Friday, November 22, 2013

Working Mothers and Childhood Obesity

Commenting on the work of Scottish researchers:

If public-health officials are trying to reverse the disturbing trends in child weight, perhaps they should join the Scottish scholars in looking very closely at a recent American study concluding that “the number of family meals eaten per week was inversely associated with overweight in the children up to age 7 years.” Evidently, the training table most likely to keep children at a healthy weight is the table where the entire family gathers at mealtime.

Of course, family meals become much harder to arrange as soon as Mom takes employment outside of the home. So it should hardly be surprising that the Scottish researchers uncover evidence from both the United States and the United Kingdom indicating that “the children of mothers who worked more hours per week were more likely to be overweight, particularly among mothers of higher socioeconomic status.”

Unfortunately, the pressures of political correctness have made it difficult to look at some truths squarely and honestly. It is therefore not entirely surprising that the Scottish researchers conclude their study by averting their eyes from the family patterns that put children at risk of being overweight while focusing on possibilities for “interventions on the food environment of young children” that would result in “reducing promotion of high-fat, high-sugar foods, making smaller portion sizes available and providing alternatives to sugar-sweetened soft drinks.”

I have a preference for mothers staying home, although I recognize some mothers really do have to work in the paid labour market.

I don't understand why this has to be a big deal.

Moms need to know this stuff. Knowledge is power.

It's lifestyle that programs obesity. It's a bit reductionist to say that it's about working moms and not eating at the table. An accumulation of poor lifestyle decisions that lead to obesity: eating lots of fastfood, not playing outside, driving instead of walking, sitting in front of a screen several hours a day, etc.

If working moms ate with their kids every night, but none of the other lifestyle factors were addressed, many of them would still have fat kids. While it's true that nutritious, well-planned meals are necessary, it's not just about food. When I was a kid, I ate industrial amounts of sugar. I shudder at how much sugar I used to eat. Sugary cereal, sugary snacks, pop all day long, and I did not become fat.

I walked everywhere. I played outside. I played some intramural sports.

When you're outside playing, you're not around food. When you're walking everywhere, you're not around food (normally). But when you spend your day in front of a computer or a video console, you're not moving and you have access to food.

And I haven't even touched the question of emotional eating.
All this to say that obesity won't be solved by doing one thing. It's solved by taking a number of actions.