 pounds (BMI 18.9) she crosses the 95th percentile cut-off and is now labeled “obese.” A very different picture of childhood obesity than the mainstream media is portraying.
However, if this little girl was a mere 1/8 inch taller, at 3-9 1/8 inches tall, she would be merely “overweight” again.
So, for a 6-year old girl who theoretically isn’t growing taller, around a mere 5 pounds makes the difference between being labeled as a “normal” weight or all the way to being “obese.”