Why we are failing our kids
I was a fat kid. From age 6, I had the school nurse informing my mum I was too big.
Actually, her words to my mum where , what do you feed her, I recall her saying this in front of me , like I was some kind of pet kept in cage waiting for a morsel to be thrown at me.
She had zero knowledge of how to talk to children about being overweight. Big fat zero in that skill!
When I was 7 , I was the only child in my lunch time group who had ryvitas and cottage cheese for lunch ( and let me share something with you) those ryvitas where fucking disgusting and soggy by the time lunch time came and I had to eat them, alongside of the other kids around me lunching on sandwiches, crisps and kitkats.
I went to school in the era of the packed lunch before Jamie Oliver's war in Turkey Twizzlers and during the time when we still got given warm milk to drink in morning breaks, a time fondly known to my generation as the 1980s.
I personally would have shaken thatcher by the hand if I had met her, simply for removing that foul milk. Now knowing what I know about milk. It's the best thing she ever did.
Any way, enough. Let's go back to child hood obesity. A few years ago I was a sports educator on a well known government funded a child hood obesity programme
It was all well and good with great content and the mix of workshop education and fitness for both parents and kids. But the big issue that never ever got touched on was how to help these children understand that they where not freaks.
Several parents and children where highly disbturbed that they had got a letter in the post asking them to attend this course , feeling their child was being stigmatised.
Although, not as bad as my school nurse this was enough to make a child feel singled out , to feel different and to start feeling emotional about the subject of their weight
This is wrong ! At no point in the course did they ever explore the possibility of the emotional reason why children might over eat and nor did they explore the affects of being singled out for the course that this had on the children. It was about getting the numbers through the system , the children's emotional well being issues where not addressed.
To me it was a good course let down by how it made the children feel and also because it didn't ever address why these children where overweight, it was solely based on exercise and diet . Being overweight is more than that.
I speak as a child once in those shoes and I say that singling out is hurtful. That singling out can cause more harm than good. That singling out can cause more overeating , I know in my case, being made to eat those soggy ryvitas because the school nurse told me I was fat, whilst my peers munched on kitkats, turned me into a secret eater, eating anything I could get my hands on when my parents backs where turn. So sad!
The sad fact is this nothing has changed since the 1980s, fancy programmes still don't address emotional issues of obesity in children and sadly they are making children feel as stigmatised as I was made to feel 35 years ago.
The real solution to breaking the cycle of obesity is to understand what is going on emotionally, tackle that and then deal with the exercise and diet. Until we do this we will continue to fail obesity within children.