Childhood obesity is constantly in the news, whether it’s new and frightening statistics and scientific studies, or efforts to treat and prevent the condition. But childhood obesity myths are prevalent too. Do you know fact from fiction?
Myth 1: Childhood obesity is parents’ fault.
Maybe it’s true in some case. After all, parents are the ones who buy their family’s food and who set rules about TV time and who encourage (or don’t) physical activity.
But some kids may be genetically predisposed to obesity. Some parents may not understand good nutrition practices, or may not be able to afford or even find healthy foods in their neighborhood. And once kids are away at school for several hours a day, parents have less control over kids’ choices.
Myth 2: Childhood obesity is caused by fast food.
It’s true that fast food is plentiful, inexpensive, and unhealthy—loaded with way too much fat, salt, and empty calories.
Even in more upscale restaurants, portion sizes are unnecessarily huge. But we all have the option to avoid fast food (packing our own lunches and snacks helps), or to make smarter choices when we do eat out, like selecting apples instead of French fries.
Myth 3: Childhood obesity is caused by too much TV and video games.
We are a sedentary society, no doubt about it, and we do spend too much time staring at screens instead of moving our bodies. It’s important for parents to set screen-time limits and provide alternative options for active play. But some video games actually do encourage exercise, and even a total ban on TV and other screens won’t prevent obesity if kids eat a poor diet or have other complicating factors.
Myth 4: Childhood obesity is caused by bad school lunches.
Yes, school lunches are in dire need of a nutritional upgrade; too many of their calories come from simple carbohydrates and fat, their sodium levels are way out of whack, and starchy vegetables are served instead of leafy green ones. And for many families, a free or reduced-price lunch is critical to keeping kids from going hungry.
But bad school lunches can be counteracted by healthy eating at other times of day and by ample exercise.
The truth is, childhood obesity is a complicated problem, and lots of different solutions are needed to resolve it. That goes for both individuals and for our society as a whole.