12 September, 2008

Children, diet and exercise

We were chatting in the office today about the contents of children's lunch boxes (have I mentioned that it's an all female office?). It was sparked by a news article which had been read which stated that a father said his five year old daughter was obese because of 'comfort eating'. (this was sparked by me asking if other people thought it was possible for a child to weigh 20 stone...)

How does a 5 year old possibly comfort eat?!

At that age, the child has no income, is too short to reach into high cupboards and should have been taught to ask, if they wanted food, anyway. A 5 year old eats what is in front of them. Of course they will refuse to eat some items, and then ask for pudding anyway. At that point, the parent either insists that they eat the item, keeps it for later or throws it away and then says yes or no for pudding depending on the behaviour of the child. I just can't see how comfort eating comes into this equation.

When I comfort eat, then sure, I go to the freezer/Sainsburys and eat a whole tub of Ben and Jerry's, or Kettle Chips, or a bar of chocolate. I ahve access to the food and even if I didn't, I can buy it. At work, I never eat like that because someone else is in control of my time and therefore in charge of when I can eat. For children, it is surely similar? When a child is slightly older, they may have their own money or have developed a measure of deviousness and are therefore able to have a measure of control over their eating. With young children, this shouldn't be an issue.

Continuing the theme of childhood obesity, we were also comparing the contents of children's packed lunches today compared to what we take to school. The consensus was that today's lunches are healthier than ours were (more fruit and salad, less chocolate and crisps). If this works out over an average, then I wonder to what extent childhood obesity is fuelled far less by crap food than by a complete lack of exercise.

On this, I do blame the parents far less. Given the condemnation which was dumped on the McCains for Shock! Horror! leaving their children alone a short distance away for a short period of time rather than being sugically attached to them constantly as well as the attitude from officials where EVERY lone adult is ALWAYS a paedophile I can scarcely blame parents for being scared of the condemnation they would suffer if busy-body noticed a child playing alone in a garden... Much safer to keep the child indoors and give them a playstation.

Equally, my grandparents talk about going across London by themselves to go to school. I remember walking to school by myself (about 1 mile) from the age of 8 or 9 (year five, at least) where now children are driven. Again, the driving is partly a manifestation of the parents being too busy to walk their children to school, some are being too lazy but all are too scared to let their children walk the route alone.

I don't particularly want children at any point in my life, but I hope that if I did have them, I would be firm enough in my own beliefs to allow them the same freedoms I enjoyed rather than projecting my own fears onto them. Given that obesity is at least in part caused by a lack of exercise, given that, in the UK, obesity is far more deadly than terrorism (possible abuse of statistics), I would propose a fairly massive transfer of funds to try and win 'hearts and minds' of parents to convince them that the world is a safe place for their children to be in.


Al said...

Agree with it all, did anyone ask this guy if he actually meant, erm... snacking? What a prat. I know my five year old cousin very well and I can report that she frequently snacks on anything that has a nice taste (particuarly the taste of sugar); but this is slightly different to comfort eating. As, indeed, you point out. Grrr.

susan allport said...

Thought you would be interested in this short omega-3 video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIgNpsbvcVM