I also wanted to reemphasize the importance of learning to embrace active lifestyles, especially in the context of combatting obesity in general and childhood obesity in particular. Children in our society, especially poor children, have so many strikes against them when it comes to getting enough physical activity. In Fatland, Critser points out that funding cuts have caused many public schools to omit physical education entirely.
I feel very blessed and privileged to be able to work from home, When I noticed recently that dd2, who is 8, is not quite as active as she was when she was younger, and had started gaining some weight, I determined that after finishing work most afternoons, she and I needed to get outdoors together. In more comfortable weather, she has also been taking our dogs outdoors throughout the day and running around with them -- but now that it's up in the 90's, and we're without ac this summer again, she is naturally not motivated to move around much, whether indoors or out, so swimming is her main physical activity at the moment. It's so great that when I finish work, I'm right here at home and so is everyone else in our family -- there's no commute, no one to pick up. We can just change into our suits, slap on our sunscreen, and head out the door. And still have a little evening left when we get home.
And dd1, who is 13, is always welcome to come with us whenever she wants -- but I don't push her if she doesn't feel like it, since she is into her own routine of taking our big lab for six mile walks, practically every day. But I will say that our allowing dd1 to do this in our predominantly low-income neighborhood flies in the face of what some in our society would call good parenting. We feel safer letting her do this because she has a large dog -- but many parents wouldn't do it even then.
So I look at a lot of other low income parents like us with a lot of empathy. Maybe they weren't privileged enough to have the parental support to pursue a college degree -- the minimal requirement for my work-at-home job is a bachelor's degree -- so maybe they have to work some distance from their house, plus maybe they have to work a second job because of lower pay. Maybe they can't even afford to take care of a big dog, and therefore wouldn't feel at all comfortable allowing their 13yo dd to take long walks around the neighborhood.
There are even some suburban and small town parents who don't feel comfortable letting their kids roam the neighborhood -- but at least parents with higher incomes can usually enroll their kids in some sort of organized sport.
Finding the time to educate themselves about nutrition and to prepare the food -- not to mention the money to buy more nutritious foods and fewer starchy foods, as well as the time to help their children (and themselves) embrace an active lifestyle is so incredibly hard for many low income parents, so, as Critser says, it should come as no surprise that obesity is a much greater problem among the poor than among the rich.
It's true that the parents are the key to turning things around for their own kids -- but it seems grossly unfair to me to blame the parents. One big thing that we, as a society, need to invest in is creating safer neighborhoods for everyone. Children need to be able to step out their front doors and feel safe exploring and interacting with others, wherever they happen to live. Parents need to feel safe letting their kids out the door, and not be berated and called neglectful or bad parents for letting their kids play outside or walk to the store, to school, or to a friend's house.
So I guess I should say that parents are part of the solution, but changing the environment and the culture are another huge part. Rather then pointing the finger, we need to be working together on this.