Celebrating National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

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PHILADELPHIA – September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, when we pause to acknowledge obese children across the United States. A growing presence in this country, obese children have ballooned from 6.5 to 19.6 percent of the childhood population in the last three decades.

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, which reported these roly-poly statistics, also warns that obese children do not get the attention they deserve “unless a smaller child is crushed by one.”

This sort of occurrence is rare, however, and it distorts the reality of childhood obesity. In truth, most obese kids go through life doing nothing more harmful than blocking other kids’ views of parades or causing the occasional solar eclipse. Normal-size kids have nothing to fear from their obese playmates, unless those playmates are approached while they’re eating.

This is why parents of normal-size kids should take some time this month to teach them how to interact with their plus-size playmates. In addition to avoiding obese kids while they’re eating or enjoying a quite moment at a salt lick, normal-size kids should avoid telling fat jokes within earshot of their obese mates. Saying things such as “Jared’s favorite food is seconds” or “Heather’s so fat she sweats gravy” can be hurtful to a child who really does sweat gravy or whose weight is an unlisted number.

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Normal-size children should be taught also that obese kids do not like anyone staring at their girth. It is important that “normals” be taught to maintain eye contact with their obese chums, even if that’s difficult because obese kids’ eyes are frequently obscured by layers of fat.

The public sector also must do its part to celebrate National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Restaurants that offer buffets or all-you-can-eat options should suspend their hurtful policies that charge obese kids adult prices or—worse yet—make them pay by weight.

At a time when it’s getting more and more difficult to roll a pancake down the street without hitting a fat kid, we must remember that inside every obese kid there’s a cute little tyke—or maybe two—trying to get out.

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