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Can Chefs Solve Childhood Obesity?

June 24, 2010

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Kevin Chappell, senior editor of Ebony magazine, who writes extensively about national politics, recently noted a new phase of the Let’s Move! campaign created by Michelle Obama to end childhood obesity. The First Lady is recruiting the help of cooking professionals. Chappell says,

As part of her effort to turn policies into practical solutions, Michelle Obama is calling on chefs to get involved by adopting a school and working with teachers, parents, school nutritionists and administrators to help educate kids about food and nutrition.

“Chefs Move to Schools” is a program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plan is to find chefs within communities who will partner with schools to teach the kids and help revise the menus.

There is nothing wrong with this idea, as long as we realize that telling kids about healthy choices is a “been there, done that” proposition. It won’t hurt to keep teaching basic nutrition, but how much will it help?

Consciousness has been somewhat raised about the problem of childhood obesity. There are plenty of news stories on the Michelle Obama project, but healthy eating classes will not get to the root of the problem. Any plan that emphasizes education about healthy choices is given a solid thumbs-down by kids. Via one of the many opinion polls at the Weigh2Rock website, 67 percent communicate a response the equivalent of, “Enough already, we know all that stuff.”

It’s probably unavoidable that the most crucial solution has to be personal. We’ve heard it a thousand times — change can only come from within. However, to a motivated young person who really wants to make major and permanent lifestyle changes, school and government programs could certainly offer ways to facilitate that change.

What kids need to learn about is why they can’t stop overeating, and how to deal with the underlying causes, such as stress and loneliness. The sad truth is, most childhood obesity problems are actually family-generated. Can problems that originate in the family be legislated? Only in some hugely crude and too-little-too-late way, like taking fat kids away from their parents and putting them in foster homes. Nobody wants to see more of that kind of thing going on.

However, institutions can teach techniques. For instance, withdrawal from one problem food at a time. Let’s look at Dr. Pretlow’s presentation, which he unveiled at the recent Uniting Against Childhood Obesity conference. Scroll on down to Slide #98, to see the results of another poll. The question is,

What about losing weight by cutting out just the foods you have the most problem with?

This method is said to work successfully, by about one kid in four. There are something like nine million obese kids, by government count. What’s that divided by four? Two and a quarter million. Well, if teaching this technique would help 2.25 million kids, let’s get on with it. Sure, go ahead and bring in the chefs, but it would be nice to also see a class or two on a method that could help 2.25 million struggling children and teens. We will have more to say about this tomorrow.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “First Lady Michelle Obama launches ‘Chefs Move to Schools’ Program,” EbonyJet, 05/13/10
Source: “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say,” Weigh2Rock
Image by megarooo, used under its Creative Commons license.


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