No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Does childhood obesity equate to child abuse?

Posted by Ben on Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I know posts have been practically non-existent here of late, but I couldn’t let this one slide.

Travelers Rest teen’s obesity may help expand definition of neglect

By Ron Barnett
Staff writer
July 21, 2009

Jerri Gray was doing all she could to help her son lose weight, according to her attorney, Grant Varner. But something had gone terribly wrong for the boy to hit the 555-pound mark at the age of 14.

Authorities in South Carolina say what went wrong was Gray’s care and feeding of her son, Alexander Draper. The 49-year-old woman from Travelers Rest was arrested in June and charged with criminal neglect. Her son is now in foster care.

The case has attracted national attention. And with childhood obesity on the rise across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Varner believes it could open the door to more criminal action against parents whose children become dangerously overweight.

“If she’s found guilty on those criminal charges, you have set a precedent that opens Pandora’s Box,” he said. “Where do you go next?”

State courts in Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, New Mexico, Indiana and California have grappled with the issue in recent years, according to a 2008 report published by the Child Welfare League of America.

In all of those cases except the one in California, the courts expanded their state’s legal definition of medical neglect to include morbid obesity and ruled that the children were victims of neglect, according to the report. Criminal charges were filed only in the California and Indiana cases, but the parents weren’t sentenced to jail time in either, the report says.

In the California case, the mother of a 13-year-old girl who weighed 680 pounds was charged with child abuse, but the child died before the case was decided in 1998, and charges were reduced to a misdemeanor level, according to the report. In the Indiana case, the mother was sentenced to probation and community service, the report says.

More recently, the case in New York in 2007 involved an adolescent girl who weighed 261 pounds, according to the report. The court ordered nutritional counseling, cooking classes and gym workouts, the report says.

Most cases of childhood obesity aren’t abuse, but some may amount to neglect and call for a structured plan of action that’s accountable to a court, said Linda Spears, vice president of policy and public affairs for the Child Welfare League of America. Criminal charges may be appropriate in some cases as a last resort, she said.

“I think I would draw the line at a place where there are serious health consequences for the child and efforts to work with the family have repeatedly failed,” she said.

Most of the time, the health problems associated with childhood obesity don’t become chronic until adulthood, which makes it difficult to charge parents with child abuse, she said.

In the South Carolina case, the mother followed nutritional guidelines set for her son by the state Department of Social Services, but the boy apparently got other food on his own while not under his mother’s supervision, Varner, the mother’s attorney said.

The boy has been placed in foster care, and Varner hasn’t been allowed to speak to him. Gray, the mother, has signed an agreement with a film documentary company for exclusive rights to her story and couldn’t comment for this article, Varner said.

“There’s a strong likelihood that this kid is going to school and could eat whatever he wanted to at school because you’ve got friends who will help him buy food or will give him their leftovers,” Varner said. “The big question is what is this kid doing when he’s not in mom’s care, custody and control?”

Greenville County Schools spokesman Oby Lyles declined to comment in response to that.

“This is not a case of a mother force-feeding a child,” Varner said. “If she had been holding him down and force-feeding him, sure, I can understand. But she doesn’t have the means to do it. She doesn’t have the money to buy the food to do it.”

The case could have ramifications beyond parental control over obesity, to other eating disorders, and even other behaviors not related to weight, Varner believes.

“What about the parents of every 16-year-old in Beverly Hills that’s too thin? Are they going to start arresting parents because their child is too thin?” he said.

“If your 14-year-old goes down the street and gets pregnant or breaks the neighbor’s window or steals the neighbor’s car, can the parents now be held criminally liable for that child’s acts as well?”

Jolene Puffer, a personal trainer in Asheville, N.C., said the problem, often, is parents “loving their kids to death,” especially in low-income families where food is one of the few things they can afford to give their children.

But too often, she said, school officials and doctors are “not sounding the alarm” when they should.

Puffer took one local family as a volunteer project and helped a 16-year-old boy who weighed 434 pounds to lose 110 pounds, while his mother lost more than 80 pounds and his sister shed nearly 50.

A social services counselor had recommended that the boy apply for Medicare, which Puffer said could have set him up as a lifelong disability case.

Puffer faults the social services agencies and schools for not doing more to help obese children.

“For the last year of their life, I have been their only advocate,” she said.

States haven’t been inactive in trying to combat childhood obesity, though, according to a report released this month by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For example, 20 states have passed requirements for schools to do body mass index screenings or other weight-related tests of children and adolescents, up from four states five years ago, according to the report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America.”

But it says although every state requires physical education in schools, the requirements “are often limited, not enforced, or do not meet adequate quality standards.”

The same report says 30 percent of children in 30 states age 10-17 are overweight or obese, with the rate hitting a high of 44.4 percent in Mississippi.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of obese children age 6-11 more than doubled in the past 20 years, while the rate for adolescents more than tripled.

Ron Jones, a corporate wellness expert based in Atlanta and Los Angeles, uses the phrase “child obesity is child abuse” in his promotional materials and says the nation as a whole has turned its head the other way when it comes to accepting that concept.

“If you gave your child a drug, you’d be held in the court. But if you kill them with food, that seems to be acceptable,” he said.

The difficulty with prosecuting such cases, according to Richard Balnave, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, is that most state laws require that the child’s health be in imminent danger for criminal charges to be filed, and the parent must be capable of helping the child but doesn’t take the necessary action. Obesity in children, while potentially dangerous, does not generally put a child in imminent danger, he said.

Supreme Court rulings have recognized the right of parents to raise their children how they see fit, Balnave said, but not to the point that the child’s health is endangered.

The arrest warrant in the Jerri Gray case alleges that her son’s weight was “serious and threatening to his health” and that she placed him “at an unreasonable risk of harm.”

Virginia Williamson, general counsel for the South Carolina Department of Social Services, said her agency petitioned the Family Court for custody of the 16-year-old, “because of information from health-care providers that he was at risk of serious harm because his mother was not meeting his medical needs.”

The department “would not take action based on a child’s weight alone,” she said, but only in “cases where health-care professionals believe a child is at risk of harm because a parent is neglecting to provide necessary medical care.”

Gray failed to appear at a Family Court hearing in which her child was to be turned over to foster care, according to a warrant issued in May. Police later found her with the boy in Baltimore County, Md., and took her back to South Carolina, where she was released on a $50,000 bond, her attorney said.

Talk about a sticky situation. I’ll make my comments in a minute, but just to give you an idea of the varying opinions on the topic, I give you some selected remarks from a message board discussion going on as I type this: “yes,” “no,” “maybe.” Of more substance (edited for spelling, grammar, and brevity; some content NSFW):

Yeah, obesity is not a black-and-white term. There would have to be a precise defintion.

In the article posted, yes. Not in every case. I think there are issues of income and parental knowledge that do come into play.

It does not take knowledge to see fat. Really fat fat. So, at some point, you have to take responsibility and get help if you can’t handle it.

(Food as Entertainment)
I think that from my generation to the present (there are many in between!) I have witnessed the transition of food from being something you ate hastily, so that you could go out and play, to being a pastime in and of itself. There is, I would venture a guess, far more eating for pleasure than for pure sustenance.

Combine that with the fact that kids today usually have much more access to food than kids did in my generation. You never went to the kitchen to just get something without asking your parents first. Mom always knew what was in her refrigerator and what was missing. There were always special things in the house “for guests only” that we never touched. Restaurants were a treat and not a way of life. Now, with parents out of the home most of the time, kids fend for themselves and parents simply replenish the supply on a regular basis without thought to what and how much has been consumed.

(Food Discipline)
There was actually a certain “discipline” about the use of food. You didn’t take without asking, and when it was put in front of you, you were expected not to waste it even if you didn’t like the taste. There was, in a way, a certain measure of respect for food that is missing today. Portions are enormous. We grab more than we can eat and throw away more than we consume without a thought to the waste.

Add to this that the average teen has more money in his/her pocket than I carried as an adult. This has to do with access, as well. They are able to go out and buy their own food at will and a lot of that food is relatively cheap and definitely fattening.

It can’t be easy for a parent, single or otherwise, but when the scales are tipping a quarter ton, there has to be an assignment of blame.

I think its more stupidity than abuse. The mother claims she doesn’t have time to cook because of her hours, so the kid eats unhealthy. She could just cook for him one day for the entire week so he has a healthier meal every day, but then again he might just eat the week’s worth of food in one day.

It’s neglect, plain and simple. No different then if the kid had the flu and she told him to fuck off instead of going to a doctor. Worse actually because buying some veggies instead of cookies is a lot easier then going to a doctor. I don’t want to hear that she doesn’t know any better because that’s bullshit. Maybe she doesn’t know the ideal macronutrient breakdown, but she sure as shit knows that broccoli is better than an ice cream sandwich.

That’s sad. And grossly irresponsible as a parent. Parents like this piss me off to no end. If you don’t teach your child the value of certain things like exercise and nutrition (to name a few), how else are they supposed to learn? Good job setting your child up for a lifetime of heartache, lady.

And so on and so forth. There are, of course, several tangents stemming from this discussion, namely rising health insurance premiums, various taxation methods, (un)restricted procreation (think Idiocracy), and (lack of) sex education.

There are two subjective metrics in play here, neither of which has a definitive boundary: obesity and abuse. Obesity has little to do with actual weight as two hundred pounds is vastly different depending on body style, body fat percentage, body fat deposit disposition, activity level, training protocols, and several other variables. My two hundred-plus pounds are far different from those on a five-foot-three, sedentary female. Sure, there’s a trigger in our minds that says “fat” or “not fat,” but it’s different for everyone, and in the case of the above article, I’m pretty sure all of us would say “fat.” The problem is how to standardize that trigger.

As for abuse, it’s the same as obesity. Some people consider Olympic-calibre gymnastics to be abusive while others think it’s the epitome of youth athletics. A bruise or broken bone suffered during a rec league soccer game is different from those suffered at the hands of a deranged parent. People can scream “case by case” until they’re blue in the face, but in today’s society, that’s not going to last very long without some debilitating legal implications.

So, does childhood obesity equate to child abuse? If you know me outside this blog, then you know my answer. Here, though, I’ll refer to yet other commenters:

The more that I think about it, the more that I think that it’s not about education as much as it is about personal responsibility. Talking about sex obviously. I would venture to say that at least 99.999% of pregnant teenagers knew prior to their actions that they could get pregnant. The issue is that they don’t fear the consequences of those actions. This is because we (society and especially the government) have too many crutches in place to support this behavior. There is no sense of survival of the fittest. They know that if something happens they can always fall back on the government to take care of them. Sad.

It’s also more and more common for parents to accept this as the way of the world. I’m not even old, but when I was in high school, parents would kick some ass if their kid was fucking around. I’m sure it was 1,000 times more strict for someone much older than me growing up. Now parents coddle their kids and blame everything on someone else.

It never ceases to amaze me that you have to get a license to drive. You have to register to vote. You have to put a license on your fucking BICYCLE in most cities. But any motherfucking dipshit who can fuck is allowed to have as many kids as they want and fuck them up with very little consequence.

Enough from me. Your turn.


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Still alive

Posted by Ben on Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hey, folks, apologies for the massive hiatus, but a lot of stuff has been going on behind the scenes around these parts that have pulled me away from this particular blog. However, part of that “stuff” has been:

—Continued study toward Level 2 of the Youth Fitness Specialist certification.
—Business-side development in preparation for officially rolling out my services.
—Poking around for individual prospective clients, just to gauge some interest and extend special “guineau pig” offers.
—The beginnings of some networking that, should it come to fruition, could set the business—and me—up for a good, long while.

I will be back with a vengeance once things get up and running, which will take this blog in a somewhat different direction in that it’ll focus more on kid-friendly fundamental movement and how to get adults involved as well. Whether it will be right here on this page or part of a different blog/website has yet to be determined, but of course, I’ll make it well-known around here when it does happen.

Hope everyone is doing well, again my apologies, and thanks for bearing with me! In the meantime, the blogs I usually reference are still going strong, so send your eyes and brains in those directions. Be well!

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Quick update

Posted by Ben on Friday, June 19, 2009

Greetings and salutations, folks. Just wanted to give a heads-up on what’s been going on here lately (read: this is why I haven’t been and likely won’t be posting much for a bit).

1. I completed the YFS1 certification from the IYCA a couple weeks ago and have since been working on YFS2. Higher level means more in-depth study, and while I’m borderline giddy at the authors included in the textbook, it’s still a lot of reading, and I’d like to be done with this certification level by the end of July.

2. At the same time, I’m learning how to form and run a business, mostly the “form” part, so that’s a lot of reading and planning as well, right now mostly planning to plan the plan. When I start to take on clients, I want everything to be self-sufficient, self-explanatory, and self-perpetuating (read: I want to run the training sessions and not have to worry too much with the business side of things).

3. I’m so far behind on my blog and article reading that it’d be funny if it were funny, but I’ve had my nose stuck in so many other books that I’m doing well just to keep up with my daily comics. I apologize for not even keeping up with my “Recent Clicks” section, which has languished over the past week or more. I’m hopeful of getting caught up on that over the weekend.

So, not that there was much worth reading here at it was, and I know I’ve said before how I was tailing off the posting only to turn around and whip out a couple in quick succession, but I’m pretty sure posts will be sparse for a bit. However, once things are up and running with the biz, I’ll actually have some, oh I dunno, informed, semi-niche writing to pass along (shocking, I know).

On the bright side, I HAVE resumed regular training of my own, so go me :)

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The shave IS the haircut

Posted by Ben on Sunday, June 14, 2009

It’s done. The only visible hairs on my head are my brows and lashes. Before getting to the pictures, I’d like to thank everyone who donated, attended, and/or just spread the word. A little over a month ago, a couple guys were being guys (online, but that’s beside the point), and in the end, $225 went to the Komen Foundation (I’ll keep the fund page active for awhile so Jay’s pictures can be seen).

So far (a day), so good with no hair, and oddly enough, I kind of like the look and feel (more research needed, especially when working out and/or out in the sun for extended periods of time). If I decided to keep this look, I’ll invest in a HeadBlade, but I want to give this a couple weeks before making that call. For now, it’s very stubbly and feels like chapped skin, which I assume will go away the longer I’m bald and applying lotion. I will say that I like the thought of saving around $150 per year on haircuts.

Lastly, I put together a quick-and-dirty compilation of the videos taken, but it blows away YouTube’s size limits (that’s what she said), so I’ll be doing more editing and hopefully get it uploaded tomorrow, after which I’ll embed it at the bottom of this post.

Now, without (even) further ado…

And as promised, here’s the video (finally):

Still not as cool as this guy (NSFW language), but close.

Posted in Events, Issues | 4 Comments »

I’m a lumberjack, and I’m okay…

Posted by Ben on Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From my training log today:

I woke up a couple hours early to get in an interval workout of rope skipping followed by a core circuit. I walked outside with the dogs to find a bunch of branches had fallen on and around the storage shed. No big deal, but I wanted to clear them off before the rain came back. As I rounded the back of the shed, images of a small iceberg hit: the branches were actually the top of a six-inch diameter tree that had fallen through the only possible clearing in the tree line, across the fence, to rest on the shed. Most of the tree was still on county property, but it’d be days before anyone would be out to clear it, so I put on full-cover clothes (lots of vines and undergrowth), grabbed the only lumberjacking tool I own (a small sport hatchet), and went to town. Three-quarters through the main trunk (about four inches in diameter where I chose to cut it so as not to damage the fence), I realized that it wasn’t giving at all–there was a three-inch branch supporting the whole thing on the ground just below my cut point (damned thing even had a natural crook in it so that it looked like it was reclining on an elbow, the bastard). The pressure of the tree’s weight made the branch harder to cut than the trunk, but it finally split along its length and gave out. The trunk still wouldn’t fold, but it would twist (this was some fresh, green wood–why it fell, I don’t know), so after all the cutting, I finished with several big pushes to swing it off the shed and back to the ground behind the fence. Nature being what it is, and considering I had to be at work earlier than usual today, I couldn’t get in a balanced workload, so my uncoordinated left shoulder and rotation went less-used, but I really don’t care.

Nothing like finding a fun workout when you least expect it. I will, however, be buying a full-sized ax and a chainsaw in the near-future.

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One week left…

Posted by Ben on Saturday, June 6, 2009

…until the head potentially gets shaved. I say “potentially” since, the economy being what it is, donations are pretty low at this point, but hey, one guy already did the deed; I may just get to keep MY hair :) However, if you’re so inclined, consider helping out the Komen Foundation while also seeing the hilarity/horror of me without a head of hair.

EDIT (06/07/2009): Apparently, the Komen site doesn’t like Opera: I went on the site on IE this morning and, lo and behold, the donation figures popped up. Non-IE h8rz! Anywho, I based my assumption of the donations on the number of donors (three), but those donors have really stepped up ($175)! C’mon, we can break $250 before the week is out!

(I know the goal is $1000, but I really had no clue what to expect, so I just tossed out a number. Frankly, I’m happy with anything.)

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Charlotte area welcomes new youth fitness specialist

Posted by Ben on Friday, June 5, 2009

Me. I got my congratulatory email this morning (so much for written letters, though I prefer the speed of email) letting me know that I’d passed the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist (level 1) exam and that my certificate and other paperwork would arrive in 4-6 weeks, so I’m free and clear to start legitimately promoting my credentials and, oh I dunno, actually training people. Check out my newly updated Services page.

I’ve already talked to a local charter school that seemed pretty receptive to at least a consultancy relationship for their physical education program, but that’s very tentative right now. In the meantime, I’m reading The E-Myth Revisited (highly recommended several times), going through the resources provided on the IYCA’s members-only website, and looking to get the materials for the next certification level, so I’m not envisioning starting up something tomorrow, perhaps by the middle or end of summer at the earliest.

Anywho, back to your regular programming…

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Give the gift of life

Posted by Ben on Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rescue a tractor or truck tire from the trash heap. You give an old tire new purpose, help the environment, and whip yourself into shape fairly quickly. I FINALLY picked one up today—if you’re in the Charlotte area, Miller Brothers (8101 Statesville Road, in a small, white trailer behind ChillCon way back off the road). It’s about four feet high (see Twitter for a pic until I get one/some uploaded here), and I have no idea how much it weighs, but it’s enough that one tire flip is (I’m guessing) about 90% of my maximum ability right now. Of course, you have to have a place to keep this tire, so I wouldn’t recommend an apartment of any kind—this sucker is dirty and won’t be completely water-free for a couple weeks.

Speaking of water, I finally moved the very last of my junk out of my old place to the current one. This included my slosh pipe. My climbing rope is scheduled to arrive tomorrow (Wednesday; ordered from the eBay supplier in the linked article). There will be a lot of grunting and sweating (in a PG-rated manner) shortly :)

By the way, just over a week until the dome gets chromed. Every little bit helps!

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The power of pictures

Posted by Ben on Saturday, May 30, 2009

I decided to join a small body composition challenge over at JP Fitness this past week. Just “before” pictures and measurements so far, and as you can see by the rules, it’s pretty wide open, just one check-in at the end of the timeframe (Memorial Day-ish to Labor Day-ish). Measurements are just numbers to be tracked and compared frankly for vanity’s sake, but pictures are the blunt, no-punches-pulled truth. After looking at mine, a couple thoughts came to mind:

—It seems odd that I feel and move as well as I do while having that kind of body shape.
—Things certainly have gotten a bit out of hand since the last round of pictures I took a few years ago, though I do blame my relative lack of inactivity due to various injuries, especially over the past year (not blaming the injuries, just the inactivity).
—Knowing what my body CAN look like with some seriously strict training and dietary regimens, and seeing my starting point, everyone else might as well drop out ‘cuz they are toast :)

Need a kick in the pants? Go take some undies-only pictures. Try to get the camera at waist level rather than eye level—that couple feet of difference really changes the perspective and gives you a better idea of your true body shape. Look at the pictures and decide if you’ve really been training as hard as you can or eating as cleanly as you should. I know I haven’t. You’re welcome.

For the good of humanity and the sake of your eyesight, I will not be posting those pictures here. Again, you’re welcome.

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Speaking of shaving…

Posted by Ben on Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I mention the following since getting a haircut (and now a shave) is one of the single most relaxing things I can think of, so I’m counting is as regeneration :)

My recent move took me even farther from the already-tad-too-long drive I used to make to get my haircuts, and while twenty minutes was a stretch, an hour is completely out of the question, so I ventured down the street from the “new” place to a barber shop that advertises ten-dollar haircuts. This is usually a bad thing since anything at or under ten bucks these days is probably not the best when it comes to haircuts—I usually paid $15-20 for what I thought was a decent job—but I was willing to take the chance since I’m shaving it all off in a few weeks anyway.

I walked into the Matthews Barber Shop on Monroe Road this morningi and stepped back into the more traditional barber shops of my earliest days. Four barber chairs facing a dozen waiting chairs, a middle-aged East Asian man at work (the only difference from my past, which was more Floyd-from-Mayberry), and his wife, who spoke a half-dozen words of English and ended up doing my cut and shave. Ten minutes later, I had my clippers-only haircut. Another fifteen minutes later, I had my first-ever barber shop shave. I know there are places like Roosters in town, but for twenty bucks (the shave was another ten) plus tip, I really don’t need or want much else, and being five minutes down the road doesn’t hurt, either. In all likelihood, they have a new regular customer. Just need to tell the lady to skip the aftershave—I smell like Brut now *ugh*

I forgot to mention last time that one effect of my recent move is less time online for me. Before, my commute was just walking downstairs, so my laptop stayed on, meaning I was on it more often than not. Now, between all the packing and unpacking of my computer gear and the continuing stream of projects on the house, my laptop almost never gets powered on when I’m not at work, so blog posts may slow down a bit overall, but I’m still here; in fact, my pending IYCA certification and (hopeful) subsequent related work may actually start to dominate the content here, but there will continue to be content. As for all my backlogged links, I’m still throwing them out in my “Recent Clicks” section, so if their inclusion here is a little sparse, I’m still getting my reading done.

Coming semi-soon (maybe): the joys of grilling (in honor of having officially broken in the new grill last night).

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