How parents in denial are killing their kindergarteners

It’s only baby fat.”

He’ll outgrow it.”

She’s just big-boned.”

I can’t be the only one who’s sick of rationalizations like these. Or who’s grown weary of warning parents just how dangerous these misconceptions are.

So I’m glad the latest study on childhood obesity got the press it deserves. It appeared in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. And the researchers found that American kindergarteners who were overweight in 1998 were four times more likely to be obese by the time they hit high school than their normal-weight classmates.

And the larger the child was before kindergarten, the greater his or her chance of becoming obese down the line.

Nearly 15 percent of the kindergarteners in this study were overweight. And just over 12 percent were clinically obese. At five years old.

I don’t like to bore you with statistics. But this topic is critically important. So let me just give you a quick rundown. By the time the kids in this study hit the 8th grade…

  • 16.8 percent of black children became obese
  • 14.3 percent of Hispanic children became obese
  • 10.1 percent of white children and children of other ethnicities became obese
  • 7.4 percent of kids from the most wealthy families became obese
  • 15.4 percent of kids in the middle income bracket became obese

So as you can see, the obesity crisis is cutting across every socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic line. It is truly endemic to our society.

In my kindergarten class of 40, there were two of us who were overweight. (That’s right—I was one of them.) In the same size class by today’s standards, six children would be overweight. And five kids would be obese.

That’s absolutely insane. Even criminal, in my mind. What are modern parents doing to their children? Why do so many people think love means feeding someone to death?

And if anybody tries to tell you that fat children don’t face the same health risks as morbidly obese adults, I hope you’ll do your part to set them straight. You can start by mentioning the study I shared with you back in December.

Just as a refresher, nearly 10 percent of all kids in this country have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). That’s the medical term for a dangerous build-up of fat in you liver—usually from excessive sugar consumption.

And this condition affects as many as 17 percent of teens. Most of whom are also obese.

But that’s not even the scariest part. According to this study’s results, more than a third of obese children with fatty liver disease also show signs of “left ventricular abnormalities.”

That’s the medical term for heart disease.

Let me repeat: These kids—KIDS—are in the early stages of heart disease.

Clearly, this problem is more than just a social one. Much more. And something has to change.

I’ve shared my thoughts and suggestions for addressing this burgeoning epidemic before. It’s time to stop feeding emotions and start treating processed, sugar-laden “foods” like alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and any other addictive substance. And that means refusing to enable anyone—especially children—to eat themselves sick.

I would love to hear your suggestions too. So, please, write in with them, or leave a comment on my Facebook page. And I’ll share your thoughts in a future Reality Health Check.

Maybe together, we can start to fix this mess. Goodness knows, we owe our children that much.


“Incidence of Childhood Obesity in the United States.” N Engl J Med. 2014 Jan 30;370(5):403-11.