Obesity

As Fat As We're Gonna Be?

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Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which includes direct measurement of height and weight, indicate that the prevalence of obesity among children and teenagers, after tripling between the '70s and the '90s, has leveled off at around 16 percent since 1999. Looking at body mass indexes among 2-to-19-year-olds in 1999-2000, 2001-2002, 2003-2004, and 2005-2006, CDC researchers found "no statistically significant trend over the 4 time periods." This result, reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is similar to the conclusion of an earlier analysis of NHANES data on adults, which suggested that the obesity rate among American women, and possibly among men as well, has reached a plateau in recent years.

I don't know why we've stopped getting fatter (assuming that we have), but there's little reason to believe changes in government policy have had much to do with it. "It is not clear if the lull in childhood weight gain…is the result of public anti-obesity efforts to limit junk food and increase physical activity in schools," concedes New York Times reporter Tara Parker-Pope. "The lull could represent a natural plateau that would have occurred regardless of public health efforts." But she clearly wants to believe (emphasis added):

In Arkansas, a statewide obesity effort has eliminated vending machines in elementary schools, added a half-hour of daily physical activity to the school curriculum and sent home annual childhood health reports alerting parents about obesity risks. As part of the program, school officials in the past four years have tracked the weight and height of 475,000 children, and those numbers show that average body mass index rates in Arkansas have held steady….

One worry is that as obesity rates stabilize, financing for childhood health efforts will wane. In Arkansas, the program was a success but a financial crunch prompted the state legislature recently to cut physical activity programs in seventh through 12th grade.

The only evidence Parker-Pope offers to back up her assertion that the Arkansas program "was a success" is that BMIs among kids in the state "have held steady"—just as they have throughout the country. Isn't that what the article is about?

Back in January, I noted former Arkansas governor and former GOP presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee's concern about your weight.

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  1. Apparently Huckabee, along with being concerned about our weight, is concerned about the dangers of libertarianism.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/will-mari/huckabee-on-the-next-repu_b_103556.html

  2. Republicans need to be Republicans. The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it’s this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it’s a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says “look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government. If it means that elderly people don’t get their Medicare drugs, so be it. If it means little kids go without education and healthcare, so be it.” Well, that might be a quote pure economic conservative message, but it’s not an American message. It doesn’t fly. People aren’t going to buy that, because that’s not the way we are as a people. That’s not historic Republicanism. Historic Republicanism does not hate government; it’s just there to be as little of it as there can be. But they also recognize that government has to be paid fo

    HA!

  3. It makes sense that human instincts would stop most people from gaining weight indefinitely. Our instincts may not lead to the healthiest lifestyles, but neither do they lead to an epidemic of Prader-Willi Syndrome.

  4. Personally, I have never met a fat homeschooler who has been homeschooled from the beginning.

    Homeschooling takes a fraction of the time of institutional schooling, so homeschoolers have much more opportunity for playing outside.

    Also, most homeschooled kids have a stay-at-home mom who prepares nutritious meals and controls between meal snacking.

    These homeschooling kids have moms and dads who control the TV and electronics. ( Unlike many babysitters who use video, TV, and electronic games to pacify their charges.)

    Hm?….Maybe since homeschooling is continuing to grow, perhaps the increased numbers of slim and trim homeschoolers in moderating the fat averages.

  5. Personally, I have never met a well-adjusted homeschooler who has been homeschooled from the beginning.

    Homeschooling takes a fraction of the time of institutional schooling, so homeschoolers have much more opportunity for playing outside by themselves.

    Also, most homeschooled kids have a stay-at-home mom who prepares nutritious meals and controls between stunting their social growth and suppressing dissenting views.

    These homeschooling kids have moms and dads who control the TV and electronics and micromanage their children’s lives. ( Unlike many babysitters who use video, TV, and electronic games to pacify their charges.)

    Hm?….Maybe since homeschooling is continuing to grow, perhaps the increased but still negligible numbers of slim and trim homeschoolers has at most a marginal impact on the national data.

    I fixed this for you.

  6. Uh, is Huckabee retarded? Since when did the libertarians present such a great “danger” to the status quo Republican party, especially in this decade? Ninety-nine percent of Republicans don’t even bother to pay lip service to anything remotely libertarian anymore! Methinks this may be a preemptive attack against the Barr candidacy . . .
    Huckabee, the quintessential anti-libertarian, is the appointed attack-dog.

  7. If you need your kid’s school to tell you your child is fat…

  8. Where do they get all of this data? Something tells me that the researchers don’t go from school to school asking for volunteers to be measured and weighed for this exciting new study.

  9. With fuel prices surging, we may even see a reversal of the fatso trend. I see a lot more people walking and biking than just a couple years ago, red meat is being priced out of the everyday budget for most, and I would bet my lucky nickle that support for public transportation (and the associated walking to the station or bus stop) is increasing as well.

  10. The kids are still porkers. But their fathers are worse. Not the moms, the dads. Anecdotal evidence to be sure, but when I took the House Blond to the Daddies & Daughters Dance I was shocked at the number of portly gentlemen in the thirty-something bracket.

  11. Homeschooling takes a fraction of the time of institutional schooling

    Had that point driven home in black and white when we took the kids out of school for four days to tag along with Mrs TWC to Lost Wages. My son’s entire week’s worth of work took him about six hours to finish. And with him it is a struggle. He is all boy and dyslexic so he’s not a speed demon. I kept thinking, This is ONE school day, so what are they doing in his class the rest of the week?

  12. Give them a few weeks.

    Pretty soon the plateau will be “blamed” on the awful economy and soaring tortilla prices.

    George Bush; starving the children that he didn’t want left behind.

  13. At the end of the day this is just one of those us vs them ideological debates that will never be resolved. There will always be people that want to parent as they see fit, and there will always be people who want to influence the parenting of others. There is no right answer to ‘should schools/gov’t control kids diets’. Its just value system 1 vs value system 2.

    That said I’ve recently become convinced that schooling dictated by bureaucracy is a doomed strategy. So they add half an hour of exercise to the day. Good – thats the right idea – but to be effective it needs to be something like 2-3 HOURS of exercise. We now know (from a whole range of experiments and studies) that aerobic exercise directly increases blood flow to the hippocampus, which is like the control center for your math & spacial skills (you can actually see it get bigger if you do before and after MRIs).

    The point is that we’re continually discovering more and more about how we learn; yet, from a neurological point of view, our schools operate in direct contradiction to what we know helps the learning process. So then you wonder why such a range of easy to make changes simply aren’t being implemented, given that it is a virtual fact that three hours of exercise will markedly increase reading and math skills. After all, its exactly the sort of costless change that would be automatic if someone were actually invested in their organization’s performance.

    If you think about it, its actually a shame that some schools are penalized funding for poor performance. I mean, what the fuck are they going to do? They operate on virtually the same principles that all the “good” public schools operate on. And this, of course, is the picture of why the gubmint struggles to provide a working service: schools fear funding cuts, so instead of trashing what’s broken they hammer in the prescribed strategies even more, partly because everyone (since college) has been told that it works, and partly because they need to be on the good side of those that fill the trough.

    Imagine running a billion dollar software company without putting a single penny into R&D. Thats exactly how the DOE operates.

  14. So then you wonder why such a range of easy to make changes simply aren’t being implemented …

    Public schools are designed to increase property values, not educate students. That’s why expensive, impressive changes happen before inexpensive effective changes.

  15. [Left of Times voice]

    For some reason the Times ‘conveniently’ forgets that Yetti research increased in that time. If the government would just develop a comprehensive Yetti policy, we could apply the research to the child obesity epedimic and it would be cured instead of peaking.

    [/Left of Times voice]

  16. I’m fat and I smoke cigarrettes, this report isn’t helping me blame anyone!

  17. Uh, is Huckabee retarded?

    No, he just thinks that we are.

    -jcr

  18. Is there a concensus of UFOlogists yet on any change in average weight of humans having close encounters in recent years?

  19. ANAL PROBE

  20. Russell Crowe once clocked in with a BMI of 34.3, and Tom Cruise 31.5. Cal Ripken Jr. and Michael Jordan are also officially “overweight.” The
    government changed its measurement standards 10 years ago, tipping 30 million Americans from healthy to “overweight” overnight. With obesity now “epidemic” in the eyes of Washington, it could happen again.

  21. I kept thinking, This is ONE school day, so what are they doing in his class the rest of the week?

    Well, if the kid’s in Arkansas, they added an extra half hour of forced marching to his day in order to fight obesity. Luckily for your kid, it appears funding for this program will end because the public is leaving the obesity crisis for a new crisis.

  22. I feel bad for the kids. I mean all they have now is fast food (watch any TV that plays kids stuff and all you see is Fast Food commercials), then sitting in front of TV, playing Video games OR socializing on the computer. thats ALL kids do now.

    JJ
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  23. Ethanol subsidies have slowed the march of “The Syrup.” A secret serendity of corporate welfare. Hard to know how to feel, etc.

  24. I maintain my previous statement that, on average, journalists are tragically some of the stupidest people on the planet.

  25. There is no right answer to ‘should schools/gov’t control kids diets’.

    Umm, yes, there is. That answer is “no”.

    Just because the universe of possible answers is greater than one doesn’t mean there is no right answer.

    But the rest of your post was pretty good, Leif.

  26. it’s this new brand of libertarianism

    Meet the new libertarianism…same as the old libertarianism.

  27. Leif! Try to get your neuroanatomical functions right!

  28. Ethanol subsidies have slowed the march of “The Syrup.” A secret serendity (sic) of corporate welfare. Hard to know how to feel, etc.

    Dave, you should make a horror movie, much like The Blob, but have it be The Syrup. I’d watch it.

  29. I maintain my previous statement that, on average, journalists are tragically some of the stupidest people on the planet.

    The bottom is still education majors. Nothing dumber than an elementary education major. Journalism majors are shining beacons of thought next to those dumb twunts.

  30. So let me get this straight: they took out the food machines (which they didn’t have in the 80s), and reinstituted recess/gym class (which they DID have in the 80s). And this is now called progress.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce my newest invention: the horse buggy! It runs on non-processed ethanol of various sources, including grass! Low carbon emissions! Can even be used to ferlitize your lawn!

    Let’s hear it for progress!

  31. wintertime @ 9:23pm and matt @ 9:33pm

    I’m curious. How many homeschoolers have either of you actually met?

    I know that sounds snarky, but it’s actually a serious question.

    To be making such authoritative statements would require knowing a pretty wide sample.

    Sounds to me like one (or both) of you is simply voicing his bias on the subject.

  32. Not only are obesity rates hitting a plateau, there is good evidence that being mildly “overweight” makes you live longer..and being underweight and yo-yo-ing up and down are bad for your health (if living to be 79 instead of 78.3 is the most important and overwhelming issue in your life today)..

  33. i know some cool homeschoolers, some of whom were homeschooled themselves. it’s more popular in brooklyn than you might think, especially with the post-montessori crowd. there’s some overlap there.

    i also know a few who are genuinely socially retarded, but considering their parents, i’m not too surprised.

  34. Dave, you should make a horror movie, much like The Blob, but have it be The Syrup. I’d watch it.

    see my videos at:

    http://www.farceswannamo.com

  35. jtuf,

    read up on your Dewey. the US public school system was designed to take the children of farmers and millworkers, and turn them into good little citizens with proper respect for their government.

    for the most part, it’s worked beautifully.

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