Thursday, August 10, 2006

What the Media has Chosen to Frighten You with Today: Fat Babies

Oh God, time to panic again. Today, inevitably, the news will be full with dire warnings that America’s infants are fatter than ever. The media will take license with this story and show morbidly obese, overfed children worthy of a Maury Povich exposé and try to pass them off as typical of the trend. You will hear the conflicting message: this doesn’t mean that babies need to be put on a diet, but you do need to watch what they eat. Watch what they eat? Do you mean keep them from eating certain high calorie foods in favor of lower calorie foods? That’s a diet you fucking retards!

The article that warns us the obesity epidemic has struck infants is in the Journal Obesity, and must be purchased 30$US, which will make sure that no one bothers to actually read the source of the story and check the method for the study, the citations, and the possibility of contrary interpretations. Instead, panic will grip millions of mothers who will now confuse baby fat with disease and start starving their infants.

I am an incredibly fat man. I know what it takes to be fat, and I know firsthand the fear of the common men and women who are scared to death of winding up like me. But I have also encountered hundreds of people who believe they are fat because they can pinch an inch, or the skin under their arms wiggles when they shake it, or that because they do not conform to the contour of a certain pair of jeans. This is hysterical fear and nonsense. Those of us who are very overweight should be made aware of the danger, and should take measures to prevent health problems related to our heft. But you “normals” who abuse your bodies daily over a 5 or 10 pound discrepancy between a BMI chart and your bathroom scale need serious mental help.

Truly overweight people can lose or gain ten pounds based on water retention or loss alone. You “normals” have to starve yourself for weeks to shed those ten pounds, and you have no idea if the loss came strictly from fat. You are being whipped up into a frenzy of self-loathing to keep you binging and purging the rest of your lives. By some estimates the diet and exercise industry generates tens of billions of dollars a year. For those of you who are on the diet treadmill, how many of you engage in physical activity for its own sake? Or is it a drudgery that is used to control your weight? I know you are afraid of being fat. Fat = ugly. Ugly = lonely. Lonely=loser. But before you start starving your babies based on report you have never even read, consider if you might be projecting your fears onto your children.

Here are the facts according to the report:
In 1980, 3.4 percent of babies were in the 95th percentile for body weight. In 2001, 5.9 percent of babies were in the 95th percentile for body weight. 5.9/3.4 = 1.73, or what has been reported as a 73% increase in the number of obese children. Out of every 1,000,000 babies 59,000 will be in the 95th percentile now, instead of 34,000. Let us say that the average American baby within two weeks of birth weighed 10 pounds, and a standard deviation for this group is 1 pound, just for the sake of argument, than what this study means is that in 1980 3.4% of babies weighed 12 pounds or greater at that point, and in 2001 5.9% of babies weighed 12 pounds or greater at the point. Do you think this warrants scaring millions of people with figures like: 73% more babies are obese! Doctors all over this country will probably now be inundated with mothers wanting to know what to do with their obese infants that aren’t really obese.

The reason for the increase is not given, but theories include the increased number of fat mothers and increased rates of gestational diabetes, but no correlating evidence was discussed. Now, here is the dirty little secret no one is willing to tell you, but that I have reported in other articles and radio stories: the reason there are more obese children in America over the past 20 years is because there are more Hispanics in America in the past twenty years. If you will remember from my previous articles, the rates of obesity are greater in Hispanics than in whites. Hispanics are generally slightly shorter than whites and even a little excess body fat can skew their BMIs and send them into the obese category. Since apparently no compensation has been made for race in the study, its findings are useless for the general public.

Please, please, please: don’t starve your babies, don’t deprive them for fear of fat. If your children (not babies!) are pudgy, consider what they do all day before what they eat. If they sit around and watch TV or play video games, encourage them to exercise, do chores, play sports, go for a walk, mow neighbor’s lawns for a few bucks, before you tell them to diet. Dieting itself is like a punishment for failure to be normal, or to conform to an ideal. The more active people are the more muscle they develop, more activity and more muscles means more calories burned, more calories burned means either losing weight or being able to eat more to maintain weight. Thus, the SOLUTION to weight IS NOT DIET, IT IS EXERCISE. Nutrition is important for all around good health, but does not have anywhere near the bearing on weight that CALORIES IN AND OUT do. An eight ounce glass of soda and an eight ounce glass of orange juice have the same number of calories. An active kid who drinks soda may not get the vitamins s/he needs but will burn the calories by exercise. An inactive kid who drinks orange juice may still get fat by not burning the calories, but will get plenty of vitamins. That is the way weight gain works.

What is so dangerous about this study is that infants can’t get exercise! By tenuously linking infantile obesity to later trends in obesity in childhood, the doctors are sending the unavoidable message that diet is the only solution to obesity, since infants cannot exercise away extra pounds. Watch their intake? That is the same as restrict their intake! And since race is taboo and was not brought into the equation, the most likely explanation for the study’s findings goes ignored. I know that some women will say: I am not starving my baby, I am just watching what s/he eats. But if you deprive your child of food so that it loses weight you are starving your infant! Babies do not need to diet; no credible doctor would suggest that.

Now, if you managed to get through all that, you deserve an ice cream cone. Take a walk around the block while you eat it and you won’t gain a pound.