Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website   Read more about this blog.
Posted: April 15th, 2013
The real reasons for childhood obesity

I knew it. And I’ve said it all along, but little did I know that what I was saying might provide the answer to what’s become, according to the CDC, a national epidemic.

Eating and sleeping. That’s the pat answer I’ve given to anyone who asks me the key to raising healthy kids. “They have to have to get enough sleep and eat plenty of good wholesome food.” Of course, I had deduced this from my own personal experiment: my son. I noted early on when he was underslept and underfed (or fed junk), he was a monster. Based on this scientific data, I made sure he always had a full belly and forced naps and structured bedtime. I also noticed the same pattern in his friends.

And now, according to an in-depth article in Scientific American, it would appear I am right. Well, sort of.

Writer Tara Haelle examined the state of childhood obesity, which has now estimated to include one in five children between the ages of 6 and 19, in all its complexities. What it comes down to is not what everyone has been pointing fingers at; namely, inactivity, genes and gluttonous children. Aptly summarized in its headline, “Childhood Obesity Determined Largely by Environmental Factors, Not Genes or Sloth,” the article blames too much unhealthy food and too little sleep–both environmental, and fixable problems.


The article sites not just processed foods, but average portion size, which has tripled in 40 years, part of the problem. With adult portions being served to kids, it’s especially difficult for them to know when enough is enough. Overstimulation is also a problem, with the average child sleeping less than he/she used to decades ago.

Especially teenagers. Researchers claim that “increasing sleep from 7.5 to 10 hours a day among 18-year-olds could shave four percentage points off the proportion of teens with a BMI over 25.”

The beauty of all of this, is that it should squarely shift childhood obesity from being a shame-and-blame game–both for kids and parents–to one that has some solutions.

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