Just play with your kids

There are lots of fat kids out there. Usually they’re hanging around with their fat parents.

People pay a bit of attention when things happen like Michelle Obama launches a national campaign to deal with childhood obesity or KFC launches a new “sandwich” like the Double Down, which is constructed of two boneless chicken filets, two pieces of bacon, two slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and a mayonnaise-based sauce—and no bread.

Our fat culture makes the headlines for about a day, until National Pancake Day comes back around IHOP, and the cheap gluttony makes for better above-the-fold chatter.

Look, our culture has two—make it three—primary reasons for being fat. 1) We eat more calories than we burn. 2) We don’t exercise enough to burn the calories we eat. (Yes, it’s kind of the same, but these are actually two paths to a good destination. If you’re going to sit on your ass all day, eat less but more healthfully. If you’re going to be active, eat more healthfully.) 3) Americans are uneducated about nutrition, with many children and their parents unable to identify common vegetables.

You’d have to have your head buried in a vat of macaroni and cheese not to have seen some of the hype surrounding KFC’s new sandwich, so let’s start from there. The only nutritional information KFC has released is that the “original recipe” version of the sandwich has 540 calories, 32 grams fat and 1,380 milligrams sodium. The grilled version has 460 calories, 23grams fat and 1430 milligrams sodium.

Sounds awful, right?

The Big Mac has 540 calories, 29 grams fat, 1,040 milligrams sodium. The Whopper has 670 calories, 40 grams fat and 1,020 milligrams sodium.

None of this stuff is good for you. Period.

This newspaper has argued in the past that the causes of obesity are not as simple as calories coming in vs. calories expended, and we have not swayed from that analysis (read “Let them eat fat, RN&R, Feb. 21, 2008). But if parents will not get educated, then that simple formula will at least point the direction in which your children should be running.

Light jogging burns about 500 calories per hour. Not to pick on McDonald’s—but they’re the biggest target. A Big Mac, medium fries (380 calories), and a medium drink (210 calories) contains 1,130 calories. And what child, even during this week’s spring break, jogs for an hour or even plays hard for an hour outside of formal athletic activities? Bigger question: What child eats a Big Mac, a medium fries and a medium cola and then plays hard for more than two hours?

First, curb your child’s fast food intake. And then get out and move with them.

As parents, if we don’t teach our children about the value of nutrition, the relative healthfulness of home-cooked meals, and the benefits of exercise, we can expect our children and our children’s children’s lifespans to be shorter than ours. And we will continue to see our leaders impotently rail against obese children, while immoral corporations continue to help create them.