Childhood obesity: Why it is time to act

  • Why it’s up to us to help our children stay healthy?
  • The ‘food lie’ that’s as bad as anything the tobacco industry ever came up with
  • Good snack, bad snack? Treat time or evil parent?


You’ve got to hand it to the fast food industry?
They’ll use ANY argument to try and make sure their profits stay healthy.

Concern for their customers?? Oh no? They don’t seem to care if they stay healthy or not.

As long as the cash till keeps going ker-ching, the fast food industry is happy. And that’s the thing that makes them happy.

A nation full of health conscious, non-obese people would be terrible for them. Which is why I guess they made this ridiculous argument when the government announced its latest initiative in the fight against obesity?

Particularly child obesity…

Well I say latest initiative, what I mean is the one they kicked off a year ago but haven’t done anything about since.

The small matter of the EU seems to have derailed their plans, and this has sent the fast food moguls scuttling back to their caves, counting the ill gotten gains once more.

But I don’t want to let the pressure off of either the government or the food industry so easly, so I want to revisit the story once again.

Why it’s up to us to help our children stay healthy?

When the childhood obesity discussion started last April the government came up with a pretty simple plan.

To help our children cut down on fast food, they wanted a ban on all fast food outlets within 400 metres of any school. Seems sensible enough doesn’t it? If your average moody teenager (and that means all of them, bless ’em) has to make a bit of a journey to go and get his chips, he probably won’t bother.

Or at the very least, he’ll think twice about it.

And you could even take the argument further, and say that if they do decide to spend their lunch money on fast food, at least they’ll get some exercise doing it.

Actually it would be even better if the government said that fast food outlets could only open for a window of two minutes once the lunch bell sounded, so the kids would have to sprint if they wanted their burger and chips.

But I guess you can’t have everything.

All in all, this idea seemed to make sense.

Obesity in children IS a real problem, and this might at least scratch the surface.

But guess what those loveable, cuddly retailers said to the idea?

First off, they reckon that if this plan goes ahead, it would put hundreds of fast food outlets out of business, and send thousands of workers onto the dole queue.


Well if that’s the case, that PROVES that this proposed ruling is essential. Basically they’re saying that school kids keep their businesses afloat.

Which means that they must be eating a whole lot of saturated, salty, rubbish food day after day, week after week.

What really annoys me about this is that the retailers are really using a cheap shot here.
They’re playing on out fears that we’re about to be plunged into recession, and that we’d practically be ruining the lives of fast-food workers if such an ‘evil’ ruling went ahead.


Right. That’s rubbish argument No.1 out of the way.

But argument No 2 is SO stupid, the person who spoke up for the poor little fast food chains must have a two metre long neck, and be very, VERY good at burying his head in the sand?

The ‘food lie’ that’s as bad as anything the tobacco industry ever came up with

So argument No. 2 went something like this?

‘We think this ruling is ridiculous. There’s absolutely no harm in a school child enjoying a take away once a month.’

Once a month?! The problem is that kids visit these places every DAY you idiot!

If school children had a take away only once a month, there’d be NO obesity problem. I mean, we have a take away AT LEAST once a month in our household.

I’d say once every couple of weeks is nearer the mark. And I don’t see my family ballooning up.

(I’m leaving myself out of that description, since I’m blessed with a balloon-like figure that I work hard at to deflate from time to time. I guess my shape could best be described as ‘slow puncture’ chic).

So the government shouldn’t listen to all the whining from the retailers. Basically they’d argue that Jack The Ripper was a good man if he made them a bit of money.

They should just go ahead, and put the ban into force.

It wouldn’t solve anything? far from it. But it would help a little, and our children need all the help they can get.

In the meantime, here are some simple ways to help keep your children fit and at the right wait, which I’m sure will have the fast food outlets up in arms, because they won’t make any money from them:

Good snack, bad snack? Treat time or evil parent?

  • Don’t go for the easy option (especially the Dads)! This is something I did back in my ignorant days and it’s an easy trap to fall into. If Lara left me with the kids, I’d panic when it came to lunch and dinner, so would often go for something I knew they’d like ? something that would make me feel like a good dad when really I was being a bad dad.

    This included fizzy drinks, crisps, chips? All the usual baddies. Nowadays I still let them enjoy these foods (well, apart from fizzy drink), but as a treat rather than a normal meal, and now my kids all love fruit and even most vegetables.

    So, avoid the temptation to give them something that will make you popular, and make sure your kids eat a healthy, balanced diet.

  • Make sure EVERYONE eats the same? If you have a child who’s struggling with weight and you’re going to make changes to diet, make sure the whole family joins in. Don’t single out any one person. Include more green vegetables and fruit in your daily meals.

    Cut out the bad snacks. Don’t have family sized packs of crisps or chocolate bars hanging around the house ? They’ll go far quicker than you expect (I speak from personal experience. Wotsits and Breakaway bars?? It was like a police honey trap)

    If you want to have a bar of chocolate, go out and buy them as and when. Instead, for those impromptu snacks, make sure you have lots of fruit in the house, and get them munching on an apple instead.

  • Get them on the water. As well as replacing fizzy drinks and all the evils they contain, your body finds it far more difficult to control fat when it’s dehydrated. So always have a jug of water on the table, and add a few slices of lemon.
  • Don’t fret about exercise? Apparently it’s the balanced diet that’s far more likely to beat obesity than exercise. Of course, children SHOULD run around, climb trees and break into school sheds to have a go on an industrial sized lawnmower (all right, scrap the last one? That was just me), but don’t obsess about forcing them to join 1001 sports clubs or to go swimming once a day during holidays.

As long as they’re getting out and moving around, it’s the diet that needs to be watched.

And how we need to be vigilant.

Just last week I watched a programme that highlighted the latest fad that the fast food giants have introduced – Freakshakes…

…these are giant confectionery drinks packing between 75g and 150g of sugar, when the recommended intake for a child under 16 is 30g a day.

How can this be legal?