I have found myself wrestling with something recently, something that sits as comfortably with me as a balloon on a porcupine. I found myself agreeing with something the ever egregious Katie Hopkins has penned. For those unfamiliar with the “TV personality and social commentator” that is La Hopkins, she courts column inches by being contentious troll-bait, spewing unpopular opinion in brash terms with haughty disdain. She is not one to side with if you ever wish to hold your head high in polite (or even not so polite) society.
The unpopular opinion that I happen to agree with, taking all the headline grabbing gumph out the way, is that childhood obesity is a problem and parents should be pulled up on it. She then went on to say that children should be told that they are fat, which is where I draw my line. As much as I loathe the noise and mess of children, I do not wish to inflict more mental suffering upon them that the world at large already does. I would go so far as to say that if a parent makes (not allows – the child bears no responsibility here) their child fat, this is a form of abuse. Yes, abuse.
I understand that there will be certain medical conditions which cause a few people to be clinically obese, but generally, I think we can all agree, the main culprit is eating poorly and exercising worse. To cause this to happen to an innocent child, who places their full trust and basic needs in the hands of their parent, is lamentable. As a parent, it is your responsibility to truly nark your child off by saying no to sweets, by leaving them no other option but to eat their vegetables and to see that they move their limbs further than from the Playstation to the biscuit tin.
Before I’m accused of being a fat-basher, I would like to say that while I don’t think being obese is a great idea in adults, as an adult, that is your prerogative (although some may have issue with you taking 2 places on public transport for the ticket price of 1, but that’s another post), but to cause obesity in children is cruel because they will face a lifetime struggle against it (fat cells have been shown to have a memory), higher risk of health problems over the years and thanks to the cruel nature of the playground, bullying from their snot-faced peers. I think we can all agree that those are things no-one should wish upon their child.
I do not think we should victimise these parents and label them as failures (tempting though it is, cretins as they are), it all boils back down to the timeless solution of offering education and support. I’m fairly certain that people know adult portions of burgers and chips on a daily basis aren’t a good idea for the nippers, but what is really needed is behavioural education; how to deal with the fact your child will whine and gripe because it wants chocolate instead of an apple, how to handle a child who refuses to eat anything but crisps for breakfast and how to cope with the fact that, unless you’re very lucky, children will be rather reluctant to get up at the weekend to face a bracing walk in the rain. One of the myriad reasons I have always been reluctant to have a child is that by all accounts, they are hard work. Tough, that’s the job description for being a parent, the short cut is killing them, literally.
If your child is a “fussy” eater, you need to learn how to encourage and cajole them into getting the nutritional values their biology requires, not cave and allow them to resort to The Oompa-Loompa diet plan. Children are programmed to be greedy sods – that’s the gift nature bestowed upon them to ensure their survival in the days of savagery, when manners and restraint would have seen them starve. In the current day of abundant corn syrup and fried snacks, sadly this is a burden parents must rein in, for the benefit of the child and the wear and tear on those poor park swings.
It is beyond a doubt that the UK is getting fatter, especially its children. I could load you with stats here but you can easily Google your own ones up and hey, you just have to look out the window or pass through my local supermarket, where I witnessed a gargantuan toddler, asleep in its pushchair, festooned with crumbs, using its own neck rolls as a pillow – ITS OWN NECK. Shops are selling larger clothes and buildings are incorporating wider seats to accommodate us, when really, we should be fighting back and working harder to ensure the younger generation don’t need to face the humiliation of having to purchase 2 seats on a plane for their porcine posterior, or have to stop to catch their breath on their way to the ice cream van parked 100 meters away.
The greatest myth people have been selling themselves is that there is such a thing as “puppy fat”. Sorry people, fat is fat and it doesn’t magically fall off after puberty. Sure, during that whole diabolical hormone storm, things shift about a bit, but if you have created a fat child, the addition of acne and questionable body hair will do nothing for them, save add to the social awkwardness. The only way your chubby little cherub will shed their childhood blubber is with a sensible diet and a sofa ban, but good luck shifting the residual diabetes and tooth decay that will forever be your legacy.
So yes, Katie Hopkins, I agree. Parents need to hear some harsh truths, that they are accountable for abusing their child’s health, that parenting is hard work and not a popularity contest, that being obese is not “ok” and should not be normalised to mollycoddle people’s feelings (surely the long term damage is greater than the initial sting of truth?). The blame and responsibility do not lie with the child, so this is where I’m glad I am not Katie Hopkins; as much of a child-phobic monster as I am, I wouldn’t call a child fat. To its face.