The ‘Active Healthy Kids Australia’ report card recently graded our kids a ‘D-’.
Barely above a fail, and certainly nowhere near fridge-worthy.
If there were some sort of United Nations run school camp, the Aussie children would be picked on for being fatty boombas. By the kids from New Zealand, England, Mozambique and Mexico. Who all rated near the top of the rankings. If anything is going to spurn Australian parents into action, it has to be that.
Or fact that obese children are far more likely to turn into adults who suffer from the range of health and other consequences that go with being obese. Such as struggling to find fashionable clothes that fit, paying more for food and working up a sweat just from breathing.
As long as junk food companies sponsor sporting events, chocolates are way more accessible than bananas and lollies keep tasting so damn good, completely wiping out childhood obesity is probably going to remain a fantasy.
I’ll tell you what’s also a fantasy? The headline that went with this study when it first appeared.
“Aussie kids among the fattest in the world.”
The study included a total of 15 countries. Last time I checked a map, there are a few more than 15 countries in the whole world. Unless the Russians, Chinese, or some other superpower with not so secret dreams of world domination has been very busy overnight.
Maybe the North Koreans have finally invaded everywhere and we’re just not aware of it yet?
In a study of the world’s fattest leaders, surely theirs would have to be right up there. That’s one competition where we’d do alright. Our Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Minister for Women might currently have far more problems than daughters, but you certainly can’t accuse him of being fat.
In particular, the recommendation that children get 60 minutes of exercise each day.
It found that only 19 per cent of five to 17-year-olds in Australia meet that minimum.
Now before we start yelling and screaming for schools, the government or anyone else to strap our fat kids to a treadmill, I reckon we need to look closer at home. Well specifically, we need to look at the home environment.
It’s easy to claim that broader society should be doing more, and you’re probably right, but they’re your kids. You look after them.
Now I don’t seem to be able to go on a date these days, or talk to a friend who’s having relationship difficulties, or eavesdrop on a conversation at a café, without hearing about how some trauma suffered in childhood is causing the person a lifetime of mental anguish.
Parents also seem to be extra cautious these days to avoid causing any moment that might result in such a trauma for their children.
So why any parent takes their child to see Richmond play in the AFL, or Cronulla in the NRL is beyond me.
What far fewer parents seem worried about is the lifetime of physical trauma caused by not forcing their own little fatty boombas outside for a bit each day.
The way we are emotionally shaped as adults is in part influenced by our childhood, in much the same way as our eating and exercise habits influence our physical shape as an adult.
Sure this can change, but it takes an immense amount of work and would be much easier to address if to begin with, far fewer of our kids were as wide as they are tall.
I’ve also heard many parents say that they’re worried about what might happen to their children if they’re allowed to play outside, walk to school and otherwise gallivant around unsupervised.
By wrapping children in bubble wrap coated in cotton wool and shutting them up in the family home, they might never get even slightly dented, but you’re definitely breaking them.
Then parents complain that their kids prefer to sit in front of screens over going outside.
So make them do it outside, where the glare is so intense that they struggle to see anything.
Even better, take the things off them. If they object? Well you’re the parent. You’re in charge.
They might yell and scream, but years from now, they’ll be thanking you.
When I was growing up, being made to stay inside was a punishment. Now it’s a punishment to be sent outside, and instead of being a chore it needs to be a daily occurrence.
Otherwise it won’t just be emotional problems the next generation of adults are complaining about. It’ll be physical problems as well.
Most importantly, when this study comes out every year, do we really want to keep losing to Mexico, Mozambique and New Zealand?
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.