I’d like to talk about something that’s very dear to my heart: fat kids. You see, I was a fat kid. Some of my experience is documented in the first article I wrote for this site. Here is an excerpt:
Sweets used to be a big deal. I always wanted more candy. I spent all of my allowance on candy bars (mostly Reese’s peanut butter cups and Hershey’s Symphony) at Rite Aid up until I was about 8 or 9, which is when I started to instead turn my attention to the bargain (…actually, not-so-cheap) VHS movie aisle. Somewhere in that time period, I remembered noticing that I was getting fat. I used to be stick thin until I was like 6. My dad even called me “pencil neck.” My first grade class portraits show a transition to a completely different Robby. When I caught on to this unpleasant transformation via insults and not-so-subtle comments about my weight, I became my own self-advocate at the ripe age of 10, and my solution was to eat a “low-fat diet.” Imagine that—a kid on a low-fat diet. I also loved the idea of aerobics at the time, too, and tried to “exercise my heart rate” as often as I could on the family treadmill.
The “comments about my weight” by the way, even came from my parents, who would shame me for eating too much, or for sneaking that handful of cookies from the cookie jar. I remember distinctly having my Mom tell me she knew I had had cookies because of the Oreo crumbs she could see plain as dirt on my mouth. Mom, and parents in general—if you didn’t want me to have cookies, why did you keep them in the house? Not only did they shun me for eating too much at random times, but they would also scold me for staying inside and playing video games they’d bought me, and praised me when I did outdoor things or hopped on the treadmill.
c. 1995: 2 years before I hit puberty
I’m sure that many people my age, and generations before and after, can relate to this experience. There were, of course, the lucky kids, like my best friend, who I spent a lot of time with. He and I ate pretty much the same things, and we played the same sports and ran around a whole lot. I was just always fatter, always hungrier, and always ran slower than him, seemingly no matter what I did. Was it because I was lazy, or I ate too much? Absolutely not. He most likely just had a slightly better mix of environmental factors that protected his gut bacteria. This led to a better epigenetic presentation, making his metabolism and body composition much healthier. And the same goes for your kids. You need to set them up for physical fitness in ways that are paradoxically much more complex than calories in, calories out but much easier to accomplish.
Less Calories, More Activity (A DANGEROUS LIE)
The CDC states the following about childhood obesity today:
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
- The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
- In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
- Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.
- Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.
The last point is part of this agenda of guilt-tripping kids to eat less and move more. Even if this is the primary reason (if we reduce weight gain to simple thermodynamics), then there are reasons children end up eating too much and moving too little that can be traced back to environmental (they covered this) and nutritional factors (beyond just caloric intake). Let me discuss this further according to my experience.
Believe me, I tried and tried to get into shape. I was not going quietly into the night with my obesity. It has been a lifelong struggle for me to avoid weight gain, and I took the conventional approach for a huge chunk of that time. In high school, as I was hitting my major growth spurt at puberty, I reasoned with myself that if I didn’t eat as much as I used to, I would grow tall and not gain weight—an attempt at the accordion effect. Essentially I was anorexic, skipping lunch everyday, but having sugary breakfasts and normal-sized dinners of freezer food.
My strategy actually worked and I got very thin in high school, but I am sure that it was harmful in the long run. This caloric deficit most likely stunted my growth, and perhaps drastically slowed my metabolism. I also think it had an effect on my immunity, as my sinus infections worsened around high school and I experienced far more seasonal allergies at that time for no other apparent reason.
The Lie of Genetics
Now one might look at my family and make a simple association almost immediately: They will see that my parents and brothers are overweight, quickly don a labcoat and glasses, and do their best impression of Francis Collins. “Obesity is in your genetics.” The genetic excuse is a common go-to for this and for explaining why long-distance runners often have heart attacks at an early age. Sadly, and most unnervingly, this glib association is actually quite a cop-out that seems to predominate conventional wisdom in today’s pseudoscientific landscape of pop fitness and health. This is the epitome of a health conspiracy that I’d love to unravel.
Luckily, I’ve already made strides toward that end by redefining my body composition through a few simple and progressive dietary and lifestyle changes. By following nutritional guidelines (mostly inspired by the Paleo/Bulletproof movements), I’ve been able to transition into a Dad who does not work out, but still eats the same amount (if not more), yet does not gain weight. Yes, through this transition, I’ve maintained a steady weight of 170-175 pounds. I have weighed, in the past, upwards of 230 lbs.
c. 2005 ~230 lbs. 2009: “slimmed down” to 185 lbs. marriage weight
2010: Weight yo-yo begins (~210 lbs.) 2015: Paleo/Bulletproof Daddy
Does genetics explain that? It doesn’t. This is epigenetics. By approaching it through nutrition, stress relief, circadian rhythm, and probiotics, I positively affected my gut bacteria, which resulted in their helping me to switch on/off genes and hormones appropriately to make a better, slimmer me.
Epigenetically, we determine environmentally and nutritionally 95% of the expression of our genes. So stop trying to blame your child’s obesity on inheritance. If you yourself are obese, your children are more likely inheriting your bad bacteria, which are being fed by a processed, high-sugar diet, and encouraged by a toxic environment filled with EMFs and chemicals that throw them further out of balance. This will perpetuate obesity, but it’s not irreversible. Their fate is in your hands.
Childhood Cardio is a Crime
I have sat through so many health presentations, in real life and on TV/the net, which discuss the problem of child obesity. They are all getting it wrong.
poor guy 🙁
I’ll never forget seeing a show that was a kids’ version of Biggest Loser called Shaq’s Big Challenge. In this atrocity of fitness-based reality TV, Shaq crowded a whole bunch of fat kids into a gym and started running them ragged, all the while hawking their dietary habits inbetween workouts to ensure they didn’t eat too much (instead of focusing on food quality). Caloric deficiency and overexercise (a very dangerous combination) were predictably emphasized. Because of their prior poor nutrition (quality-wise and quantity-wise) and inactivity, though, some of these kids just couldn’t handle the strain that the chronic cardio had on their heart.
One of the girl participants (victims) was only like 14 and had 50% body fat, and she actually basically had a heart attack because of the strain of the cardio she wasn’t used to. The way the show was edited made it look like it was her fault for getting so fat in the first place, and somehow she was “beyond hope”—a casualty in the war against child obesity. In reality, you should know that it’s very dangerous to do a long spat of cardio if you’re not in the shape to do it. Essentially, they almost killed this poor girl, which is unconscionably cruel.
Prevailing recommendations for “heart healthy exercise” are slowly being overridden and replaced, though the vast majority of the public don’t seem to be catching on. Conventional wisdom that traditional aerobic exercise is always good for you is the very reason these middle-aged men who inexplicably feel the need to shovel every hour during a blizzard to “get ahead of it” often have heart attacks. Maintaining the heart rate at the level they recommend for the period they recommend is a perfect recipe for death in someone whose heart isn’t ready for this strain. I coached my Dad through about 4 hours of shoveling this and last Winter, and he had very little to any of his usual back pain, and no heart troubles whatsoever. This was all because he listened to his body and took breaks.
Honestly, the best thing for you to do for exercise, at any fitness level, is to work up in intensity, doing spurts or sprints, all the while listening to your heart to tell you when to stop. For best results, do this repeatedly, 4 to 10 times, in a workout (over 15-20 minutes).This form of exercise, otherwise known as HIIT (high-intensity interval training), is much more efficient than steady-state cardio, getting more done in about a quarter to a third the amount of time:
- Study here, which mentions in the abstract that “the effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat percentage is negligible…”
The same applies for kids. If you spend some time observing kids, they will behave this way when left to their own devices on the playground anyway. Honestly, I don’t even recommend that you teach kids “how to work out.” Just open up avenues for them to be active naturally by taking them outside or having toys/equipment around the house that encourage physical activity. Close up avenues that keep them sedentary by limiting electronics and video games, which are probably emitting dangerous EMFs anyway. That’s how you get a kid who runs around and is never sedentary. The choice is yours as the parent. Your child is not responsible for his/her physical fitness.
Child Obesity Is Not Caused By Children
Let’s Move is a website/organization that wrongfully emphasizes movement and calories, saying that the increase in child obesity is due to a few simple changes in society over the past 30 years, loosely citing how:
- “Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner.”
- “Portion sizes have also exploded- they are now two to five times bigger than they were in years past.”
This is pure guilt-tripping and evil nonsense that inappropriately seems to place the responsibility on kids’ shoulders. Children are being exposed now more than ever to toxic chemicals and GMOs in processed food that alter their gut bacteria in a manner emphasizing inflammatory processes, metabolic disorders, and autoimmunity. This has lead to weight gain, poor immunity, and chronic disease in a significant amount of children. This is further fueled by toxic chemicals, poor air quality, and the proliferation of EMF and blue light throughout their environment. Parents are charged with providing a healthy environment and good food for their kids, who are but a product of these things which are thrust upon them. Anything that negatively affects our children’s gut bacteria will cause the weight gain and illness to be worse. This changes constantly and is still being studied, but we do know that by partaking in more natural dietary and lifestyle behaviors, we can most likely achieve a more ideal gut balance that contributes to a healthy body composition, less disease and inflammation, and better psychological health.
How You Can Keep Your Child Healthy and in Shape
As I’ve been saying in different ways throughout this article, your child’s fate and health is mostly in your hands. No amount of your or the government’s guilt-tripping, forced starvation, and forced labor (exercise) is going to fix early-onset obesity in any given little one. And no amount of money put into programs that push these useless interventions is going to help. What will ultimately help is to increase awareness of the effect of environment, biologically appropriate activity, and the role of food quality in the presentation of obesity and disease in children.
Choosing organic, low-sugar, low- to mid-carb, high-fat, whole foods in a child’s diet over processed, high-sugar, high-carb diets is crucial. Until this understanding and knowledge becomes mainstream, which is very unlikely considering the influence of Big Food and Big Pharma in FDA and USDA dietary guidelines, we will have to learn the most accurate info on our own and teach it to our children by ourselves. Here is what you can do right now:
- Encourage HIIT—in other words, just let them do what they would do naturally. Do not teach them traditional aerobic exercise that forces them to push their bodies harder than they would when taking breaks naturally between intense spurts.
- Avoid all processed foods. Follow a Paleo/Bulletproof/Weston A. Price diet.
- Do not vaccinate your kids, or if you’re concerned, space out the few safer vaccinations (weighing risk vs. benefit) to avoid a toxic burden on their bodies that will lead to compromised gut bacteria and thus obesity and disease.
- Avoid high-sugar “whole foods” (including most fruit) and excessive carbs, especially in the form of bread, grains, and beans. Even if you’re eating real food, you need to eat it in amounts and forms that represent what the human body is used to naturally. This is what the Paleo diet is all about—replicating the ideal human diet consumed throughout antiquity by tribal peoples. Starchy veggies, sweet potatoes, and even honey in moderate amounts are great! (White rice is also an acceptable carb.)
- Avoid excessive EMFs and blue light, which have otherwise difficult-to-detect, but overall devastating, effects on your child’s body (even more than in adults). I guarantee this will help with their immunity, circadian rhythm, and general balance. NOTE: There have been no studies yet showing that microwave radiation from cell phones and WiFi disrupt gut bacteria, however there are plenty that show the death of bacteria in the presence of these frequencies. It is logical to conclude that your gut bacteria will be affected by them.
- Encourage time outdoors in the daytime and eliminate sources of indoor entertainment as appropriate (this includes tablets, laptops, video games, and electronics).
- Get them to bed on time.
- Make sure your kids drink enough water. Eliminating standard beverage replacements that are generally considered healthy but aren’t—conventional cow’s milk and fruit juice—will most likely accomplish this. Don’t even think about giving them soda.
The solution is right there in front of you, and it’s quite attainable. Keep it simple, and really take care of your kids. Give them a way to eat and participate in activity where they are completely satisfied and extremely healthy. The amount of distress and pain you can avoid by giving them a childhood free of body image issues is absolutely worth it.