I have been active, healthy, and fit my whole life. As a young girl I tried out every sport to see what would stick — from softball, soccer and basketball, to gymnastics, cheerleading and dancing. I caught the running bug as a teenager, and since starting law school I have competed in triathlons. The truth is, I just don’t feel in touch with myself if I’m not active. It helps keep me sane.
But though I never suffered from a serious weight problem personally, I grew up with a keen understanding of the struggles overweight children endure –my mother, an avid runner, nutritionist, and registered dietician, specializes in treating them.
“After spending a decade in a pediatric clinic for overweight children, none of the children I saw had an endocrine (read: genetic) problem for their obesity,” Kathryn Parker, (mom) told me, when I asked about the role of nature versus nurture in overweight children. “As a mother it was clear to me that children don’t have purchasing power and they don’t have any say of what food is brought into the home.” She further believes that a child’s weight problem will only worsen if the parents don’t take action.
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, which translates to being about 30 pounds overweight. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 17% of our children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese. Obesity can lead to problems like heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes — and diabetes can lead to complications such as amputations, blindness and kidney failure. One out of three children born after 2000 will develop diabetes in her lifetime if current lifestyle trends continue.
Obesity can also scar a child psychologically. A current classmate of mine struggled with obesity as a child and young adult; although she is slim now, the emotional wounds will never fully heal. “Kids were really cruel growing up,” she said. “They’d call me ‘fatty boombaladdy.’ Eating was like an escape from my problems, but it was also the cause of my problems. It was a vicious cycle.”
The severe and long-term damage done to children who are allowed to become obese is being recognized by our legal system. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, some courts are ordering a change in custody if a child is obese. This got LASIS wondering, under what circumstances does a court step in to change the living arrangements of an obese child? (more…)