For all that we struggle to lose weight, I never had this problem as a child. In fact, I was probably underweight for my age. But I did get picked on for my weight throughout childhood. And I didn't know how to fix it.
I'm not trying to equate my issues with children today who are picked on for being fat, or even obese.
The long-term goals of Michelle Obama's task force on eliminating childhood obesity may not help the current batch of children. But this problem will only get worse unless we do something now.
Unlike a lot of government ventures that say, we will stop or eliminate [politically prudent topic], the task force goal understands that there will always be some who will suffer. But getting the rate down from 20% to 5% by 2030 can be done.
This is the great news. The bad news is whether we, as a society, can do what it takes to make a significant impact.
We live in a society that worships whatever corporations do, but has a natural disdain for government, even if it is there to help make healthier children. And while fixing the imbalance in subsidies for high-fructose corn syrup and sugar would go a great distance, there is so much more that needs to be done.
What our kids are eating at home, in school, and at restaurants is a disturbing combination of not enough of the good stuff and too much of the bad stuff. But reduced recesses and fewer opportunities to just run around after school — partially due to too many structured activities — aren't helping.
The task force did a wonderful job of recognizing that we have the problem — one in three are overweight with 112,000 deaths each year, and these are children.
And the solution can be at hand. The task force has 70 recommendations involving school meals and nutrition education, access to healthy food, and more exercise.
But here is the real problem. The 5% mark is significant because in the 1970s, when I was a child, the obesity rate for children was about 5%. And while we were clueless about saturated fats and trans fats, we were the last major generation that grew up without high-fructose corn syrup, who had a sense of reasonable safety when playing outside, and who grew up in a standard of living where people could afford to buy more real food and be less reliant on processed carbohydrates.
Our standard of living has crumbled to the point where people make food choices based on price points. Some of this comes from the idea that we subsidize foods that make us fat and don't subsidize foods that can make us feel better.
What we can easily find in the grocery store is manufactured by companies who are more concerned about us buying and eating more than in making products that we will like and won't make us too unhealthy.
If we do absolutely nothing, the 20% current childhood obesity rate will seem unattainable in 10 or 20 years since things will get so much worse. To cut the childhood obesity rate, much less to 5% by 2030, we will have to accomplish a lot.
We might start learning from a time when we did get it pretty well: the 1970s. We don't need a time machine to see what they did right. Going back to class and studying a bit of history is all we need.