Monday, May 15, 2006

Obesity shock tactics backfire -- sometimes tragically

The usual unintended consequences of government meddling -- so medical advice is now in conflict with government advice. That Leftist governments should treat children as individuals rather than treat "children" as a lump is of course too much to ask

Shock tactics used in the war against obesity may have backfired, with reports children are being hospitalised because they are too scared to eat. A leading nutritionist has warned government scaremongering may be feeding another crisis with hundreds of children being treated for eating disorders.

Staff at the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane say they have been inundated with dozens of calls each week from worried parents of children who are refusing to eat or wrongly believe they are obese. "We have made it scary for everyone," RCH dietetics and nutrition director Judy Wilcox told The Sunday Mail. "I am worried it might be too big of an issue and people are getting a little bit too fearful. "The pleasure and joy dimension of eating is missing and kids are developing an attitude that eating is dangerous. "I have mothers ringing me up in a panic because they think their child is going to die because they won't eat vegetables. "People are bringing their children to see me because they think their child is obese and they are not. "Children are becoming too aware and becoming very, very fearful of obesity and a lot of parents are becoming fearful."

In an alarming new trend, young boys are dieting because they believe "slim is ideal". "In the past month, I have had four to five cases," she said. "We are seeing cases of osteoporosis in children as young as 12 who have dieted."

The hospital has sent letters to childcare centres warning them against confiscating food and giving only fruit and water for snacks. Schools and sporting clubs were also advised against weighing children in front of their classmates because of the potential for psychological harm. But the State Government announced at its Obesity Summit last week that it would start weighing students in schools.

The Wynnum-Manly Junior Rugby League side is already weighing players for an under 35kg representative side. Reluctant parents agreed to let their children diet to make the side for the June's city-versuscountry carnival in Charleville. The youngsters have been swapping ice cream for carrots and dumped P1ayStation sessions for 10-minute treadmill workouts.

Ms Wilcox warned the weighins were dangerous to children's mental outlook. "Everyone is well-meaning but they don't realise there are a lot of physical and psychological consequences to intervention," she said.

The State Government has announced it would send every Queensland household a selfhelp fat-fighting pack as part of a $21 million obesity plan. The Obesity Summit in Brisbane was told that 4 percent of children were severely obese and some kids aged between seven and eight weighed more than 100kg. Premier Peter Beattie said the amount of junk-food advertisements during children's television time was too high and called on the Federal Government to set limits.

The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on May 14, 2006

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