We're not fat, we're fluffy

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School districts in Florida and Pennsylvania threw the fat on the fire, so to speak, when they mailed letters to parents or sent them home with their children saying the kids were at at-risk for obesity.

Many parents were outraged at what they perceived to be further intrusion into their family lives. But school and health officials, alarmed at the potential epidemic of overweight kids, believe parents must be more involved and made aware of the consequences of their children's eating habits.

One irate parent whose child had been put on the "weight" list made the observation that the schools shared the blame for serving fatty foods at lunch like chicken nuggets and pizza and for cutting out physical education programs.

According to an article in the New York Times, in the last 20 years, overweight and obesity in children has doubled. The number of overweight adolescents has almost tripled. Overweight children have a higher likelihood of becoming overweight adults and are at risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

We've all heard all the excuses: "tall for his age," "slow metabolism," "big bones," "lousy thyroid." Maybe we've used some of them ourselves to explain our size when weight vs. height doesn't add up.

Unfortunately, this level of concern comes too late for some. Think of famous fat people in history. Would early intervention have done any good?

Can you imagine a well-meaning school nurse sending home letters like these?

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Claus:

Your boy, Santa, shows up at school every day with powdered sugar on his red suit. We believe it is in his best interest to engage in physical activity more than one day a year. Kindly consult with our on-site personal trainer.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. B.I.G.:

Have you taken a look at your son, Notorious, lately? This boy is P.H.A.T. We are concerned about his excessive lifestyle as well as his ironic use of the name "Biggie Smalls."

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland:

How do you expect your son, Grover, to grow up to be president (or a Muppet) if he keeps putting away the cream puffs?

Dear Queen and King Henry the 7th:

Do you have plans for young Henry to grow up to be the eighth? Reminds us of a joke: Want to lose 10 pounds of ugly fat? Cut off your head!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Fats:

Time for little Minnesota to pick up something heavier than that pool cue. Have you considered relocating away from the Swedish meatballs to a smaller, more vertical state, say Vermont? "Vermont Fats" sounds a little less porcine than "Minnesota." Lay off the maple syrup.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Welles:

Orson ... Rosebud ... for Pete's sake, buy that boy a pair of boxing gloves.

The list could go on and on ... Mama Cass, Kate Smith, Jackie Gleason, John Belushi, Chris Farley, the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Shortly after digesting the New York Times article about the fat letters, I read a story from the Washington Post that tackles "mindless vs. mindful eating."

The experts suggest you can control your appetite "by being aware of when you are hungry and of your stomach as it actually becoming satisfied so that you know how to make a decision about when to stop eating."


A few helpful tips: exercise for 1 to 3 minutes before you come to the table; take time to savor the food, chew slowly and count your bites attempting to increase from three to five per mouthful. You should also examine why you eat, postpone second helpings until at least 10 minutes after finishing the first, and drink lots of water.

This is my favorite: "Engage in guided eating. Before putting a spoonful of food in your mouth, imagine the food, imagine filling up your mouth and then your stomach. The next bite you take will be much smaller. It becomes a psychological game."

Obviously, these people come from small families.

Here's how the "game" would have been played at my house. While my sisters and I were "visualizing" smaller portions and exercising before dinner, my brother would have cleaned his plate and ours. Of course, that would be an effective appetite control as well.

What about my family? Oh, we're just tall for our age, have big bones and slow metabolisms. Gee, maybe it's a thyroid problem.

Sheila Gardner is night desk editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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