Friday, May 25, 2012

Obesity II

In my previous blog “Overweight Children” I shared the case of one of my students and presented my opinion that parents ought to take action on this issue.

My blog was so timely that a few days later, the L.A. Times published the article “It's time to serve up some big incentives to curb obesity” (To read the full article go to,0,1949780.column)

Here are some quotations from the article:

“To combat the alarming obesity rate, the Institute of Medicine says the U.S. needs to overhaul everything from farm policies to zoning laws. Clearly, doing nothing isn't an option. Americans eat too damn much. And we all pay a rising cost for this gluttony in the form of higher insurance premiums and lost productivity. A study last year by the Society of Actuaries calculated the total economic cost of an overweight and obese population in the United States and Canada at about $300 billion a year (with 90% of that figure attributable to America's dietary issues).”

“We need to acknowledge that much of what we put in our mouths is very bad for us and accept new rules intended to foster healthful behavior and discourage the endless noshing that's turning us into a herd of porkers.”

David Lazarus, the author of the article, proposes some ideas. For example:

“First, we should limit the marketing of fast food and junk food to kids. Young people are just not in a position to make wise choices when it comes to sweets and treats. It's foolish to believe otherwise. Just as parents were outraged by the idea of a Joe Camel trying to make cigarettes look cool to youngsters, they should be equally upset with all manner of colorful characters hawking everything from sugary breakfast cereals to corn-syrup-sweetened sodas.”

He goes further and proposes a cigarette-style tax on such foods and beverages, with the proceeds going toward obesity research and wellness programs. And higher insurance rates for overweight people.

I think these are fantastic ideas.

Here is my crazy idea: a parenting license. After all, for almost everything else you need a license or a certification, from driving a car to being a nurse, from getting married to being a contractor. Even baristas at Starbucks and “hamburgeristas” at McDonalds need to go through a specific training.  

Why is it that the most difficult job on earth requires no training, zero, none, nada?

Part of the license process can be training on healthy nutrition. For those “non-licensed” parents, higher taxes to pay for all the mistakes they will make and all the fixing that will have to be done, with tax-payers money, of course.

So, get a license, or get a pet.

What do you think?

Daniel Adatto, Licensed Parent # 00-0000-01

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Overweight Children

Mary (not real name for confidentiality purposes) is overweight. She is one of my students and I’m concerned about it. I noticed that the snacks and lunch she brings from home are croissants/salami sandwiches, several desserts every day (cookies, brownies, candies, etc.), pizza, pasta, etc. In short, not very healthy choices. I felt it was concerning enough that it warranted a conversation with the child’s mother. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I noticed that Mary is a little overweight”.

Mother: “Yes, I know, but what can I do?”

Me: “Well, I noticed that the food she brings from home is not very healthy”.

Mother: “I know, but she wouldn’t eat anything else”.

So, I discussed the issue with the BII (one-on-one behaviorist that works with her from our company) and she agreed to be sure Mary eats the food if mother sends her healthier choices.

Since two weeks ago, her lunch and snacks consist of carrots, broccoli, celery with a small portion of peanut butter, whole wheat pita bread sandwiches, apples, etc. She still has a hard time with chicken, tuna or turkey, for example. She prefers foods that are crunchy. So for now we honor her preferences and proteins are a work in progress, but we’ll get there.

I went to school this week and I swear I noticed that Mary had lost some weight. I thought it was my perception, you know, my eyes seeing what I want to see. But the BII said that not only she, but the PE teacher noticed it too.

The next step is talking to her mother again. I’m planning to praise her for sending healthy food and encourage her to feed Mary the same food at home. I know she will say she can’t do it, so I’m going to invite her to school at lunch time so she can see with her own eyes what the BII does, and how Mary eats her food willingly.

I share this story because I want to make one point very clear: it is about your behavior, mom, not your child’s. You change the child’s behaviors by changing the behaviors of the adults that take care of that child. Plain and simple. No kid starves if there is food available. So it is about what is available. If cheeseburgers and fries, donuts, pizza, pasta and candies are available, they will eat that. Who can blame them, right? We are all tempted by these delicious but unhealthy foods on a daily basis.

Obesity is an epidemic. The effects of it on our health and wellbeing are endless and very well documented. We all should be concerned. Feeding your child only with cheeseburgers, donuts, pizza, pasta and candies is poisoning him. Would you let your child smoke cigarettes, drink beer, or eat paper for that matter? I know your answer is “NO”. Unhealthy “junk” food when your child is already overweight is the same. I know it can be hard because your child will fight for junk food. But this is definitely a fight we have to fight. And win.*

When my wife was pregnant with our daughter she was vomiting all the time and wanted some medication. My wife called the doctor and the doctor said “No medication. It’s not good for your baby. This will be the first of many sacrifices you make for your child”.

And no more monkeys jumping on the bed.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

*Important: Always consult with a doctor when implementing a weight management plan.