The third California Childhood Obesity Conference kicked off on Tuesday, the 23rd, and experts agree that marketing plays a big (and insidious) role in shaping kids’ dietary habits. I was going to hold off on writing about this particular article until after the PR guys from McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, et al. put out statements questioning the validity of statements made by those speakers while defending their products (“But we also sell yogurt!”). There’s just something exhilarating about people who are so nefariously intent on denying reality; putting a delusionary spin on matters of life and death is so vile and sad you just have to laugh.
And yes, childhood obesity is a matter of life and death. The study highlighted in the O.C. Register article indicates that 1 in 4 Orange County children are overweight; we all know that young children who are obese have a much higher chance of developing serious and potentially life-shortening health problems.
What’s worth repeating is that like Joe Camel before him, Ronald McDonald wants your kids to become addicts; put on the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, or any Saturday morning cartoon show and you’ll be inundated with fast food and sugar-laden cereal ads. None of which talk about the downside of eating that shit (Mayor McGreasetrap or Tony the Triple-bypass Tiger, anyone?).
Look, I enjoy the occasional big-ass bowl of Cap’n Crunch as much as the next guy. But I’m a grownup. The article raises an excellent point – young children can’t differentiate between the program and the commercial. One expert recommends sitting down with your kids and talking about the differences between the two (good luck with that if your kid likes to watch old Transformers cartoons). In my house, we’ve devised another solution. The DVR. We don’t let the kid watch “live” TV; we record the shows, then when he watches them, we fast forward through the commercials (bonus: we get to control what shows he watches, and how long he gets to spend watching them. Plus with the DVR, I can now record 24 while watching Heroes. Thus my life is fulfilled.) Our cable company charges an additional $10 a month; chump change compared to what we’d end up spending on insulin.