It’s fascinating to me that so often the current obesity epidemic and push to end childhood obesity is promoted as a new thing or a timely campaign unique to the 2000’s….but childhood obesity was a known problem even back in 1961.
According to the article “The too-plump child may need your help” in the August 1961 issue of Everywoman’s Family Circle numerous studies had been done to examine the relationship with obesity in childhood and obesity as an adult.
According to one study, “a survey of an Eastern city’s high school students revealed that 20% of these boys and girls were at least 10% above the average weights for their ages.” Another study from Boston looked at primary and secondary school students to find that more than 10% of the study participants were more than 20% heavier than the average weight for their ages.
It was also estimated that about 15% of children and teens nationwide were obese (according to a study done by Dr. Felix Heald, the former president of Pediatrics at Harvard and the Washington D.C children’s hospital). Today most states in America are estimated at about 20-30% obesity for children in the 10-17 age range.
The article goes on to explain the correlation of obesity in childhood and obesity in adulthood providing statistics that in a study of 200 adults, 43/50 adult men who had been obese as children were still obese vs 21/50 adult men who had been average weight as children than were overweight as adults. Additional studies were cited to argue that most obese adults were also obese as children.
Hypothyroidism is mentioned as a common suggestion for weight gain, but quickly shoots it down as a viable option stating that although it’s popular to assume, hypothyroidism rarely causes obesity in children. Obesity in children is further connected to diet and inactivity, along with parental involvement in enabling obesity–essentially the same issues we find today.
According to the article and unnamed sources (vaguely describe as authorities), 10% of children with normal weight parents are obese, 50% of children with one obese parent are obese, and 80% of children with two obese parents are obese. Obesity is described as a family trait, but explained that it is not inherited; rather it is learned through environment.
The article includes case studies of the experiences of a 10 year old boy and 8 year old girl in school, along with a study of teenage girls at what ultimately would be referred to as a “fat camp”. And while it is not socially acceptable to fat-shame in 2015, very direct language was used at this time as a tactic to establish social norms, motivate, and essentially scare the fat out of you. The article rarely uses sugar coated phrasing for “over weight” and describes the overweight child as “fat”, “fatty”, and “porker”. The article even goes so far as to state that in a group of obese teen girls surveyed, the few who claimed to be okay with or positive about their conditions were “pathetically defensive.”
While the issue is still the same, the language used is a far cry from what you might read in a magazine or website today–unless you’re reading a comment thread on the Internet.