John Banzhaf, Do You Know Where Your Children Are?


Obesity, thy name is Graco! More than 250,000 Americans under the age of 6 are now so fat they can't even fit into age-appropriate car seats.

Car seat manufacturers have already weighed in: Cosco last year introduced a harness for 65-pounders last year, while Britax has introduced a much larger and wider "Husky" seat.

This is the kind of accomodation Nick Gillespie foresaw in an article that remains a must-read even after nearly a decade:

This is all about rising standards of corpulence, of defining fatness upwards. While our society seems content to lower expectations with regard to general civility, the SAT, and the behavior of the Kennedy clan, it has continued to raise the bar, to push the envelope, to bust the britches of what we consider fat. Indeed, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which publishes standard weight-and-height charts, has over the years simply upped the allowable poundage to accommodate a fatter America.

As the U.S. government resorts to huggin' and chalkin' its relentlessly expanding population, Reason has been plumping for an accomodation with the fact that we are, in fact, getting fatter. Jacob Sullum a few years ago imagined an absurd, impossible, Soylent Green scenario in which fattening foods would be regulated like tobacco. More recently, he took a bite out of fat lawsuits. A.S. Hamrah explained why skinny celebrities must take extreme measures to look like their audiences.

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  1. Speaking of fat, has anyone else seen the Chris Farley billboards? Half the billboard is taken up by his sweaty face accompanied by the admonition “It wasn’t his fault”. It’s some sort of rehab advert. I’d wager Chris is spinning in his grave (if the plus size coffin allows).

  2. Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in.

    People love being fat and on a diet. …That’s why so many of our diet pitch people are fat like that fatso, Kirstie Alley. To my eye, commercials with dancing fat people mean that Madison Avenue has America figured out. …and America wants to be fat and on a diet… …just like Oprah–there I said it!

    …and don’t make me bring up that fat ass Jared again!

    I find it interesting too how socially unacceptable talking about how fat someone is seems to have become–with some, it’s treated like using a racial slur. …which is an insult to minorities if you ask me! …defining fatness upwards indeed, and that’s only the half of it.

    This speaks to the heart of the culture of political correctness. Some of these people seem to think they have a right to be made to feel beautiful.

    …well don’t try the appeal to pity on me, tubolard.

  3. 65 pounds???!!!? My seven-year-old isn’t that big. Jeez. How do you let a kid young enough for a car seat get so fat?

  4. How do you let a kid young enough for a car seat get so fat?

    Hey, sometimes you mix up the flour and the formula, and before you know it, you’ve got a Osh-Kosh clad sourdough starter.

  5. Yeah, I saw those Farley billboards on a news story. It seems that his family thought the message was good. And I would guess that Chris Farley might have bought into the notion that it really wasn’t his fault… he did attend AA meetings, and one of the basic tenets of AA is that alcoholism is a disease and the individual can’t overcome it by himself (supported by the many failed attempts by alcoholics to overcome their addiction on their own).

  6. Well, everything else is illegal (other than alcohol and tobacco, both of which the use of are certainly more stigmatized than eating fattening food). Legalize heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine and I guarantee people will lose weight (if not just from the meth) as they’ll rely on confort drugs instead of confort foods.

    I contend the rise in obesity correlates to the rise in regulation of euphoric and/or mind-alterinc substances. People weren’t fat when they could buy morphine OTC. And yes, they were much healthier over all, as well.

  7. What gets me is that it manifestly is not the children’s fault. Six and younger really can’t feed themselves, and are utterly dependent on what the parent brings into the home. They aren’t at school spending their lunch money on sugary sodas. They also don’t have spare cash with which to buy things.

    So the best they can come up with is kids being exposed to sugary cereal commercials, and again–whining for sugary cereals only works if the parent, an allegedly competent and independent adult, is powerless to buy anything other than what the kids cry for.

    My neighbors had this dog, a yellow lab. That dog had the begging thing down to an art form. She would furrow her brow, cock one eybrow in piteous need, and lift one paw, haltingly. I would laugh at her, pet her, say, “Nice try, but I’m gonna get you on a 4-12,” and would eat my food with greater relish, not sharing it with the dog. Why? Because when I cried for Count Chocula, my parents would say “nice try” and then make fun of me if I caterwauled about it.

    I quickly got the picture, and soon the dog learned not to bother begging from me.

  8. Wait – if all the kids are taking ritalin and adderal, how are they getting fatter?

    Maybe the rise in prescribed stimulants will lead to a racial split between wiry, muscular overlords and a pudgy slave race.

  9. Does this mean that Husky brand denim jeans will go back into production?

  10. When I was a kid, the only jeans that fit, sort of, were the huskies. Other cheap jeans were too small to fit my legs. My mother would buy me huskies too long and too wide at the waist but just right to fit over my thighs and calves. She always rolled up the cuffs and cinched the waist so that the jeans kind of fit. Yeah, I looked funny. I’m just glad to now have the relaxed fit and loose fit jeans that I never had in my screwed up childhood.

  11. Do these kids really need extra large car seats? It sounds like they have enough padding to cushion them in case of an accident.

  12. The Freakonomics gang has debunked the idea that car seats are safer than seatbelts for kids older than three. I’ve argued on my blog that the main reason legislatures keep raising the car-seat requirements is because it makes them look like they “care about kids.”

  13. Some people would argue that the under 6 obesity problem and diabetes problem come because the kids don’t excercise like they used to. For example, they will cite how slide height has gone down since the 1950’s.

    Myself, I have to wonder: have 4 and 5 year olds really become that much more sedentary since the 1950s? Really?

  14. I feel so bad for those fat youngsters cos when they’re old enough to choose their own foods, make their own decisions, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to break those habits formed in the early years. And since fat youngsters tend to have fat parents, they likely won’t have a lot of support for physical fitness habits at home.

    I’m walking a fine line with my 4 year old girl, but so far it’s working. I started fighting weight at puberty and I’ve never quit fighting since – I do not want her to go through that, so there’s not a lot of sweet/sugery stuff in our house. And she seems to be naturally energetic (albeit clumsy) so she loves to run around outside, and I intend to make her join some type of physical activity when she starts school. You have to instill these habits in them before they start school – kids become sedentary early in life and it’s hard to change habits when they’re older – I speak from long experience. We take lots of walks as well.

    On the other hand, I don’t want to turn her into one of those freak kindergardeners who refuse to eat cos they think they’re fat. Why does being an American always seem to mean living at one extreme or another?

  15. What gets me is that it manifestly is not the children’s fault.

    Historically speaking, I can’t help but wonder if ridicule may have played a constructive role in the past. Do children ridicule fat kids these days like they did when I was a kid? If not, why not?

  16. If not, why not?

    Cause the skinny ones are now the minority?

  17. I can’t help but wonder if ridicule may have played a constructive role in the past.

    I don’t think it helped in the past. Not if the fat kid was eating because they felt bad, in the same way as they might drink or use drugs as adults. Self medicating with food is pretty common, and it’s a lot more acceptable, especially for a ten year old.

    Whatever part of the mix is not about dealing with emotional issues is about lifestyle. I’m amazed how much focus is put on diet, and how little on exercise, especially considering that you can eat almost whatever you want if you exercise enough. I used to be a long distance runner, averaging eight miles a day. I was eating 3 – 4,000 calories a day, and had trouble keeping my weight up.

    Have you ever been to Europe? They don’t have nearly as many fat people as we do, and people are ‘fat’ over there on a different scale (no pun intended) than they are here. You almost never see people who are morbidly obese the way you do here in the US. I believe it’s because they do a significant amount of walking there – most people use public transportation, which means they have to walk a couple miles a day on average.

  18. have 4 and 5 year olds really become that much more sedentary since the 1950s? Really?

    If video games were around when I was 5 years old (1974), I would have NEVER left the couch.

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