Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Calories In vs. Calories Out

Have you ever gotten into a Facebook discussion that ended up with all parties walking away dissatisfied?  A friend pulled me into one of those conversations the other day, and I felt it was relevant for this audience.  It goes like this:

Original Facebook Post by a Stranger:
A new study by a child obesity think tank, says that children consume less food if the plates are smaller. I don’t know about you but if there is less food on the plate then that is kinda obvious. However, the study fails to find the root cause of childhood obesity, if you take away a daily PE, and reduce recesses. Force kids to sit still for hours at a time, and send home more home work, it is inevitable that there will be more obese kids. Exercise is the most important factor in weight control. Depending on an arbitrary unscientific formula ( BMI) to make your assessment as to who are and are not over weight, will never take into account for individual variation.

Friend’s Comment:  The concept of the smaller plate is that we are visual. If we put the food on a bigger plate we will inevitably try to fill the bigger plate. A full small plate will seem to us like more food and thus make us feel “full” whereas the same amount of food on a plate that is larger will leave us feeling like we ate less and need more food.

At this point, my friend tagged me in the comment, asking if I agreed with his perspective.
Me:  Yup. We call it portion distortion. Food intake is far more of a factor than calorie expenditure could ever be when it comes to curbing obesity. You can only do so many squats in a day, but you can drink a bazillion empty calories in one theater-size Dr. Pepper without blinking an eye.
My dietitian recommends a 9″ plate. Bigger plates make us feel unsatiated.
I posted a link to this photo
Friend:  I get what [original poster] is saying too though. Schools are training children to have a more sedentary lifestyle.
OP:  We aren’t talking about children at home, we are talking about school children in a controlled environment. I don’t care how little you eat, without vigorous exercise, all humans gain weight. In years past there were chores that had to be done. Plus exercise and sports at at school. I think you would agree that our current lack no physical education is more of a contribution factor than the size of the tray o food at the cafeteria.
Me:  I’m going to have to write this up on Needless Pounds when I get to a keyboard. More damage can be done with your mouth than can be undone with your body. I exercise regularly and watch what I eat very carefully. It’s a balancing act. If your contention is that systemic lack of physical exercise is a greater contributing factor to childhood obesity than poor eating habits, then I have to agree with the scientists who’ve studied the matter and disagree with [original poser]. Lack of physical exercise is *a* factor in childhood obesity, but it is not the leading factor.
OP:  Then I guess we will have to disagree. Though we still depend on the seriously flawed USDA food Pyramid, and the even more flawed BMI, the lack of physical education is direct causal force in childhood obesity. It is not a priority in our schools, it is no longer needed on our homes. How many kids have to come home and mow the yard with a non motorized push lawn mower? Or feed the cows, chickens or goats, bring in the coal, the fire wood. Hoe a garden, haul hay or any other type of regular aerobic/strength exercise. The cells never wake up and then exacerbated by assaults with carb loaded grains, starches, refined white sugars, high fructose corn syrup. So much so that FLOTUS, started the ” Lets Move” campaign. All of this and then we wonder why 1 in 5 males are labeled ADHD. Placed on medication and still not give an outlet to burn this stores of energy we dump into them. Yes, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree.

I share this with you to see where you stand on the matter.  I believe that the amount of calories a person can expend in a day through physical exertion, exercise, work, chores, recreation, and other activity has a top limit, whereas the number of calories a person can consume has a much higher limit.

It’s possible to sit down and tear through a bag of high-fat, high-sugar processed snack food that contains more than enough calories to cover each and every calorie burned in a day’s time, and then some.  I agree that both of these factors are “up there” in reasons why children are obese, but I feel that poor nutrition is much more at fault.When looking at this from a calorie deficit perspective, there’s a lot more damage that can be done through poor nutrition choices than can be repaired through good physical exercise.

To the original poster’s remark about the food pyramid, that was phased out in 2010, in favor of MyPlate, which I’ve posted about on this site several times.  For more details, visit

What do you think?

Tagged , , ,

2 thoughts on “Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Calories In vs. Calories Out

  1. Jennifer says:

    I think they are both critical components. However, like the picture you posted before, you can’t outrun your fork. If children are being fed massive quantities of processed, unhealthy food, it will be hard for even increased activity to counteract that. And even children who look healthy usually are still eating very unhealthy foods and setting themselves up for future failure health-wise. Children need to be fed properly, be taught the importance of nutrition, and be allowed and encouraged to be more active. Until all three happen, the obesity epidemic will never stop.

  2. Adam says:

    I agree that a great deal of our problem is what children are fed. Portion control is a factor as well, but the extent of which varies with the extent of the person’s distorted view on ‘a portion.’ While children may be exercising less, they are also provided with an abundance of overly nutritious and tasty foods that are easy to eat and usually marketed as eaten in large quantities. I doubt however that children are influenced to be physical louts, because most kids I’ve seen only sit still to eat! Children are playful energetic little whirling dervishes…they’ll find time to spend some energy. It’s our goal to give them nutritious meals which make them feel good that they can actually burn off. Large meals with bloated portions or unlimited snacking can puff the child up and bury them in a caloric pit which is difficult to burn off.

Leave a Reply

Bookshelf 2.0 developed by

%d bloggers like this: