Being a child is a risky proposition. The kid doesn’t understand the hypocrisy of adulthood. One sure shot example of such societal double-standards is childhood obesity. Society looks down on obese children. And the same society promotes the food habits linked to childhood obesity in the popular culture. What’s the kid to understand and do?
It’s birthday/party/celebration/get-together/having a good time/feeling happy – What’s to be done? Have unhealthy food and sugary drinks and fried items and above all, chocolate. After having all these food on a varied basis, the child will gain weight and society will look down on the obese child. What’s the kid to understand and do?
Yes, childhood obesity is not linked to food alone. However, genetics is beyond one’s control. So, what remains within one’s realm of influence is food habits and lifestyle. Of these two, what can a child really influence? Practically, nothing. To make matters worse for the obese kid, there will be few children who will binge and not put on visible weight. What’s the kid to understand and do?
Let’s get it straight. No child wants to be obese by choice. Nobody has any business fat-shaming a child. If anybody has any business associated with childhood obesity, then that has to be with shaming the popular culture of having unhealthy sugary/salty/oily foods. This is what the kid will understand and can do.
The Popular Culture
Many things give nightmares to parents. For us, one of such things is the popular culture of having unhealthy food for any/all occasions. Fortunately, we do not have a television at home. But the messengers of junk food abound all-around – relatives/play-mates/hoardings/slick packaging of the unhealthy food products in the supermarket etc. There’s no way to hide from them.
We explain to our twin daughters: What’s good to eat and what’s not. They nod their heads. Then, they get invited to birthday parties. No prizes for guessing what’s on serve. The girls get confused. We tell them that it’s fine to have such food at times, and they do have it. That’s not the problem. The bigger issue is the assumption that one needs to eat sugary/salty/oily food to celebrate/feel happy.
Then come the relatives/friends from outside India. With all due respect to them, they assume that the best gift possible to native Indians is exotic chocolates. That’s it. I have been unable to tell them discreetly that a little chocolate now and then does hurt. I have been unable to ask them if they have not been able to find any healthy options abroad.
If nothing else, the visit to the nearby grocery store gives the finishing touches to whatever is left in corrupting the young minds. The shiny and glossy packaging will be omnipresent to entice the kids. What’s more – even the shopkeeper will try to hard sell to children, it’s his/her bread and butter. And, the child will think – yeah, that’s to be had/eaten to feel great about one’s self.
I sound like a killjoy for children, don’t I? But what’s spoilsport about it? What’s in this so-called popular culture that does any good to any children?
Shame The Popular Culture
It is time to call the bluff of the popular culture. It is time to call out the companies – be it MNCs or Indian on their predatory marketing for children. How can they keep attracting kids to consume food products that do no good to them or anybody else, including the environment? Though, to be honest, we are the ones perpetuating the popular culture and they are just providing the music.
Why cannot we have birthday parties without cakes and cold drinks and french fries? The marketing of tobacco/alcohol products is banned. How about banning the marketing of junk foods? The packaging of tobacco products shows the bodily harm done by those products. How about a similar packaging design for sugary/salty/oily foods? They don’t do any good to the body either.
The defunct Ministry of Women & Child Development can take out advertisements to inform children about unhealthy food habits and foods. The out of use CSR budget of corporate companies can run marketing campaigns highlighting the adverse effects of junk foods on children. The sportspersons can show during IPL matches – What the real secret to their energy is.
See, these suggestions have got nothing to do with consumerism. For people who want to promote consuming of unhealthy foods to children, let them do it. Simultaneously, they and if not them, the marketing and packaging of sugary/salty/oily food should inform children – What they are eating.
For once, let children see the pretences of adults about what they are making them eat to feel happy.
Childhood Obesity Will Only Get Worse
Among many losing battles, this one takes the cake, literally, even though celebrations can happen without the cake too. Who cares what children eat? How does it matter if parent’s lives become miserable explaining to children that others are taking the easy way out by offering them to eat, what’s easiest to offer and also, what’s unhealthiest to the body.
We as a society will keep making fun of obese children. And, at the same time, keep promoting unhealthy food habits, a prime cause for childhood obesity apart from genetics.
What’s more? We will also ensure that children go on to become hypocrites, just like us.
Popular Culture’s Mission Accomplished.
PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, growing up together with my children. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.