THE REAL SKINNY
11 December 2002
I heard the most ridiculous thing on the radio today. Do you know what the minimum age
for stomach stapling is? FOURTEEN! Think about that procedure--major surgery,
reducing your stomach to the size of a walnut...irreversibly...and they're allowing
FOURTEEN YEAR OLDS to have that done?????
On the same radio program I learned about the "skinny
pill" for children ages 5 to 12. It's not enough that America's children are popping pills for
everything these days (prescription pills, of course, but still pills), now we're going to
start giving them diet pills? These are not the diet pills of old, loaded with
amphetamines. No, these are supposedly all good natural ingredients that are non-harmful (well, except for the diuretics which could throw off the electrolyte balance),
but still....diet pills for children?
I've finally become "trendy." I'm straddling that fine line between
"obese" and "fit." I'm fat enough to blend in with the greater
proportion of the larger American population without standing out as humongous, and I
blend in with the fitness crowd here in Davis as I pedal my bike around town (I actually
took my bike to the supermarket this morning, at 6 a.m. because I was out of blueberries
for my oatmeal, even though all of my warm clothes were soaked with sweat following our
bike ride, because when I thought about getting in the car and driving four blocks, it
seemed a terrible waste of gas. What a difference a year makes.)
Is it any wonder that children are growing up with such terrible eating habits. When I
actually think about food commercials (which I don't do often, I will admit),
things have changed significantly. A "home cooked meal" these days means taking
a pre-cooked dinner out of the freezer and stirring it yourself as it heats in a frying
pan. The meat sections of supermarkets--at least in this area--are at least half full of
either pre-cooked or already prepared meats (how much are you willing to pay extra to have
your chicken pre-cut into strips to make fajitas?) "Home baked" cookies are
those things that Mom takes out of the freezer and lets you help putting frozen blobs on a
Does anybody actually fix a meal any more on a regular basis? You know--those meals
that I used to have in my childhood, which included a protein portion, a starch, some
veggies, and a salad, all of which started out in our kitchen in their natural state, with
any seasoning, chopping, stuffing, or other preparation all done by my mother...and later,
We have an entire generation of children who don't know what it's like to beg to lick
the beater after cookie dough has been mixed.
(Of course, licking the beater isn't exactly something that is going to contribute to
good eating habits for children either, I am aware!)
But seriously, we've become a microwave society, a fast food society, a society that
has lost the concept of "balanced meal." Just let the kid take the package of
pre-cooked kraft dinner with the faux cheese, stick it in the microwave until it's hot and
then he can plop down in front of the television to eat it for a snack. And before dinner,
Mommy will give him a pill to help him lose the weight he put on from the macaroni and the
lack of exercise.
It's kind of ludicrous for me, couch potato of the 20th century, to start lecturing on
the value of good nutrition and exercise. It took me nearly 60 years to accept that--I'm
still struggling with it. But when I hear of children having major surgery or popping
pills because it's the only way they can lose weight, there is something wrong, people!
Type II diabetes is running rampant and what was once a condition which developed because
of a lifetime of bad eating habits, it is now developing in children of increasingly
younger ages at an alarming rate.
The talk show host leading the discussion on this topic put it very bluntly: "if
your kids are fat...and I mean FAT...you are guilty of child abuse, plain and
simple." People shake their heads at child beaters who yell "I'm only hitting
you because I love you." The "a cookie will make it better" mentality may
not be painful, it may not leave bruises, but it is teaching kids to look to food for
comfort, because if you get fat, all you have to do is take a pill and it will go away.
Stomach stapling may sound like a nice easy way to lose weight quickly without having
to deal with willpower--the fact that your stomach won't hold more than a spoonful of food
takes care of it for you. But a look through any of the journals of people who have had it
done will show what an ordeal it can be, and the things that can go wrong (including, of
Isn't it just easier to teach kids good nutrition from the get go? To exercise a little
parental control in what they can and can't eat? To save fast foods and desserts for
special times, not the norm? We seem so totally focused on food in this society (well,
food and Saddam Hussein, lately). We're either too fat and trying to diet, or we're
anoretic and being encouraged to put weight on.
How lovely it would be to be able to just eat when you're hungry and not think about
food all day long--either where you're going to get more, or how you can get rid of
whatever it was that you just ate. But my god, there has to be something better than to
allow 14 year olds to have stomach staples, and grammar school kids diet pills.
As far as my own struggle goes, I dropped a pound and a half today, so am on the road
to getting back to where I was a couple of weeks ago (and I don't have to post a "fat