I find myself thinking it on the Metro, on the street, in the supermarket, and I always feel bad about thinking it, even though it’s true: There are sure are a lot of fat kids these days.
I was a bit chunky growing up. I wore the “husky” pants and got dressed as quickly as I could after gym class. But I and the other fat kids in my class were stick figures next to some of today’s youth. Not long ago, I saw a teenager on the Metro crammed into a spot, barely able to fit despite taking up the entirety of both seats.
It’s an epidemic problem. Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last 30 years, with no sign of improvement. The Washington Examiner reports that 43 percent of D.C. Public Schools students were overweight or obese last year, as were 40 percent of Alexandria students. Nationwide, the number is 31 percent.
Washington Center For Eating Disorders & Adolescent Obesity Director Tania Heller told the Examiner, “They’re watching TV, playing video games. There’s so much access to [food] that’s inadequate and unhealthy, especially if both parents work and the child is coming home to an empty house.”
As a parent myself, I see the risks. In a hurry, it is easier to grab something on the road or toss in a frozen pizza than it is to cook up a healthy dinner. And as a snack-lover myself, it’s hard to not let my own kids indulge, at least in moderation.
There are efforts to turn the tide. First Lady Michelle Obama has made youth obesity and healthy eating a top issue, and farmers markets, community-supported agriculture co-ops, and public gardens are being introduced into urban areas where the problem is at its worst.
Still, as noticed by people-watching on the Metro, there’s a long way to go.