Dr Cat Pause, of Massey University, has made some interesting statements recently, calling for "fat hatred" to be banned. She is reported as saying obesity is not a big health problem if you really look at the science.
Well, I'm not sure which planet Dr Pause lives on, but since our annual obesity-related death rate is rising and is more than double our worrying road toll (which is falling), I think she is either somewhat naive or being deliberately provocative.
The view is often expressed that today's young people raised on fast food and inactivity may well die before their parents. Doctors are seeing heart problems and type-2 diabetes in quite young children.
Is the solution medical or social/political? Probably the best "inoculation" against obesity lies in the hands that feed our youngsters. Our own.
During recent years, schools have placed healthier food in their canteens and spent time on food and nutrition in their health and physical education programmes to encourage healthy eating choices.
But at the same time food is more accessible to youngsters than before. The growth of cafes, coffee bars, food courts and fast food outlets has created a situation where eating has become more than three meals a day. It's become a major pastime.
A child's ideal weight isn't easy for a parent to determine and doing that is best left to health professionals.
Weight in relation to body size will go up and down as growth occurs. What we can do is provide appropriate food, encourage and model good eating habits and encourage physical activity.
- Eat healthily ourselves and avoid the fad diets. Diets give the message that our body systems should be punished when in fact they should be nurtured.
- Remove all junk food, sugary drinks and high-fat foods from cupboards, the refrigerator and the shopping list.
- Avoid the temptation to use food as a bribe, reward or punishment. It gives it a whole different status. That doesn't mean fast food can't be a treat from time to time.
- Avoid banning junk food outright if we're trying to change habits. Banning is likely to make the food more attractive. Just quietly and gradually reduce the amount eaten by substituting other things and reducing quantities.
- Provide a good breakfast. It'll stave off the munchies and help them learn better.
- Teach youngsters to cook. If they can cook good meals, they won't need to live on prepared and fast foods later.
- Encourage physical activity. It doesn't have to be competitive or structured. It can be walking, jogging, bike riding or skateboarding.
- Try to build some vigorous whole family activity into the week.
- Where possible, walk with them rather than drive them.
© Ian Munro 2012. All rights reserved.