Monday, January 11, 2010

Fat Kids

Still time-tripping to the 1960's, over here.

Thanks to Boingboing for pointing out this three part documentary from the Wellcome Library that was produced to discuss obesity in children.  Here's the first bit:

The "overweight" kids look perfectly normal by today's standards.  The children I see in public (well, plenty of adults too, come to think of it) are either anorexic-model thin and trying to show off how sexy they are, or overweight beyond caring, draping their figures in formless sweats and baggy tee-shirts.  Back then, though, and especially in England, it must have been shocking to see children ballooning to this size, after the privations and sacrifices of the war.

Funny, too, that the reason these kids are getting fat is their mothers are cooking too much irresistible food for them.  It's so much easier to get fat now, when you don't need a mother - just a MacDonald's.

So much of the advice in this film seems common-sense today, in 2010: eat mostly protein because you need it to grow; avoid carbohydrates and sugars, make sure not to skip the vitamins.  And just don't eat too damn much.  It's like the doctor is pushing for a moderate version of the Atkins diet, without all the bullshit.

And much of it seems common-sense today, in 1956, as well.  Folks aren't just born as "fat people", they have to eat to get that way.  Yes, some folks have appetites that aren't balanced to their needs.  They need to work to reign those in and eat reasonably.  And don't forget to "take some exercise."  These women may not have heard of calories, but any housewife capable of running a budget could understand how you get thinner by burning more energy than you take in.  (Also, don't beat around the bush.  Not calling the kid "fat" to his face isn't going to help him lose any weight.)

On the subject of nutrition at least, it's interesting to consider how the 1960s are the beginning of an era of madness.  Folks had let go of the common sense of their parents but hadn't quite made things bad enough for their children that their children had started to figure out things on their own, realized they could sell this common sense by turning it into diet plans and gym memberships, and gotten rich.

I'll take the common sense of the past, by the way, since it isn't being sold to me by a celebrity on TV.

What other subjects have gone through a similar phase of madness, coming round today to another glimmer of reasonableness?

I'll nominate architecture, which the New Urbanists are starting to take back from Modernism.


  1. Quite interesting how they handled childhood obesity. I've never heard of a doctor recommending hospitalization in order to help a child lose weight (if he doesn't get the weight off with his own efforts). That's such an odd thought. Obviously, the goal is to help the child get on top of the problem while they are still young and avoid health problems, and necessary future hospitalization as a result of obesity related illness.

  2. The hospitalisation thing did seem strange, didn't it? I couldn't tell if she was trying to scare the kid straight, or if they saw obesity so rarely that it was shocking enough to them to send an overweight boy to the hospital.

  3. The hospitalization was a ruse to get him away from his mother.