Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why do parents let their kids get fat?

Um. Ouch?!

I remember seeing this headline on the BBC news site on my birthday 2 months ago. And feeling a surge of, well, fear I guess. Though I felt angry, it was fear.
We are heading towards the first generation of children who will die younger than their parents. Childhood obesity is one of the most serious global public health challenges of the 21st Century, affecting 155m children worldwide. In the UK, the number of overweight children doubled in the 1990s. A third of UK children are at risk of obesity and it costs the country £4.2bn a year.
Ouch. Just. Ouch.

All the time I am hearing how childhood obesity is a mega issue now. The UK is the fattest country in Europe, and 1 in 3 of our children are overweight/obese. A staggering 20% of our 11 year olds are OBESE. Not overweight. Obese.

I have seen multiple posts on Facebook from parents of 4/5 year olds, who have been a part of the NHS Childhood Measurement Program. They are horrified to receive a letter home giving diet advice because their children are maybe 200g heavier than they 'ought' to be, according to BMI. I let myself believe that this was what was happening across the board. That the third of kids overweight were perhaps a lb or two heavier. That they were due a growth spurt.

Looking at the figures though. No. There are too many children, at just 5 years old, who are as obese as I am, for their age/height. That's not right.

Last night the BBC scared me again. "Childhood Obesity can be predicted at birth". For a while I thought that 'Big' families showed there must be a genetic factor in obesity. That there was an underlying condition causing the positive correlation between obese parents and their obese children. This article said no.

 "Only about one in 10 cases of obesity is the result of a rare gene mutation that affects appetite ....  looking at a few simple measurements, such as a child's birthweight and whether the mother smoked, was enough to predict obesity."

"The equation is based on data everyone can obtain from a newborn, and we found it can predict around 80% of obese children."

So, heart in mouth, I thought I'd go ahead and use the tool, to 'predict' the probability of obesity for my children.

At Birth Now Me healthy + Sam healthy
Seth 83.41% 42.58% 18.26% 5.22%
Kai 83.27% 50.02% 23.17% 6.45%
Maya 44.65% 23.17% 8.32% 2.03%
Anya 50.25% 27.41% 10.21% 2.53%

Um. Right.

"Doing it for the kids" never felt more real. Already the changes I've made have in my life near cut the probability of the same needing to be done for each of my children. This. Is. Happening.

My sweet, loving boys were living with 4/5 odds against them staying healthy. And my tiny, gorgeous girls were as likely to end up obese and in pain, as they weren't.

My heart actually aches at the thought. I DO NOT WANT THIS for my babies.

By next year, having this weight off, I can have MASSIVELY changed the outlook for them too. Not just in terms of them having a healthy mum, who can do things with them. But in the shape of THEIR probable futures.

And then I can show Sam how he can change their chances too. This is astounding, and really, really scary.

As it happens, I do know that as of right now, my kids are beating the odds. We keep track of their height on the kitchen wall, and they love to weigh themselves holding cats on the scales. So I know *exactly* where they are in terms of BMI, and WtHr (waist to height ratio).




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