Obese Children – Poor Diet or Abuse?

March 31, 2007 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

Last month, UK newspapers were filled with the story of Connor McCreaddie, an 8 year old boy who weighs a staggering 14 stone. His sheer size has led to Connor breaking 6 toilet seats, 5 bicycles and 4 beds as well as problems washing and dressing himself. Connor’s obesity and lack of fitness means that he often can’t manage the 1/2 mile walk to school so he has a poor attendance record and is missing out on vital education.                                                                 connor_mccreaddie_narrowweb__300×5002.jpg

Connor’s mother, Nicola McKeown, admits that his diet is appalling with him “demanding snacks every 8 minutes”. Until recently, he would eat 4 packets of crisps a day, 4 Yorkshire puddings with his evening meal, 2 takeaway meals a week, as well as lots of processed sausages, burgers and deep fried chips.  Connor’s grandmother, Barbara Bake feels that the family haven’t had enough support in dealing with Connor and his weight problems. She wanted him to be seen by the leading child obesity expert at their local hospital to have tests for diabetes, thyroid problems and food allergies. An unidentified health official said in the press that appointments were made for the family to see nurses, nutritionists and social workers but weren’t kept.

But in  February, the family had to attend a “child protection conference”  to determine if Connor should be put on the child protection register or even taken into care in a bid to address his obesity.  Dr. Colin Waine, the director of the National Obesity Forum in Nottingham, England, called Connor’s lifestyle “extremely dangerous,” adding he is at risk of developing diabetes in his early teens, and cardiovascular and nervous system problems in his 20s.

“He’s really at risk of dying by the time he’s 30,” Waine said.

Connor’s case attracted national attention after his mother allowed an ITV News crew to film his day-to-day life over the course of a month. But with the well publicised rise in childhood obesity and associated health problems (including reduced life expectancy) can parents still claim that they’re unaware of the dangers their (not so ) little ones are facing? And are many of us simply too indulgent towards the wants of our children?

As an ordinary mum of two, I would have to question why and how Connor was getting snacks every 20 minutes. His mother says it’s because he would throw terrible tantrums if he didn’t get them. Studies have shown that fluctuating blood sugar levels cause irritability and behavioural problems and eating processed foods would significantly raise the blood sugar level.

I do know that children can be difficult to manage and they’ll try every trick in the book to get what they want, whether it be a toy, another 10 minutes on the PS2 or a chocolate bar. Chloe and Annabel do have snacks and treats but not all the time – they’re kept out of reach and out of the way of temptation. The fruit bowl however, is kept well stocked and they both know that I don’t mind them helping themselves if they’re hungry.

Connor’s mother has argued that if he doesn’t get the food he wants at teatime, he’ll sneak downstairs and raid the fridge during the night. My argument to that would be to simply not keep chocolate and crisps in the house at all! By allowing Connor to carry on eating in this way, his mother is, to all intents and purposes, killing him. And since when did 8 year olds rule the roost? A key problem though is that fresh healthy foods are more costly and time consuming than pre-packaged meals. For our family of 4, we spend in excess of £30 a week on fruit and vegetables alone which is a over 25% of our shopping budget. So should the onus go back to the government to perhaps subsidise the cost of fruit and vegetables? Or should that be for the big supermarkets to do….make processed food more expensive and fresh food cheaper. Should the government get compulsory sprots back on the school curriculum? I don’t know but would love to share views on these ideas.

I was glad that the outcome of this case was that Connor was allowed to remain with his mother but with  supervision and help. Since Christmas, he is said to have lost over a stone which is fabulous for Connor (and perhaps undermines the theory of a metabolic disorder…). It would be fascinating to se what happens to him in the long term though.

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Entry filed under: children's food and eating.

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