Showing posts with label childhood obesity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label childhood obesity. Show all posts

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The New England Journal of Medicine, in a study of over 12,0000 people, suggests that obesity may be contagious, like a common cold. Apparently, when a study participant's friend became obese, that participant had a 57 percent greater chance of becoming obese himself. In pairs of close friends, one person becoming obese meant his friend had a 171 percent greater chance of following suit. "You are what you eat isn't the end of the story," summed up study co-author James Fowler. "You are what you and your friends eat."

As a child, if I insisted on going outside without a jacket, my mother warned, “If you get sick, don’t complain to me.” How will this new news play in today’s health-conscious world?

“Mommy, can I play at Scott’s house?”

“Isn’t he the overweight boy down the street?”

“Yes, he’s very nice. He’s got cool toys.”

“I don’t think I want you to go there sweetie. You might catch a case of chubby.”

“I won’t mommy. Please.”

“If you do, don’t expect me to let out your seams.”

I don’t wish to poke fun, but can one be “infected” with obesity? The research, in my mind, simply points out the old adage, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

As illustration, someone who enjoys triathlon training and a buddy who is an avid video game enthusiast might enjoy each other’s personalities, and share similar views on politics and morality. Yet, would they hook up?

“Hey, Chris. Want to get together this weekend?”

“Sounds great. What shall we do?”

“We could grab something to eat, go to the mall. What do you think?”

“Sounds fun, but I’ve got my exercise regimen. How about we go to the pool first?”

“I can’t swim.”

“What about cycling?”

“Don’t have a bike.”

“We could go for a run.”

“I’ll just meet you there.”

As Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof, “A fish may love a bird. But where would they build a house?”

It is a function of human nature to feel best with people who are most like us and do as we do.

When I say, “you know?” I’m reassured when my friend says, ‘Yeah, I do.” That’s why we’re buds. If one enjoys sedentary, high-caloric activities, it stands to reason that so too will those around her. If she begins jogging, she didn’t catch a dose of “fitness;” she changed a routine. Desiring to share that newfound interest, she will seek out others of similar mentality.

The biggest surprise to me was that this surprised them. Most people recognize that smoking and drinking are influenced by group standards, but apparently that realization is relatively new for obesity where so many still consider it a moral failing or merely a clinical condition. Obesity, like so much of life, is largely a function of behavior patterns. To change it, we must change what we do, not necessarily with whom we do it.

So — what the heck — try taking a walk with a friend. It couldn’t hurt, and, who knows, you indeed might catch something: a healthy habit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A lucky man

There is a fable whereby God gives each person the option to rid himself of his most pressing difficulty. Everyone places his or her problems in the center of a circle. In turn, each then inspects the travails and challenges of the others, and chooses what he or she would prefer. As the fable goes, everyone opts for his own problem. Human nature is to always consider oneself less fortunate than others - until presented with reality.

Michael J. Fox considers himself to be a "lucky man." As I watched him on TV try to contain uncontrollable tremors and twitches inflicted by Parkinson's disease, I was astonished - and awed - to hear him describe himself as "fortunate." He admits he would not have opted for this disease; yet as long as it is his path, he feels it is a gift because he's able to help others.

Shall we compare? Fox describes Parkinson's as "a gift;" I complain when I have to say "no" to a second scoop of ice cream. Maybe rethinking my position is in order.

Since I was a young overweight lad, I cannot remember when I did not complain about having to watch what I eat. While other children gorged themselves on potato chips, soft drinks, and chocolate fudge bars, my mother filled me with non-fat milk, fruit, and grilled chicken.

As a small boy stomping his feet in the midst of a tantrum, I would rail against the wrongness of the universe. "It's not fair!" I yelled. "Richard and Nancy are going to get ice cream. I want to go too!"

In those early years, I could not know the pain my mother felt as she was compelled to hold back her son from the experience of his peers so he could learn much-needed healthier habits. Lovingly, she would reply, "You're right; it's not fair. But Richard and Nancy don't have to watch their weight. You need to eat more carefully than they do."

I grew resentful over time: wounded by the loneliness felt only by the unattractive, angry over diets that promised but never delivered, insulted and beaten down by boorish comments poking fun of my size. Why did God condemn me?

Michael J. Fox - with Parkinson's - considers his disease a gift. I have an outburst over having to eat low-fat cheese. I'm thinking I just might need to "get over myself."

I "suffer" from a disease of abundance. While half the planet's population goes without, I must cut back. I must count calories in a world one person out of two prays not to go to sleep hungry.

If we were to put my problem in the circle, I think I'd take it back.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Of acne and pant sizes

I am reminded of my teen years.

One of the most tortuous events of adolescence is the explosion of pimples on one's facial landscape. Unbeknownst to most, these bulbous, bloated, bulging beacons of embarrassment have an intelligence of their own and connive to materialize at the worst possible moment - and in the most awful location. Therefore, it is guaranteed that the morning of the formal prom, one will be greeted in the mirror by a gargantuan red, inflamed, swollen one-inch zit on the tip of your nose. Take it to the bank.

Most people (yes, teens are people) are too polite to say anything when you appear to all the world like a caricature of W.C. Fields, any sinus commercial, and Bozo the Clown. Your day is spent inventing reasons why you cannot move your hand from the front of your face because even though you've tried to conceal the damage with two pounds of blemish makeup (causing your skin to develop the oh-so-attractive, tomblike cast of a mannequin), Captain Blackhead unflinchingly stands out front taunting, "Don't look him in the eyes; instead gawk intently at his red, puffy, swelling."

Ah, such special memories...

Acne might be a thing of my past, but the feelings of embarrassment are identical to when I feel bloated from excess consumption. My stomach becomes a radio station, broadcasting on all channels: "This is a test of the emergency mortification system; for the next 60 minutes, please don't look anywhere else. Glare unblinkingly at his immense, distended, belly while pointing in a mocking fashion. Should this have been a real emergency, you would have been instructed to add humiliating comments. This is only a test."

To compensate, I suck in my abdomen, causing the tonal range of my voice to increase one octave while adding a slightly breathy quality to my speech. (I rationalize this, believing others find it a sexy addition to my speech pattern.)

Of course, there are problems with this approach, most notably would be sitting or bending; as one can never be sure of the tensile strength of button thread under strain. I would feel terrible should the round fastener explode forth from my midline, fly across the room, and put out somebody's eye. I wager the medical report would make history: "Blindness induced by excessive chocolate intake from out-of-control dieter in nearby restaurant booth."

Oh sure, I try using denial. When asked my pants size, I reply proudly (while loosening my belt), "32 W-L-D." Women have descriptors like "petite" or "junior;" why can't men?

"W-L-D? What's that?"

"While lying down." (Unfortunately, it's still a 36 when I stand up.)

About the author: Scott "Q" Marcus, THINspirational speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds 13 years ago, he conducts speeches, workshops, and presentations on goal setting, attitude, and health throughout the country. He can be reached at 707.442.6243, or

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


As they ambled up the slope to the restaurant, it was apparent the toddler was new to the concept of walking unaided, holding her mother's hand for security. From behind, her small body was obscured by a lavender backpack that bounced, as if bobbing on waves, with every step. This carryall obscured her frame from heels to head, and was adorned with a joyful smiling purple pony. Above the daypack was a forest of thick, dark brown hair, fashioned into a spout. Below were matching purple pony sneakers that lit up with each footfall.

The path before her held no interest. I - on the other hand - following behind was deserving of intense scrutiny. Her backward glances, coupled with forward movement, and yet-untuned walking skills came together. The result was she tripped and tumbled forward, catching herself before her small face made contact with the floor.

Since I was close enough to be the catalyst to this potentially traumatic event, I couldn't help but overhear the mother's reaction, as she spun and lowered herself to the youngster's level.

"Wow, honey, you're amazing! You caught yourself so quickly! What strong arms you have! You are so athletic!"

Turning to her other daughter, she continued, "Did you see how quickly Jesse reacted? Isn't she wonderful? I am so blessed that I have two incredible daughters with so much talent and grace. What an amazing day this is! Tonight's meal will be a celebration of my children."

She brushed off Jesse's clothing, embraced both daughters (took Jesse's hand), and the threesome disappeared into the eatery.

Aside from wanting to hug this prize-winning mother for instilling such fantastic and life-affirming attitudes, my initial reaction was a reminder of the power of words.

How often have we been unwitting victim, forced to endure overhearing the painful tirade of a parent with lesser skills berating a youngster for a mistake? My soul cries for that child's future; it is bleak.

Yet, equally true - and infinitely more optimistic - is the empowered and unlimited tomorrows to be enjoyed by these sisters upon reaching womanhood. It is as assured as the fact that Jesse loves purple ponies.

What we say matters more than we realize. It affects what we feel, which determines what we do; in effect, carving out - word by word - the path of our lives. Not only is it vital what we say to our children, and to each other, but also equally as critical what we verbalize to ourselves.

When was the last time you referred to yourself as "amazing?" Jesse would tell you that you are.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Being Mean

Before I venture down this road, it is prudent of me to inform you of my past.

Ten pounds at birth, and always overweight as a child, my mother was troubled because other babies pushed away the bottle when full; I never did. I also recall unmistakably the humiliation of being the fattest child on the playground and the mortification of showering in front of other boys after gym class. Even at adulthood, the low self-esteem that marked my youth required years of therapy to wash away.

Understand please I don't wish those experiences on any child; as I move forward.

According to the AP, there is debate about how to label the condition of heavy children. Currently they are said to be "at risk for overweight" if their body-mass index (BMI) is between the 85th and 94th percentiles; in other words, they weigh more than 85 to 94 percent of their peers (based on historical averages). They're called "overweight" if their BMI is the 95th percentile or higher. The American Medical Association, and others, are considering changing this and using the same terms applied to adults - "overweight" or "obese."

Labeling a child obese might "run the risk of making them (or their family) angry," but it addresses a serious issue head-on, said Dr. Reginald Washington, of the American Academy of Pediatrics obesity task force. "There are a thousand reasons why (obesity) is out of control ... one of them is no one wants to talk about it."

Obese "sounds mean. It doesn't sound good," said Trisha Leu, 17, who thinks changing the terms is wrong.

Following is what I believe.

Having been "there," "mean" was being taunted mercilessly as a teenager for having so much extra weight that it appeared I had breasts.

"Mean" was being the last one chosen to play kickball and listening to my teammates curse their rotten luck.

"Mean" was overhearing girls in high school describe in explicit detail how dreadful it would be to kiss me.

"Mean" was binge eating to erase the day's pain, only to have it return worse with morning's light.

I have compassion - and concern - for our children; one can feel both simultaneously. From my experience however, it is far "meaner" to mask reality with insincere descriptions, condemning them to unhealthy futures, than it is to educate honesty, informing them that although their weight does not determine self-worth, it does affect wellbeing. Then, we guide them gently to a healthier lifestyle with support and love. How about we even accompany them on their path?

That would be the nice thing to do.