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children’s museum “educates” on the dangers of obesity. Ugh

Posted by on Dec 27, 2011 in Blog Posts | 4 comments

“FUN” children’s museum, piles on with our war on childhood obesity…

So, want to take your kids out for an afternoon of interactive fun at a Children’s museum? You might want to do due diligence before you go. (I feel like one has to do due diligence everywhere. The Dursley’s, many of the kids in Slytherin hall in Harry Potter are depicted as fat gluttons… I find myself editing as I read to my six-year-old…)

I particularly got a chuckle out of the museum’s  “decision center” where you can pick an “appropriate” portion. Oh, and don’t fear, they do tell kids that “an occasional” cookie is OK… Oh, and the model of the obese woman with the health ravages “from” obesity? (Oh and great news, this will be spread too other cities and museums!)

Some of the exhibits sounds fun, and what I would have loved as a kid, the digestive system you can walk through with sounds, the heart etc. I’m not saying health education is not OK, but the message and agenda matter… The question we must ask is: Is this helping anyone, and is it possibly harming?

As a health teacher told me recently, “The kids “know” what they should be picking. They know a carrot is healthier than the chips, but they chose the chips every time.” It begs the question, does all this “knowing” make kids healthier, or maybe it makes them less healthy? (I am consistently astounded, that without any pressure or nutrition messaging, my kid would often rather eat things like seaweed salad than a burger. Now, the gingerbread house may be another matter, but that is the subject of my next post, though it was also handled well.)

We know that pressure to get kids to eat more fruits and veggies backfires, we know many, many kids who simply don’t want to do what they are told, and for others, being told a food is “bad,” or “off-limits,” it simply heightens the desire. Body shaming also is known to promote less healthy behaviors: more dieting, more disordered eating, less physical activity, and more weight gain.

This just annoys me. Why not spend the money on indoor, safe playgrounds (often the only ones are at McDonalds, oh, the irony) more gym time at schools, a wider variety of “healthy” options in school cafeterias, school lunch and nutrition support, which is proven to reduce obesity rates…

Try setting up a google alert on “childhood obesity.” I am beyond dumbfounded every day that around the country hundreds of thousands of dollars (millions in total) are being awarded to small, local groups, “fighting obesity.” It is not only money down the drain likely in most cases (as there are as of yet, no proven programs), but my fear is that many of these programs, though well-intended, can do real harm. Like the farm stand I visited with M that taught kids that calories were the only measure of the “healthiest” snack option between fruit salad, fruits salad with OJ, and fruit salad with fat-free yogurt.

Just more of the same…

Where else do you see this creeping in? I’ve written about kids’ party “favors” at Pump it Up, schools, PBS shows…


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  1. wriggles

    Everyone’s got to have an enemy, to fight a (holy) war against evil. Catch ’em young.

  2. Kelly

    Thanks for this article. I’d also point out some of the best activities for kids is being able to be out and about (not cooped up in school so much!). Lenore Skenazy writes on another war on childhood, the war on letting kids play at all and to be in our public spaces, on her blog Free Range Kids.

    We homeschool our kids but we had one year of public schooling where I volunteered twice a week. I went through public school as a child, but it was interesting going through it as a parent. I was shocked at the menu, which looked good on paper but was a lot of processed food no different than “junk” food, just with nicer labels like “whole-grain bagel” etc. More relevant, the kids were also forced to eat on the school’s schedule, of course, and given only a few minutes to do so. Recess time was also woefully limited and kids were required to sit still a LOT of the day.

    Thanks for calling out the so-called well-intentioned “war on childhood obesity” for the claptrap it is! 🙂

    • katja

      I agree. Kids are cooped up WAY too much. I wrote a post once about being at a local zoo on an empty day, and my kid getting yelled at for running. When I asked what the concern was, the worker said, “She could get hurt, a kid fell and cut his lip here once when he was running…”
      Oh boy… Fear of getting sued? We’ve gone crazy on so many levels. On some level I wish I had the temperament for home-schooling, but recognize that I don’t. I do feel blessed that I work from home and have flexibility in the afternoons and weekends, and M has a lovely school and is so happy, so for now it works! I do worry about how much schools are joining in on this ill-fated “war.”