Childhood Obesity: Importance of Asking the Right Questions
Co-Authored by Brian & Bonnie Hershey
The Chicago Tribune recently published the results of a study that sought to identify potential risk factors contributing to childhood obesity. (See article here.)
Andrew M. Seaman reports how researchers analyzed such factors as gender, school lunch programs, and screen time. The goal of the project was to develop new programs–based on their research–targeted at weight loss or preventing weight gain in children.
Yet interestingly, after seven years of research on more than 1,700 middle school students, Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, the lead author of the study, concluded that “…additional research is warranted to determine the beneficial impact of improving school lunches and decreasing screen time….”
In other words, they could not verify the very thing they set out to do!
Really? Seven years and 1700 students and you can’t figure out what causes fatness? I had a hard time reading this article without shaking my head in frustration. Of course the connections are unclear! But the reason why these overpaid researchers can’t identify the contributing causes is because they are asking all the wrong questions!
You will never arrive at the right solution by asking the wrong questions.
The researchers wonder how improving the school lunch programs or reducing screen time will effect obesity rates. But these factors are not the core causes of the epidemic. Asking the wrong questions led the researchers further away from the main problem.
What concerns me most is that this article exemplifies a larger phenomena taking place in America: an unwillingness to accept personal responsibility for life-style choices. It seems people would rather point the finger at external circumstances (i.e. play the victim) rather than own their problems.
The Right Questions
The only way we’re going to overcome this growing childhood obesity epidemic is if we start asking the right questions. The answers to these right questions will surface the core problems. Once those core problems are identified, significant gains can finally be made.
So what are those “right” questions?
Let me propose three:
- “What are the connections between poor nutrition and obesity?”
- “What are the connections between reduced levels of physical activity and obesity?”
- “How are children’s attitudes and habits toward diet and exercise influenced by the lifestyle of their parents?”
Consider these facts.
Fact #1: Almost 70% of adults in America are overweight or obese. 
Fact #2: Parents are the single greatest influence in a child’s life.
Fact #3: 30% of children and teens are overweight or obese. 
These three facts show an undeniably correlation between adult and childhood obesity. In fact, the obesity rates in both adults and children have been increasing at about the same speed since the 1960s. 
People need to start asking the hard questions of what’s really fueling this epidemic. And, yes, that means that parents of overweight children may need to take a hard look in the mirror to examine how their lifestyle choices may be effecting their child’s weight.
The time is now for people to accept personal responsibility for their life choices.
The Real Childhood Obesity Problem
As a nation, we eat like crap, don’t take care of ourselves, and don’t exercise. And we are surprised when our kids follow our example?!
Childhood obesity starts in the home. The contributing factors are poor nutrition and reduced levels of physical activity. How do I know? Empirical observation and fifty years of research that has already been done.
Now It’s Your Turn…
Agree or Disagree with my conclusion? What’s your take on the childhood obesity epidemic?
Why are Americans increasingly more likely to dodge personal responsibility for lifestyle choices?
Share your thoughtful honest response below!
1. Seaman, Andrew M. Habits Linked To Obesity May Differ For Boys And Girls. Chicago Tribune, August 2013.
2. Jackson, Elizabeth A., et al. Gender Differences in Physiologic Markers and Health Behaviors Associated with Childhood Obesity. Pediatrics, August 2013.
3. Center for Disease Control. Faststats: Obesity and Overweight. Center for Disease Control, May 2013.
4. Smith, Christian. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005
5. American Heart Association. Overweight in Children. American Heart Association, January 2013
6. Fryer, Cheryl D., et al. Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Extreme Obesity Among Adults: United States, Trends 1960-1962 Through 2009-2010. Center for Disease Control, September 2012; Fryer, Cheryl D., et al. Prevalence of Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, Trends 1960-1962 Through 2009-2010. Center for Disease Control, September 2012.
Feature Image Photo Credit: Eric.Parker via Compfight cc
Nathan Coppock · August 21, 2013 at 6:02 pm
As a former teacher I was able to see first hand what kids were eating at school, and to be honest it was troubling. There was one student in particular that would eat a maple bar and drink a 32 oz mountain dew every morning before 7 AM. This actually prompted me to complete a lesson on the amount of fat, sugar, and other ingredients in the foods I commonly saw the kids eating. Most were shocked to see how much of those macronutrients they were consuming, but, of course, little changed with one lesson. As you indicate it comes down to parents making responsible choices, and leading by example. To make the best choices people need to become better educated on the way their body functions. That means learning more about nutrition, exercise, and how to combine these. If they have the knowledge then it just comes down to taking responsibility for their actions.
Thanks for the well written article. You hit it spot on!
Bonnie | ProvenNutritionForKids · August 21, 2013 at 9:44 pm
Thanks so much for your input and adding value to this post! It’s funny, I just read an article today about “The Changing American Diet”…a report card, so to speak, on our nation’s eating habits. We still have a long way to go, and the changes in eating habits are not happening fast enough. Keep on helping to bring that nutrition education to the forefront, Nathan! Way to go!