Kimberly Garrison: Moms to blame for kids' obesity

Posted: June 23, 2011

OBESITY, particularly childhood obesity, has become a combustible issue in our society.

Fast-food chain Jack in the Box pulled toys from its kids' meals last week, according to news reports, winning praise from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

CSPI is suing burger-chain behemoth McDonald's to stop it from using toys to attract kids to its unhealthy Happy Meals.

Over the weekend, I found out just how combustible the issue is when I got into a heated debate with a friend about the causes of childhood obesity.

My friend, who shall remain nameless here, blames the kids' fatness epidemic on food corporations like McDonald's and their clever marketing ploys.

I vehemently disagree! Sorry dear, but McDonald's, Wendy's and KFC are not to blame for childhood obesity. Parents are - more specifically moms, since women typically make 80 percent of a family's purchasing decisions.

Restaurants and food manufacturers are not in the nutrition or health business. They are in the business of making foods that taste so great you'll want to come back for more. They want to get you hooked.

Throughout my life, I have worked in various restaurants, from fast-food chains to five-star gourmet dining rooms. They all have the same objective: to entertain your taste buds and sell their food.

That's why the folks behind the fast-food counter are trained to "up sale" you with a suggestion of "fries or Coke with that?" It's no different from the waiter at a fancy restaurant suggesting starters or coming by with a tray of desserts - which, by the way, have the highest markup and zero nutrition.

So if we're going to criticize McDonald's, we should also attack gourmet restaurants and higher-end chains.

For crying out loud, if we're not free to do anything else,

we're certainly free to decide what we put into our mouths and the mouths of our children. Deciding what and how much to eat is up to us, and when it comes to our children, again that choice is largely up to the parents.

So if the kids are overweight or obese, it's the parents' fault. Period.

As with smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and even incarceration, a parent's actions teach their children. If one parent is obese, there is a 50 percent chance that the children will be obese. If both parents are obese, the children have an 80 percent chance of being obese.

Sure certain medical conditions can cause obesity, but that accounts for maybe 1 percent. Most of the time, obesity is not related to any medical condition. It's related to the lifestyle choices we make every day for ourselves and our children.

Last time I checked, 3-year-olds weren't capable of pulling up to the drive-through and ordering a Happy Meal. Blaming restaurants, fast-food or otherwise, is not the solution.

Parents are in charge. And each time you purchase food at a restaurant or supermarket, you are sending a message, loud and clear, about what you value. If you value your health and the health of your children, start cooking more meals at home. Purchase more of the locally grown produce that is becoming so abundant in our area at neighborhood farmer's markets.

We have choices and the power too, girlfriend. Don't make excuses, just lead by example. You and your children will be happier, healthier and wiser.


Body After Baby

Week 12

I believe that 90 percent of success is based on preparation. That means 90 percent of getting back to your pre-pregnancy size is going to be based on you being prepared.

Take for example, this weekend. We had an impromptu get-together at my in-laws', who asked my husband to bring pizzas. That's right - plural. Three piping-hot plain, pepperoni and sausage pizzas tickled and teased me during the drive to their house.

What saved me from tearing open the box and devouring several slices was preparation, not willpower. Once I knew the agenda, I whipped out my cooler and packed it with a fresh garden salad. I made two vegetable juices with my trusty Vitamix and packed a green apple for dessert. (Good thing I did; there was a fresh box of doughnuts there, too.)

Happy and triumphant, I succumbed neither to pizza nor doughnut. The moral of the story? Be prepared, and you'll have a 90 percent chance of success in your efforts to slim down, too.

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia ( Email her at Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!

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