Watching my son use food to help cope with adjustment issues at school was one of the saddest times for me as a parent. It was also a time of extreme conflict. Suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which made it difficult for him to make friends, he spent most of his Kindergarten year sitting on the silver seats at the edge of the playground, eating cheesy pizza’s he was buying from the school canteen for $1.20 each.
It never occurred to me that he would figure out to do this but he’s a smart little cookie. He quickly learned that the kids weren’t allowed to play until they had finished eating. In his head he translated this into – if I am eating, nobody will try and force me to play.
As a result my son put on an incredible amount of weight that year and by the time I noticed, it was too late to stop it. I contacted the school to find out why he had put on so much weight and they reported back to me, explaining that he spend the whole of lunchtime buying and eating food.
And not playing.
We put a strategy in place to prevent further weight gain but he hasn’t lost any. He also has too many other issues for me to prioritise his weight loss. I think that’s something that will happen naturally as he grows and gains confidence.
I wish the school didn’t sell cheesy pizza’s at all, let alone for so little as $1.20, allowing him to buy several each day with the $5 I keep in each of my children’s wallets in case they need a drink, an ice block or to donate to the school’s latest cause.
Now a new study out of the US has explained, once again, that children from poorer backgrounds will suffer more obesity issues than their more well-off counterparts and the problem will continue later in life, particularly in girls. One of the main reasons for this is how cheap junk food is compared to healthy food.
And sorry, but there is seriously something wrong in the world when a Wicked Fizzes (horrible chewy lolly at most sporting centres) and lolly bags are cheaper than an apple or a banana. Or a can of fizzy drink is more affordable than a bottle of water.
We’ve all fed our kids instant noodles for dinner or ordered in instead of cooking. Watch these mums confess to the times they felt like terrible mothers. Article continues after this video.
In Australia, our remote and regional communities show a similar pattern to the US, with far-west NSW showing an obesity rate of 37.2 percent compared to Northern Sydney with just 11.1 percent.
The US study shows that moving out of a poor area reduces the obesity risk, and moving into a poor area increases it. Researchers confirmed the link between poverty and obesity citing the lack of exercise amenities, healthy food sources and increased stress in low-income areas.
Professor Lippert told UK new site Express, “The research demonstrates that the long-term residential experiences of teenagers can affect their life-long health.” However, he feels the results are encouraging because they point to a solution.
We need to target kids in low socioeconomic areas and ensure they have access to sporting activities, parks, playgrounds, that they are safe to participate in these activities, increase education when it comes to health and wellness and provide them with alternatives to alleviating stress.
The findings are published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour.
Children from disadvantaged areas have enough challenges without adding health issues on top of them. My son has enough challenges without having to deal with being teased for being overweight with kids regularly calling him “fatso”. He deserves to be able to run and play without huffing and puffing and feeling out of breath.
Taking a close look at the price of food would go a long way to addressing obesity issues in all children, particularly those who can’t afford to buy the healthiest food. Looking at what school canteens serve is another way. Reducing the amount of chocolate drives and cake stalls in school would also help. And a real bug bear of mine – removing junk food from sporting centres and sporting grounds is a no-brainer.
Then there is the larger issue of tackling poverty. Dr. Chin Jou, a lecturer in American History at the University of Sydney, wrote for the ABC, “If we are to tackle childhood obesity, it is imperative that we introduce macroeconomic reforms to alleviate poverty.
Job training programs, improved public education in poor communities, moving low-income households to more advantaged neighbourhoods, and other measures to facilitate upward mobility are necessary to tackle the socioeconomic dimensions of the cycle of obesity. To be sure, fighting poverty is an extraordinary challenge. But the current obesity crisis among the western world’s poor is one more reason to try.”