That is the question CBC News Canada asked Canadians recently in response to new research that shows that Canadian children are becoming alarmingly overweight and are presenting with obesity associated lifestyle diseases.
My answer to this question is no, childhood obesity is not child abuse, yet. But it will be very soon.
Breaking the law
Last month I broke the law. I filled up my tank at a gas station, went inside to buy a drink and to pay for my gas. The attendant looked at me and said “Are you not from here?”
“Yes, I am from here” I responded with hesitation, curious as to what was coming next. “ There is a prepay law in effect”.
I really did not know that it was the law that you had to pay for your gas before you fill up your tank. I missed that message. Am I a criminal? no. Was I ignorant of the newly accepted standards of my society? Yes, absolutely. Much is the same for many parents who really are just ignorant about what we now know is nutritionally necessary for survival and optimal health.
Should I have been cuffed and arrested at the gas station, punished for my crime? Of course not. The gas attendant was lenient with me, educated me and I am now prepared on how to conduct myself in the future. The day will soon come when we will all know about the ‘new’ way of doing things, after having done it one way for as long as we can remember.
Who is responsible?
I believe that parents are wholly responsible for their child’s physique. A child is subject to the dietary and physical activity habits of their parents. This includes everything from food choices, meal size, meal frequency, appreciation of food, daily physical activity levels, body image, and stress management. All factors that influence health and physique.
It is undeniable that a child’s obesity is a reflection of these habits, however these habits may find their roots in generations old rituals, customs and even emotions. Parents really only know what their own parents taught them and at this time can be held faultless. As humanity’s understanding about nutrition changes, so too must parental accountability, and it is changing fast.
Humanity is learning
In many life matters such as finances, education, religion, career and relationships we as individuals learn to conduct ourselves from those who have gone before us. We use the experiences of our parents and other people who have lived before us, whether successful or not, to shape our doings and guide our choices consciously and at times unknowingly.
When it comes to nutrition, physical activity and other lifestyle choices “humanity cannot have this aid, because it is always moving along a hitherto untrodden track, and has no one to ask how to understand life and to act in the conditions on which it is entering and through which noone has ever passed before.” -Tolstoy
Trans fats, pharmaceuticals, genetically modified food, industrially grown meat, pasteurization, and anti-biotics are novel to humanity. We have no one to ask about the effects of these practices. We are learning the hard way, but we have learned enough and no one should be without this knowledge.
We are becoming increasingly educated about our level of understanding about nourishing the body and as the dissemination of this messages continues, those few who are still ignorant of the ‘new conduct’ will be found guilty.
“…humanity has a special power of producing men who give new meaning to the whole of human life-a theory from which follow new forms of activity quite different from all preceding them” -Tolstoy
If a child’s daily nutritional plan and physical activity levels are knowingly not in accordance with known nutritional and activity requirements, then it is fair to say that both neglect of and physical harm is being done to the child.
Any loving parent would not knowingly neglect or harm their child therefore it is likely that ignorance is the causal factor and should be the first step in solving the problem of childhood obesity.
Parents of fat children beware, while no date has been set, nor the definitive manual published, nor a valid examination to be passed, the time is coming soon when you will be held accountable for your obese child. You must arm yourself with the tools and education to be the change in your childs life.
You must become educated!
What are resources you recommend for parents to educate themselves about how to nourish their children (and themselves)?