to ask what can or should be done about childhood obesity?

(323 Posts)
Bakingtins Wed 07-Aug-13 13:31:06

Prompted by this article of which I think the worst bit is not the headline grabbing 24 stone 10 yr old, but the figure that 20% of children are now obese. It's something that I have increasingly noticed at my son's swimming lessons (and those are the kids whose parents do take them swimming) and at school.
Current weighing kids at school and 5-a-day, change-4-life campaigns don't seem to be working. What do you think the government, parenting organisations, the BBC etc. could or should be doing to reverse the trend?

cory Fri 16-Aug-13 16:51:00

I know what you mean, Biscuits. Dn's school is able to serve healthy cooked meals based around vegetables and meat with never a crisp or a cake in sight, because while the parents of their country do not ban crisps or sweets they all agree that they are party food, not for every day. An ordinary school day is clearly not a party so you don't expect party food for school lunches.

I think it's quite sad that the difference between party and everyday has been so eroded in this country: there isn't anything much you can give your child for a special treat because they have it every day anyway.

Biscuitsareme Fri 16-Aug-13 10:29:27

Sirzy- that's my point: I don't mind my DC having cake, crisps, pizza, whatever in moderation. What frustrates me is them seeing their friends eat junk instead of proper food at mealtimes, as if junk is a viable alternative to real food. That has led to a struggle in our house to get healthy food inside my DC who are both fussy eaters.

Also, obesity is being normalised in this country I find. The obese no longer stand out; they are becoming the norm.

Sirzy Fri 16-Aug-13 10:07:54

Cory - I must be a bad mum DS is 3 and already helps make soups and things! Closely supervised of course.

Biscuits - that only becomes an issue if you let it though, those foods are all fine in moderation. Don't ban things just encourage sensible eating which includes the odd pizza and whatever.

Biscuitsareme Fri 16-Aug-13 10:03:49

It's not that difficult to start your DC of on healthy food, but it's almost impossible to keep them that way once birthday parties and invites to tea at friends' houses become a regular thing. Or they see the contents of their friends' lunch boxes and refuse to eat their healthy sandwich so-and-so has crisps and chocolate and fizzy pop so why can't they.

I find it frustrating. Sometimes I wish we could move to OH's country of origin which seems to be teeming with organic supermarkets and children who cycle to school.

cory Fri 16-Aug-13 10:02:30

Health and safety advice doesn't really help in getting children involved in the cooking either: so many childrearing books go on about kitchens being dangerous places, how you must keep your child out of the kitchen, how children under <insert ridiculously high age> must never have access to sharp implements or put something in the oven.

Dd had friends who were not allowed to make themselves a cup of tea in year six; in fact, she had friends who weren't even allowed to use the toaster. I could cook a 3 course meal by that age. But then my mother was a hard hearted woman who didn't really see why her 11yo burning her fingers on the oven whilst baking for the family tea was any worse than she herself burning her fingers on same oven door: we all did it from time to time.

Interesting the observations about Asda - that's my experience too.

I mean, there's a fizzy pop aisle and a crisps/chocolate/sweets aisle at Morrison's, but half the frozen section is "ingredients" eg frozen vegetables, frozen raw meat, etc and there are several aisles of store ingredients such as pasta, tinned tomatoes, dried pulses, etc, and there's a total of one aisle of ready meals (half frozen, half fresh) in the whole store.

But when I'm in Asda it's just aisle after aisle of "open and eat".

Sirzy Fri 16-Aug-13 09:02:49

I agree toad, but I do think schools need to try to encourage children - and parents as much as possible - to try new things and gain skills in basic cooking in order to break the cycle otherwise the problem is only going to get worse.

I have learnt to cook from my parents, so I can use those skills to help teach DS to cook. When people haven't had that chance to learn it makes it harder for them to pass on the skills (not impossible of course you can teach yourself but you need to have the motivation to want to do so and the belief you can)

Even ox cheeks are the equivalent of 5 pounds a kg down here. sad

And lamb's liver is even more expensive angry.

Sirzy Fri 16-Aug-13 08:51:20

I shop in Asda (because it is the only supermarket in town) but when i think about it I only actually use about half a dozen aisles because we don't need the snacks and most of the highly processed things they sell. I am lucky that we have a fantastic butchers were we can get good quality meat at much lower prices than the super market.

IMO it's a heck of a lot harder to get children eating healthily once they've been started off on rubbish. They should be eating healthily right from the word go.

That is the responsibility of parents, and I doubt very much whether schools can really mitigate the failure to carry out that responsiblity.

MrsMook Fri 16-Aug-13 08:48:04

I particularly hate shopping in ASDA as it's time consuming fighting your way past the junky snack aisles trying to find the intermittent ailses that contain food. All supermarkets have an element of it, but ASDA seems to have it on an epic scale! At my local one, the over-sized trolleys are packed with oversized packs of junk and pushed by oversized people. The curious bit is that Morrisons serves the same community, but without everything being oversized. The clientelle is very different. Many more older people.

I notice when cooking that because everything is packaged and very little avaliable loose, it's difficult to pick portions appropriate to your family size. Butchers and green grocers aren't accessible easily. Round here, you'd have to go into the city centre to the market. No surburban ones that are convenient to get to. When you have a set pack size, it's difficult to portion food appropriately without wasting a lot. I save food for future use, but it needs to be a usuable portion size to be worthwhile, which very often it isn't.

Sirzy Fri 16-Aug-13 08:47:59

Cooking lessons for teenagers, young adults and parents, In the GCSE years, learning how to cook basic healthy options with cheap ingredients on a weekly basis.

I wouldn't wait until they are teenagers. The bad habits are already in place by then. Why aren't we teaching children how to cook a balanced meal all the way through school? Or at least KS2 onwards. There is plenty of things which younger children could cook or be involved in cooking which are simple and cheap. If parents can be encouraged to attend the sessions, or sent copies of recipes then that could help with those parents who genuinely think they can't cook/haven't got time to cook.

This is what I've noticed in UK supermarkets on the occasions I've been back from NZ:

- Loads of ready meals
- Very cheap chocolate (and alcohol)
- Poor quality fruit and veg (fruit especially)
- Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of processed stuff of one sort or another.

cory Fri 16-Aug-13 08:30:22

The cheapness of the snack foods and the sheer size of the supermarket snack food department used to astonish me when I first arrived in this country: I used to walk around the local store hissing to dh "but where is the food? how am I supposed to provide a meal from this?"

In the COOP where my parents live abroad the crisps and popcorn section is a small shelf sandwiched in between household utensils and magazines; in my similarly sized local COOP here in the UK it is a whole aisle.

Bakingtins Fri 16-Aug-13 08:16:50

fussyphase our council has laid on free sessions with the playrangers in our local park during the school holidays (ball games, building dens etc)
This week there were 4 children there confused 3 of which were my son and two of his friends that I invited....

I live in NZ where people are on average some of the fattest in the world, despite high rates of participation in sports, often to very high levels. The reason is partly genetic - I am told that Polynesians have more trouble metabolising processed foods, and probably about 30% of New Zealanders will have some Maori or other Polynesian ancestry. It is probably also to do with the expense of fresh food - more expensive than the UK despite wages being lower, and poor people unable to afford the drive to the supermarket to buy them.

Mostly I reckon its diet. I often find myself shaking my head at what many my DDs' friends get given in their lunches. Some sort of sweet or treat is de rigueur, and people down gallons of ice-cream. At the after-school care programme, the children are given cake every day, and often crisp sandwiches - these are white bread spread with marg, with crisps inside them. I understand there is a fruitbowl, but I never see children eating fruit. Why would they, when they can have a crisp sandwich instead? And to me, this is what it is all about. Too many people think it is somehow unkind to deprive children of things like that, even though it is in early childhood that eating habits are developed. In my experience, children are quite happy with carrot sticks and the like, if that is all they are offered for snacks. It is better to give them a chance to develop a taste for such things. If one gives children a regular ration of junk right from the word go, they are much more like to become fussy about things like fruit, veg and even sandwiches. I would have thought this was common sense myself.

Eyesunderarock Fri 16-Aug-13 07:43:57

Change the attitude of the parents.
Increase exercise levels for the entire family.
Reduce snacking as an expectation at all times.
Cooking lessons for teenagers, young adults and parents, In the GCSE years, learning how to cook basic healthy options with cheap ingredients on a weekly basis.

loopydoo Fri 16-Aug-13 01:53:13

Completely agree with everything you said "fussyphase". Our lifestyle of two parents going out to work has changed the dietary habits of many people.......not being able to give the time for leisure and exercise is so many of us don't get outside enough. Great idea for council ran activities supervised for kids though.

afussyphase Fri 09-Aug-13 23:24:47

Lots of individual choices on here, and that's fine, we all make our choices. But human nature hasn't changed. It's our environment that has.

OP asked what we could do - here's my two cents: Tax high-sugar foods and drinks to the extent that they are not cheap enough to be appealing any more, so that they don't line the walls of every corner shop. Give tax breaks and subsidies to healthier options, so they do.

And make going to parks, pools, indoor play, cycling, scooting, ice rinks safe - how many of us let our DC just go out and play? With all the talk of grooming, stories of acquaintances who've had creepy things happen, etc etc, we don't do this anymore, for better or worse.
And if we work, have other DC, or for many reasons, we can't sit in parks for 4 hours a day while they are active, same for swimming pools, soft play, sport events -- we work, we make dinner, we do toddler bath/bedtime, we get degrees from OU, we improve our qualifications, we single parent our families, we juggle our shifts with our partner's shifts, we struggle to pay for our housing, we work long hours, or we struggle to work enough to pay private school fees, or any number of things. Councils could provide active, supervised, after-school activities, supervised adventure park/playground/sport at weekends, traffic-free cycling and scooting routes to these venues, organised outdoor treasure hunts, you name it. And that's just 2 minutes of my brainstorming.
All of this would cost money, but not as much money as the NHS will spend on obesity-related problems. And some could be funded with all those taxes from all that sugary junk food.

goodasitgets Fri 09-Aug-13 22:53:31

You can definitely be fat inside
Recently I lost 8kg in 8 weeks. Am I healthier? No. Because my measurements don't correspond to that much weight lost. I've lost muscle and would put money on it my body fat has gone up (8 weeks no exercise enforced by physio). But on the scales and BMI I'm technically healthier. Whereas when I am exercising I don't lose as much weight but my measurements change by inches
Now I get how you can be "skinny fat"

CorrineFoxworth Fri 09-Aug-13 22:42:50

Fifteen years ago an all-you-can -eat Chinese buffet opened up in my town. I loved it because you could have tiny bits and pieces of everything and try things you'd have been nervous about ordering from a takeaway just in case you didn't like it.

I don't go these days because it is really expensive. Why? Because people will fill an entire plate with sweet and sour and rice. Then another piled with noodles and beef. Then not one or two but ten duck pancakes. Then they go to the English counter and get a hamburger and chips, and then an ice-cream.

The puddings used to be really nice and refreshing, just fruit and the occasional sorbet, but now it's all cream cakes and the clientèle trough those all down as well!

Fabsmum Fri 09-Aug-13 22:29:21

"I've never been overweight. Even when I was pregnant and put 2 stones on I lost it all within 2 months of having the DCs without doing anything. I've never been on a diet and my weight has always been fine for my height even though I have a real weakness for chocolate and eat it every single day."

Me neither. I never thought about my weight, didn't exercise much, and liked fried food.

I was a size 10/12. Was skinnier after each pregnancy than before.

I'm fat now though. I hit 43 and my thyroid went gyppy.

Now I'm a size 16. It can happen.....

Well no wonder, when most people think that crisps and cake bars have a vital place in a packed lunch, and fruit is a sugary processed humzinger, washed down with juice and sugary yogurt.

My cousin came back from holiday in Malta, said she was shocked to see the size of the British guests in her hotel, they were twice the size of the other guests, they really stood out. She said she was so amazed she could not stop looking at them stuffing themselves from the buffet. Cake after cake like they had not seen food before.

It was always ham, eggs, tomatoes and fresh bread washed down with the ginger beer, wasn't it? And scrumped apples and ices afterwards.

"Oh Tommy, you're so licky." <snort>

RobotHamster Fri 09-Aug-13 21:53:09

Yes, and they were always ravenous weren't they, and required a giant meal at a farm house somewhere.

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