Yesterday, I saw a young mom and her sons, ages four and two, sitting next to me on the 2 Line from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The children were clean and well-behaved, mostly because they were busy eating ample portions of candy. The older boy had a 1.5 ounce Kit Kat bar, the one that comes in four long pieces. With 210 calories and 11 grams of fat, I imagine it was quite filling and bound to spoil his supper. Pity it doesn’t contain nutrients. The little guy, not much of a talker, had a shiny yellow bag full of sticky, tooth-tugging nuggets. Mom had candy too, but she was further away. All of the candy came from her purse.
I chose to say nothing as is customary. It’s not my place to help the mom see that special treats are not for everyday and that parents can show their children love and attention in other ways. It’s not my place to talk about the difficult battle she faces because children are exposed to an estimated 10,000 advertisements for food per year, 95% of which are for fast foods, candy, sugared cereal and soft drinks.(1) It’s not my place to explain that children need nutrients to grow and blossom, and their lifelong eating habits are being shaped, along with their patterns of fighting their biological preferences for sweets and salt, which will face them forever unless there’s a fundamental change. No, my eavesdropping had nothing to do with an unattended package or suspicious behavior, and so what could I say?
And one more thing: neither of the boys was overweight. If they had been, a subset of the population would have justified saying something. But, you know, some people just gain weight more easily on the same crappy diet. And that’s why it’s not fair to stigmatize fat kids. (Read about genetic obesity issues in my blog, Newspaper Ad Mocks Obese Women.)
Your thoughts: Do children belong to society? Should we say something?
1. Schwartz, M.B. and Puhl, R. Childhood Obesity: a Societal Problem to Solve. The International Association for the Study of Obesity, Obesity Reviews. 2003:4, 57–71