The Children’s Crusade

If you’ve been reading Junkfood Science you’re probably aware of the new AMA guidelines on preventing childhood obesity, which is the battle plan for the War on Obesity Version 2.0  – the Children’s Crusade. 

The War on Obesity 2.0 is a “preventive” war on fat children childhood obesity. At heart it’s anti-obesity crusaders’ answer to Bush’s “surge strategy” in Iraq, a never-admit-you’re-wrong response to the failure of the the War on Obesity Version 1.0: The Weight Loss Campaign.

In case it slipped your mind, for decades fat people have been harrassed to lose weight and have spent up to 50 billion dollars a year trying to – only to lead to an average increase in weight by 5 to 10 lbs in the population. And only now, after the evidence that weight loss doesn’t work long-term could stretch from here to the moon and back, are anti-obesity crusaders copping to the failure of the War on Obesity 1.0.

Well quietly copping to it – the admission is usually drowned out by their very noisy opening salvos of the War on Fat Kids. I have no doubt it will take these same people another thirty years before they ever admit there’s anything boneheaded about the War on Fat Kids – and they’ll spend all that time insisting the “expert guidelines” must work because, after all, they’re “expert guidelines.”

But to get down to brass tacks, as Sandy points out, doctors are now supposed to police all aspects of fat children’s lives (the fattest 15%) and implement a three-stage plan of increasing punishment intervention when if the prevention strategies – which have never been shown to work – don’t work. 

“Interventions” range from reducing children’s access to tv and computers to <1 hr a day (so much for computer literacy); to not allowing them to drink any sweetened drinks (e.g. juice); to having parents supervise their eating and exercise, and so on. When those “interventions” don’t work, referral to kiddie weight loss centers for “consideration of:” very low calorie diets, meal replacements (i.e Slim-Fast), “behavioral modification,” medications and surgery.

792670_teddy_and_rabbit.jpgBear in mind we’re talking about kids as young as two years old. Yes, even toddlers don’t get a pass on the most extreme weight loss measures.

The way the recommendations are “staged” make them sound, at first glance, almost reasonable – because the first “stages” are things we might all get behind, like making sure kids get exercise and eat well. But the key is if the child does everything he’s supposed to but stubbornly refuses to be thin, then it’s on to very low calorie diets, medications and surgery. 

So even though we’re always told that fat is just a matter of “good nutrition and exercise,” good nutrition and exercise are apparently not good enough. Even if all the things that are supposed to “prevent” fat don’t prevent fat, then extreme measures must be taken to make prevention “work.”  Which means, in the end, that “prevention” just amounts to forcing on kids the same weight loss strategies that don’t work on adults.

And, in case you’re skeptical about these “interventions” being based on zero evidence. Here’s a summary of the “insights” from the conference that spawned them (reproduced in toto, just so you can see how absolutely pulled out of the vapor all of this is):

  • The magnitude of the obesity epidemic is too great to wait for evidence-based guidelines before increasing efforts focused on prevention and intervention.
  • There should be an increased focus on what has worked in the past for other public health threats such as tobacco.
  • Much more research is needed to determine what clinical and community based interventions are helpful in decreasing childhood obesity.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the NICHQ, the CDC, the MCHB of HRSA, and the AMA provide the basis for a national network of organizations that can accelerate the necessary research and interventions related to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of childhood obesity, so that best practices are determined and disseminated at a rate surpassing the normal diffusion of knowledge and practice into the health care community.

So, it’s pretty much exactly what the critics have been saying. This war on obesity is a panic. It’s the panic that’s driving it, and not evidence. There’s no more evidence that fat can be “prevented” than there ever was that it can be “cured.” And nobody has any idea what the long-term effects of any of these recommendations are. Nevertheless the complete lack of evidence has convinced the AMA to implement a police-state policy with regards to fat children and their families.

And just as important is their admission that the War on Obesity is predicated on the assumption that fat is like smoking – an assumption that each day is shown to be more obviously wrong. Smoking is medically, physiologically and socially a completely different issue from fat.  Fat is in large part genetic and a reflection of natural human variability; it’s controlled by an extremely complex and powerful physiology that homeostatically regulates it; it’s relationship with health is highly variable, and there’s never been any evidence that it can be successfully “cured” or “prevented.”

Tobacco is none of these things, and the more the “War on Obesity” fails to live up to the “War on Tobacco” the more these policy morons try to hammer the square peg ever harder into the round hole. And the more draconian their “solutions” become.  And by the way, if you look at who’s composing these guidelines, there’s no evidence that many (any?) of them are experts in fat or obesity – for the most part they’re preventative medicine or public health policy wonks still nostalgic for the clear line between good and evil that characterized the Tobacco Wars, and who simply can’t wrestle themselves out of the tobbacco model to see fat for what it is.

Lest you think that these are just “guidelines” that parents can filter for appropriateness or idiocy, think about a recent proposal to the British Medical Association to have fat kids taken away from parents who fail to “follow doctor’s recommendations.” The days when all we were worried about was putting BMI on children’s report cards are already behind us, and we may come to see such humiliations as a “more enlightened time.”

30 Responses to “The Children’s Crusade”

  1. Lindsay Says:

    Bear in mind we’re talking about kids as young as two years old.

    This makes me so mad i could spit. I’m reminded of the rumour that Anna Nicole Smith instructed her baby’s nanny to feed her half the recommended amount of formula… because she wanted to have a “sexy baby”.

    Is that what all this comes down to? This false notion of health comes from a justification of what the media wants us to think of as attractive… so if our kids are ugly, we’ll just toss ’em aside. Next thing you know, kids with birthmarks will be thought of as witches. What century are we in again?

    For that matter: take the kids away from their parents (because their biology staunchly refuses to conform to societal standards – damn rebellious genetics!) and put them… where? With who? And this is good for them… HOW?!

    Added to which, i found this lovely article the other day: Parents’ rigorous rules on food could backfire childhood obesity. I can personally attest to this. But this sort of notion won’t make it very far in the press, i’m quite certain.

  2. Nicole Says:

    It’s horrific. And as the mom of a 3-year-old, I am terrified. My son is “normal” weight now, and we are very cognizant of nutrition and activity. He doesn’t get juice and never has, and his screen time is strictly limited (probably less than two hours a week). But I have pretty much zero hope that these measures are going to protect him from being fat. My mom did all this with me, and I stayed “normal” right up until I entered school. Then, all that time at a desk combined with my genetics and created an overweight child. I went on my first diet when I was seven and was doing weekly weigh-ins with a dietician by the time I was nine. All it taught me was shame, and it left me with lasting food issues, not to mention the metabolic damage.

    How do we fight against this? How? People need to know about these guidelines, and they need to understand just how wrong they are.

  3. DivaJean Says:

    Our idiotic local news had something on this earlier this morning.

    Their main take on it was that kids who are obese need to be called obese. Not big boned, not overweight- obese. Mind you, there are medical distinctions between “overweight” and obesity- but no longer. And pay no mind to the bone structure or overall build of the child. Just do something because “The epidemic of FAT” is a comin’…

    I was a fat kid myself- and now a VERY fat woman (fluctuate around 250 plus). I look at the pictures of me as a kid and DO NOT see anything fat about me. I am clearly a head taller than anyone around me and seem very proportional. I hit that age around 8 or 9 when girls get a belly before puberty and then my family went crazy- specifically my mother. By age 15, I had been on perpetual diets- then strung out on amphetamines by a “well meaning” quack doctor mom took me to. I participated in many “teen weight loss” groups- back in the early 80’s. The worst of which had anorexic kids and fat kids mixed all together. What happened? The fat got fatter and we scared the anorexics into worse eating disorder issues. Food has always been such a big “effing” deal that I continue to fight issues of hoarding secret stashes for emotional use— and I am 41 years old and certainly “know” better– but I have had such weird conditioning around eating and food, I cannot help it.

    The other night, my mom said something about how my 8 year old was starting “to get a belly on her.” I told her point blank that we are not going there with my daughter- and had her review what had happened to me over the years. I reminded her that my daughters two favorite foods on this planet are broccoli and spinach- and that we are not going to start making certain foods off limits and screw up her food priorities. Mom had to acquiesce- she knew that “doing something… anything!!” is just going into panic mode over nothing.

  4. meowser Says:

    Can they really not see what these kinds of interventions are going to lead to, if they become mandatory for all doctors and NPs who want insurance reimbursement?

    Parents will refuse to take their kids to doctors even if they’re really sick or behind on shots, just because they don’t need the abuse.

    Measles and mumps and rubella will make a stunning comeback, and people will think it’s “healthy” because high fevers burn calories. Maybe even polio will come back — after all, it got kids skinny before, that can only be a good thing. Don’t kids say they’d rather lose a limb than be fat anyway?

    Kids will become bulimic just so they don’t need to be moved to the next “level” of restrictions on their diets and activities — or, goddess forbid, have their stomachs cut out involuntarily. (*I* certainly would have learned to love Teh Puke rather than not ever eat anything “forbidden,” and I hate throwing up worse than anything.)

    The “lucky” ones will “only” wind up with sports injuries from all the compulsive exercise they’ve learned to do to work off the evil calories. Hopefully not bad enough that they can’t walk or anything.

    And plenty of kids will be starved deliberately as babies and toddlers and fail to thrive, all so the parents won’t catch shit from the doctors or from other parents for having fat kids. (I see nothing in these guidelines for “underweight” kids, did I miss anything?) We live in a country of extremes, after all — if thin is good, thinnest must be best. Let’s see those RIBS, junior!

    This can’t happen. It just can’t.

    • Jackie Says:

      This would make a very good plot for a sci-fi warning of a dystopian future type of book. Like a Brave New World, but about fat politics.

  5. kateharding Says:

    The magnitude of the obesity epidemic is too great to wait for evidence-based guidelines

    That is simply stunning. I don’t even know what to say.

  6. Dani Says:

    At 6 months old I was put on a diet. I was given only 25% the formula of what an baby my age/size was suppose to eat. (There by only stoppping my weight gain. I never lost an ounce. Very depressing. What infant doesn’t want to be svelte.) I was denied solid foods until I was 4 years old. (combo of diet and intense allergies) Once they allowed me to start to eat I was ALWAYS hungry. I started secretly binging at 5 or 6 years old. My first memories are of being punished for eating. I have spent my life binging/starving/dieting/hating. The plan to do this on a mass scale depresses the hell out of me. How do we stop them?

  7. DivaJean Says:

    But wait there’s more…
    The feds are also considering approval of a drug to block the pleasure receptors- so fatties won’t enjoy their eating.
    Because everyone deserves to be skinny, no matter how miserable it makes them– and beacuse fatties will take whatever crumb the pharmaceutical companies throw out at them.
    I swear to effing God- I have never felt so under attack as I have today!

  8. Kunoichi Says:

    Scary stuff!

    Parents will refuse to take their kids to doctors even if they’re really sick or behind on shots, just because they don’t need the abuse.

    As larger people, both my husband and I are already leery of going to doctors, having had our reasons for going brushed off while our weight became the core issue instead. My elder daughter is heavy for her size – mostly because she’s inherited my genes and developed physically *very* early. She would be a target for just this sort of thing. Thankfully, she scoffs at any notion of going on a diet at her age.

    • Jackie Says:

      I don’t know how our family got so lucky, but we have a very nice Korean doctor who doesn’t buy into the fat hysteria. I wonder if this is particular to Korean doctors in general, or we just are lucky to have a really good one.

  9. ShortDave Says:

    Holy Crap.

    How do these misguided people attain power?

    What happened to the rights and freedoms of people in the USA?
    Imagine for a second what would happen if they decided to wage a war on alcohol, or better yet, attack the fast food industry.
    There would be mass outrage, but for some reason the majority of people are okay with forcing toddlers to limit their food intake?
    I am completely for giving children only healthy foods, fruits and vegetables in abundance, lean proteins at every meal, and meals every three hours.
    Nobody should be starved ever, nothing good has ever come from having not enough food.

    I am kind of glad I live in Canada, the worst I have to put up with is snow.

  10. spinsterwitch Says:

    “The magnitude of the obesity epidemic is too great to wait for evidence-based guidelines before increasing efforts focused on prevention and intervention.”

    Ah, yes, so the answer to this is that we will experiment directly on our children. Hmmm…I think the last time this was tried was in Nazi concentration camps.

  11. Jackie Says:

    When I first heard that 10 year olds were calling themselves fat, I was shocked. Now, I don’t know what to think. It’s one thing for children to pick on the fat kid. It’s another for the parents to systematically put their child into a unnatural situation.

    When I was 10 I played alot of Nintendo. I also went outside, and to Chuck E Cheese. (For those of you who remember, back then it was called Showbiz Pizza.) There also was Discovery Zone, which I still say if they made something similar for adults today. There would be no issue over exercising. Climbing through tunnels and ball pits, are just plain fun.

    I will never understand, why people think taking a child out from their home isn’t trumatizing. Hell, I found the idea of detention trumatizing. Since I had no real grasp on time, when it was first introduced. Like 3rd grade, maybe. So I didn’t know when I would be able to go home. That is a scary notion for adults, let alone children.

    So taking children away from home, for not being able to starve themselves thin. I can’t belive this is being applied to 2 year olds. What is wrong with people?! What nobody has a right to a childhood anymore, unless they are size 0? This is a good idea for teaching children how to have disordered eating for life.

    I don’t see the point, or the benifit of this at all. Guarenteeing a generation that suffers from Anorexia, Bulimia ect ect. Trumatizing children by taking them away from home, and starving them. Which would have to put them in enough stress to cause them to have Post-Trumatic Stress disorder. I mean, between the two.

    Do the so-called “medical professionals”, consider this?What it would be like to live your life, having post-trumatic stress nightmares of being kidnapped from your home. Taken to a place where you were told you cannot eat. Every single night. How does this help people, how does this benifit anyone? Why do people think that children will want to eat healthier, when eating healthier is tied to such a trumatic experience? If it does anything, it will make them want to avoid eating healthy. Lest it bring up bad memories.

    I agree with spinsterwitch, sadly. Alot of the Obesity Taskforce Initatives have reminded me of the tatics of the Nazis. People have compared what is happening with the overweight in our country, with a recipe for genocide. Something like, a stage is mass discrimination against a group, check.

    This makes no sense to me. I don’t even know if it would make sense to Rod Serling, and he was foward-thinking about future possiblities. I mean, it’s like taking babies and saying they’re fat. Oh wait, that has happened too. Eh..well at least Nintendo hasn’t put Super Mario on a diet, yet.

  12. wriggles Says:

    Somebody help me out here, does a moral panic last over 30 years and counting?
    Or has the ‘obesity crisis’ itself turned into a lifestyle choice- a pseudo religious cult?

  13. Big Brother Is Watching Your Fat Kids at Shakesville Says:

    […] Fat Fu also picked up on all this and dissected it quite brilliantly, including noticing this humdinger: “The magnitude of the obesity epidemic is too great to wait for evidence-based guidelines before increasing efforts focused on prevention and intervention.” […]

  14. Saorla Says:

    It really seems like a pseudo religious cult wriggles, I agree with you there.

    I am shocked and appalled at the idea of putting kids on a diet especially at the age of 2 – that’s not normal, logical or make any sense at all.

    I remember being told I was fat as a child and I naturally developed a very fucked up relationship to food. But as DivaJean said when I look at pictures of myself I am not fat just healthy – not winning skinny contests but healthy. Now I am fat and dealing with the issues that come from when food is an issue in childhood.

  15. Harriet Says:

    Excellent post. Loved the comparison with the smoking issue. The War on Obesity is fueled by self-loathing more than anything else. As I had to tell my anorexic daughter over and over and over, you’re *supposed* to have fat on your body. It’s unnatural not to.

  16. meowser Says:

    Has anyone noticed 2-year-olds don’t smoke?

  17. Krista Says:

    So maybe what the powers that be want is more cases like this one:

    I have my sons enrolled in a “weight management” program through the YMCA. It is actually a workout program to help counteract the 7 hours a day at a desk. I find that I need to monitor it closely, but they do a fairly good job at emphasizing healthy exercise and eating and not dieting and weight. I happen to think my sons are not fat at all, but my oldest qualifies as morbidly obese. I worry about him, but about the social issues on top of his multiple disabilities.

    It is not an easy issue, but it has everything to do with societal attitudes.

  18. littlem Says:

    “What century are we in again?”


  19. fat fu The Trouble With Normal Weight « Says:

    […] The Children’s Crusade […]

  20. fat fu More Evidence… « Says:

    […] Top Posts The Children’s Crusade […]

  21. PJ (RightNow) Says:

    You said it better than I could.

    Prior to seeing all the comments here I wrote a post at my blog about fat acceptance, including the issue of the demonization of children’s fat.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m living in some surreal alternate reality, with this kind of TOTALITARIAN logic, and any minute I’m going to wake up and go “Thank God! It was just a nightmare!”

    I just can’t seem to wake up.

    You know, what people don’t see is the precedent this would set for ripping kids out of homes. Already if your kid is truant too often in the USA you get listed on the state ‘child abuser’ list! as ‘Educational neglect’ is bad for the kid and hence child abuse and hence they have the right to seize the child.

    And, like right now, people can homeschool their kid and visit alternative healthcare practitioners if they choose. But if this kind of thing were implemented, it would be used as the reason you HAD to show up for government exams, where the people with the most money to make by incentives, kickbacks, medicine purchases, or other bonuses, would review every child for ‘obesity’ — and who knows what that would open the door to. The 400 new “immunizations” maybe? Or… who knows?


  22. Sydne Says:

    This is worse than the blind leading the blind. It’s the totally incompetent, morally bereft herding the helpless.
    Nazi Germany certainly does come to mind.

  23. nonegiven Says:

    Supposedly 2/3 of Americans are now fat. We got the numbers, let’s vote the fuckers out!

  24. sestamibi Says:

    Bigotry is all and always the same. It is about ego gratification for those leading the charge against [fill in name of disfavored group], power for one group over another, the “threat” posed by the mere fact of a disfavored group’s existence, the need to “change” or kill members of that group, the willingness to do to people in that group what one would do to no one else, and, if ever stopped, the unwillingness to acknowledge that a great wrong was done (often coupled with the excuse that “one had to life during that time to understand ….”). Today, the most disfavored groups are (1)fat people, (2)cognitively disabled people, (3)people with serious illnesses who fail to “get better,” (4)people who are permanently physically disabled, and (5)immigrants, especially non-white immigrants. What I am beginning to realize (at age almost 50) is that things really don’t change — all the more reason for activism. Yell, yell, yell, and make it as hard for the bigots as possible!

  25. fat fu Still More on the Fat Friends Study « Says:

    […] In April, when there were hundreds of headlines worldwide all riffing on the idea that “fat workers hurt employers bottom lines” and “normal weight workers more cost-effective.” That was due to a single marketing blitz of a single study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, published by the AMA (who I am just not happy with this year). […]

  26. Lisa Says:

    So incredibly disturbing. What they are contemplating is incredibly abusive, demeaning and far more likely to cause life-long health & emotional issues, not to mention eating issues, than kids being heavy. Why does no one stop to think that of course people are getting heavier, they’re also getting taller? Is there any way to end this completely f*ed up situation?

  27. Sun Says:

    This terrifies me. I have a 13 (this week!) yr old son, who is already 5’6″, and his so-called doctor convinced my ex that my son was “showing signs of obesity” and needed to see a nutritionalist. After 2 sessions of listening to this anorexic quack, who was really too busy dangling her shoe off her toes flirting with my ex, I refused to participate any more. She tried to tell us that because my son was born in the 98th percentile for height, and 90th for weight, he was “born obese”. Can you say Quack? I knew you could.

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