There was a nice section in th Post last week about the childhood obesity epidemic. It’s too bad we’ve had to come to think of obesity as a disease, but essentially it is. This epidemic has all the earmarks of every other major American problem: denial, an assumption that market forces solve, rather than ever create problems, and a LOT of consequent complexitizing of a fundamentally simple subject. Let’s think, what are the factors going into childhood obesity, (other than genetic predisposition, which will be put to one side because that hasn’t changed, while kids’ waistlines clearly have). The factors?
Food: The Post section started out by pointing fingers at school lunch composition, which apparently got rearranged pretty dramatically in the 70’s, due to, of course, ‘market’ considerations. Also mentioned was fast food and junk food, in other words, nearly every meal OTHER than school lunches, which I suspect were a bigger part of the equation the school ones. What do you know, JUNK FOOD turned out to be bad for us! And pretty easy to solve, that is whenever it is we get serious about wanting to solve it. It is not rocket science to identify foods that are more fattening than nutritious. Taxing or regulating them into submission would be very simple to do, if we didn’t decide we’d rather have a disingenuous “philosophical” debate about the rights of junk food corporation and the rights of consumers to unfettered access to ultra low-cost garbage. Go ahead, choose what you’re priorities are.
Drinks: This mostly tracks food. Same problem, same solution, same asinine debate. Here our true outrage is again not focused on the actual problem, but rather our national orgy of hooting umbrage at Mayor Bloomberg for fingering the garbage-pail-size sugar drinks. Again, go ahead, decide what you care about more. (Also, I suspect we’ll be hearing more about those odd chemical compounds in our water).
Exercise: All I can tell you is that if the solution is endless miserable physical workouts for kids, this problem won’t get solved. Kids 50 years ago were more active, no doubt, but it was ordinary play, not drills or track running. If you limit their screen time, and give them space, kids will move around on their own. It’s what they do.