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Summertime for Fat Kids By: Tom Purcell
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Ah, summer. We all know what that means: our kids are getting even fatter.

Surely you're aware of the battle against childhood obesity. It's in high gear during the school year. I read about it in the Washington Post.

With physical education classes offered in fewer than 10 percent of public schools, some state legislatures are fighting to mandate 30 minutes of PE every day in school.

Recess has also gone to the wayside at many schools, now that teachers need the extra time to bolster self-esteem.

And a great junk-food battle is under way -- a battle that has made its way to the halls of Congress, where our politicians threaten to ban the selling of candy, soda, salts and fats in schools.

Despite the school-focused anti-obesity efforts, a bigger challenge has emerged: kids are getting even fatter when they are at home.

A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Public health confirms it: the body-mass index of kindergartners and first-graders increases two to three times as fast during the summer than during the rest of the year.

According to the Post, kids have less structure during the summer months. And because their parents lavish them with dough, they're able to use their free time buying goodies at the 7-11 -- with plenty of dough left over for a cab ride home.

How to solve the summer-time obesity epidemic? The Post asked health experts for advice.

First tip: parents need to share in the responsibility of keeping their kids fit. They need to get their kids outdoors.

That's ground-breaking advice, to be sure, but I think it was invented by the very first parents, who passed it on to subsequent parents, who kept passing it on until the current batch took over.

Hey, my dear sweet mother frequently applied the concept in the '70s when she told my sisters and me: "I'm sick of looking at your face, go outside and play, and you better not be late for supper."

My mother had no Ph.D, but she was also aware of the advice another expert shared with the Post: "Studies have shown that the more time kids spend outside, the more active they are!"

You don't say! And here I thought chomping on Doritos and playing video games was the way to make kids more active.

Look, I'm as concerned about our obese kids as the next fellow -- some 16 percent of our kids, three times the percentage in 1980, are overweight, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- but we're trying to solve the problem all wrong.

Here's what we need to do: bring back the old-style parents, clear-headed people like my mother and father.

When we said "I'm thirsty, there's never any Pepsi to drink around here," my mother would say, "You want something to drink, what's wrong with water?"

When we said, "I'm hungry, there's nothing to eat around here," she'd say, "You want something to eat, what's wrong with fruit?"

When we were in a lazy mood and said, "There's nothing to do around here," she'd say, "You want something to do, I'll give you something to do," and we were soon mopping the floors or mowing the lawn.

I know our wealthy society is overwhelmed these days with lots of high-calorie foods that our bodies were not designed to consume.

I know some moms and dads, who both need to work to make ends meet, don't have the luxury to be home with their kids during the summer months.

I know the '70s was an easier, simpler time to be both a kid and a parent.

But I also know there was only one obese kid in my entire township. A few were chubby -- that's natural for some kids and they often outgrow it -- but the vast majority of kids were in great shape.

We were in great shape because we had stubborn parents, who, despite a lack of studies and experts telling them what to do, made sure we were active and ate right.

Maybe the experts should do a study on that.

Tom Purcell's weekly political humor column runs in newspapers and Web sites across America. Visit him at www.TomPurcell.com.


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