One of the headlines in today’s Evening Standard reads “A & E in London are treating hundreds of obese children” and that figures over the last 5 years have practically doubled. Last night, there was a programme on tv about the obese children in India’s emerging middle class.
Why is this happening in our societies? One of the theories that I have come up with is that if we look back 3 generations, there was a world war and food rationing was the norm. People learnt (unknowingly) how to curb their food portions, based on the rations that were available. When the food portions were lifted, people were not “programmed” to over-eat and they were able to maintain their (learned) portion control. This style of eating was then passed onto the next generation, generation 2. But this was also a time of globalisation. Economic growth and competitive world markets. Mass production and consumerism were the new buzz words.
Marketing and capturing market share became business priorities. We were flooded with adverts about getting more, having more, needing more.
Skip forward to the new generation, generation 3. Our children. Our future. The Business Insider website quotes MacDonalds as spending 963 million USD on marketing. Toddles are able to recognise the big yellow “M”. This is just one of the many fast food chains that are advertising and available to us in almost every High Street. Food has never been more abundant and readily available.
It is for this reason, that just as generation 1 learnt (unknowingly) how to control the amount of food they ate, based on scarcity, it is, in my opinion, absolutely essential that children learn KNOWINGLY how to take control of their food intake. It is not going to happen by itself. This is a learned thinking, where a child feels empowered to make a conscious choice about what and how much they eat, as opposed to leaving it to the advertisers, to “programme” their choices.
The Thrive Programme does exactly that, it teaches one how to take back control by developing an internal locus of control. An internal locus of control is where one has control over a situation as opposed to the situation controlling them and leaving them feeling helpless (external locus of control). It works with challenging limiting beliefs and unhelpful thinking styles whilst also developing a strong foundation of a health self esteem.
I’m sure an obese child will feel completely powerless in their situation, not believing that they have the ability to do anything about it. If they had a choice, they wouldn’t choose to be obese. They don’t feel good about themselves and are often bullied and have extremely low self esteem and high social anxiety.
Until a child feels empowered to change their situation. Until a child feels good about themselves, he or she is not going to put the effort into changing their situation, because they don’t believe they can. It’s not that they cannot, it’s because they don’t believe they can.
I feel that the obesity problem, child or adult, has to begin at the psychological level of feeling empowered and believing that they can. These are learned skills.
Shirley Scott Thrive Consultant