Looking at Childhood Obesity Through a Different Lens

Have we led parents astray in the war on childhood obesity? Have we over-sold food and exercise as the solution? Over-promised that if you eat right and move more, all the worries, and excess weight, will be gone?

Last month was Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. We heard a lot about the contributors to childhood obesity—from the food kids eat at home and school to their lack of exercise and their seduction by the media. We heard about great programs, like the Let’s Move! program and healthier changes in the School Lunch Program. And we heard how grim the projections for the future will be for all Americans here.

We continue to hear about what kids should and should not eat, how much to exercise, and the terrible side effects of carrying too much weight, for too long. It will take many resources, many angles and innovative approaches to fix this problem.

But there’s other stuff going on with kids and their weight we don’t hear much about. As a child nutrition expert who has worked with many families over the years, I am aware of the other, less talked about, influences on childhood obesity—or what I refer to as the background noise.

What we aren’t hearing and talking about is the root of the problem.

The underbelly.

The beginning.

Maybe even the biggest influence of all.

When we address these and include them in the fight, I believe we can end childhood obesity.

This blog series intends to help you think more broadly about childhood obesity– beyond the conventions of food and exercise. Sure, we have to make every effort to get good food and exercise on board and in balance for all kids, but there’s more to the story. Over the next month, I will be taking a different look at childhood obesity, covering the following topics:

Myths and Assumptions: I believe the biggest childhood obesity myth of all is: Fix Food = Fix Childhood Obesity. To me, this assumption has misguided parents and professionals for years, and gets in the way of true success. Fixing food is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more assumptions about children and their weight–I’ll take a look at these, and give you a fresh perspective.

Everyday Feeding Styles and Practices: Perhaps one of the biggest oversights in the fight against childhood obesity is the powerful influence of how parents feed their kids. Believe it or not, how parents interact with their children around food and eating, such as authoritarian or permissive feeding styles, and rewarding or restricting practices, has an impact on how well (or not) kids eat, and their weight. Yet, these are present from Day 1 and infrequently included in the childhood obesity discussion.

Parents are Under-Prepared (and Under-Performing) on the Job: The job of raising healthy kids is a difficult one. Without parenting classes, home economics, extended family involvement or other support systems, parents are left to navigate the job of nutrition and feeding children on their own. I’ll take a look at how the elimination of educational programs and parenting guidance has impacted today’s parents (and children), and what we can do about it.

I hope you’ll join me on this series, asking your questions and sharing your reflections. But more importantly, it’s time to start changing the conversation, because the conventions that target food and exercise alone may not be enough to solve childhood obesity for tomorrow’s children.

Are you with me?


  1. says

    Thank you for this, Jill. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on childhood obesity, the role of the food environment, and what we can do together to change that.


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