How Would You Fix Childhood Obesity if YOU Were In Charge?

Childhood obesity is a serious health problem.  Everyone knows that.   Here’s how some other people have attempted to fix it:

  • Schools in North Andover, Massachusetts are sending home what parents have been calling “Fat Letters,” which basically notify parents if their child’s BMI (body mass index) qualifies as obese.  Do you think the parents like it?  (Answer: No.)  You can read the article here:  “Fat Letters“)
  • A similar public campaign showing pictures of heavy kids with slogans saying things like, “step away from the buffet line,” was pulled because parents and kids hated the shaming aspect of it.  (Here is my own opinion of that campaign compared with Nike’s childhood obesity campaign:  Does Nike’s Ad Exploit Fat People?)
  • Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move! initiatives to get more focus on exercise and nutrition in schools with the goal being to end childhood obesity in one generation (20 years.)

If I Had Unlimited Powers, Here’s What I Would Do To Fix Childhood Obesity:

  1. Focus on the moms.  When mom is eating healthy, everyone is eating healthy.  Start a “Do It for Your Kids” campaign to motivate moms to follow healthy lifestyle choices.  Send out clean eating recipes to cook with your kids.  Sometimes a mom will just give up on herself, but does she want her kids to grow up with the same weight struggles she faced?  Probably not.

    Get the kids cooking with mom!
    Get the kids cooking healthy with mom!
  2. Eliminate soda machines and junk food from school cafeterias all together.  Food is for fuel.  Giving kids “foods” with zero nutritional value and a ton of sugar, caffeine and extra calories is setting our kids up for failure.  Why even have the option of allowing a seven-year-old guzzle down as many sodas as he can buy?
  3. Cigarette ads are banned from television.  Why not ban junk food ads from kid TV shows and online kid game sites?
  4. Junk food is fairly cheap compared to healthy food.  When I was a starving actress I made do on Ramen Noodles because that’s what I could afford.  If I had unlimited powers I would magically reverse that and then some.  A bag of apples would cost $1 and a bag of chips would cost $9.


5.  Due to the recession, many schools had PE programs and after school sport programs cut.  Any business willing to sponsor a school team for the year should get a full tax write off for it.  Everyone wins that way.

What would you do to fix childhood obesity?

Lisa (c) 2013 Lisa Traugott.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.

18 thoughts on “How Would You Fix Childhood Obesity if YOU Were In Charge?

  1. Practical problem to help solve – how do you define junk food? I’m not asking to be difficult, I’m asking because I think ad bans during kids’ shows is a really interesting idea so I’m trying to figure how it would work. (You’d also have to define kids’ shows but let’s make it easy and start with cartoons, then go from there.)

    Washington state tried to approve a junk food tax (it was one of many taxes, including a soda tax) to help tackle their budget problems. (It wasn’t an attempt to fight obesity, just make revenue.) I’ll skip the politics of why it came close but didn’t happen but one of the interesting things was the practical task of having to define junk food. Issues about flour came into play etc and it was fascinating to see what ended up on the junk food list and what did not. Sometimes it’s very difficult to define and legislate common sense.

    That doesn’t mean it’s not possible. WA ended up with a less than perfect but reasonable definition so at least there’s a template.

    I vote to include fast food restaurants (will have to define again – you’d be amazed by the number of loopholes people will be able to find) or at least meals with toys.

    1. I would define junk food as: 1) Fast food (i.e.-McDonald’s, KFC fried chicken, etc.) but would allow them to advertise salads, and grilled chicken). 2) Soda and high sugar juice. 3) Junk food- cakes, brownies, doughnuts, cookies, candy bars, chips. These three types of junk foods would be banned from cartoons and shows designed specifically for children ages 10 and under.

  2. By the way, there was also a proposed tax on bottled water. The biggest reason none of the three taxes happened is because the ntl beverage assoc dumped MILLIONS into the state to defeat the tax on soda and ended up winning the battle so the other two – junk food and water – went down with it. That’s part of why the New York soda limit was so interesting to watch.

  3. Did you watch the special with Jamie Oliver where he goes to a public school district and teaches them about nutrition and cooks for them? The only problem is, I am not sure if this goes with other states, our school cafeterias are not allowed to cook anything. They can only heat food up. So even if we eliminate junk food, there are no real alternatives served for lunch. They put in fresh food salad bars in the elementary schools here but those things are not mandatory and kids often just take food and it stays on their plates for the trash. One day I went to get the kids to take them to recess (usually they are done by the time I get there and they were running late) I saw that they were still eating. Their lunch consisted of mini pancakes that came from a bag and sausage patties. I decided at that point that I would be making lunch for my own little ones when they start school. If I had not seen the pancakes, I would not have even known what those grey disc-shaped objects were. No judgement, I just think we can do better for our children starting with healthy foods as the first, second, and third choices.

  4. You’ve got some really great ideas! Childhood obesity is such a growing problem. I’ve often contemplated the solution myself. I think it’s a process that’s going to take a long time through education. As you said, it starts at home with the parents. The schools can educate the kids but if the parents aren’t educated who will see to it that the children are living a healthy, active lifestyle? With such a fast paced society people put their health at the bottom of the priority list. Unfortunately, kids fall victim to the hectic schedules. Hopefully through education and programs over time society can be mobilized towards living a healthy, active lifestyle 🙂

  5. We need to exit out video games and give them a bat and ball for outside.
    Not to mention that fruits snacks are not a fruit equivalent.
    Too many factors to comment – but I think we can all make a difference!

    1. It’s funny to me how much junk food is packaged as healthy – things like Lucky Charms that say, “gluten free!” or “low fat!” How about – “Giving marshmallows to your kids for breakfast = bad idea” ?

  6. I think until the powers that be get out of the pockets of the sugar companies nothing will change. There is an ad on tv here for a margarine brand. It basically says if you care about your kids feed them meadow lea, which will prevent them from eating 2.5kg of animal fats per year. they use scare tactics. For the frazzled, uneducated person, usually mum, they think they are doing the right thing. Yes its advertising, however when the updated nutritional guide came out this week, it recommended for afternoon tea, a crumpet with margarine. How is it possible for the masses to get it right when they are told so much rubbish? this is a link to the ad.

  7. I love the tax write-off idea, and focusing on the moms. I think you’re right – shaming isn’t going to get us anywhere. We need to take a more positive road.

  8. It absolutely has to start with the parents. I think it is highly unlikely that overweight/out of shape parents are going to have healthy, fit children. I remember growing up that my mom never taught me portion control; I could sit on the sofa reading while eating an entire bag of pretzels mindlessly. With my kid, when she wants pretzels, I give her a portion in a cup and that is all she gets! We don’t keep much junk food in our house, and what we do have is mostly for the hubby AND it is in our pantry (out of sight, out of mind for me!) so the kiddo never asks for it here. At my mom’s house where there are bags of chips, cookies, etc. within sight all of the time, my daughter is ALWAYS asking for junk food. It definitely needs to start at home when it comes to learning healthy habits!

  9. I really think health begins at home. Did you come from a family of clean your plate, even if you’re full or let’s buy fast food and processed foods because it is more convenient than prepping home cooked meals? The government can only do so much. If people want junk, they will buy it. I think it starts with programs educating parents about food choices and being active.

    1. My family went through phases of fat and thin, depending upon my mom. Her parents were obese; she was much healthier, but still overweight. Everything we ate was packaged, processed, or junk food unless she was on a health kick and then we ate more fruits and vegetables.

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