Moderated by Tom Sabulis
Obesity in Georgia and Reality TV have come together with Honey Boo Boo. In today’s weekly Saturday column, a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta leader says the eating habits of the junk-food junior are not far from our own. Commenting is open below the column.
By Stephanie Walsh
“Honey Boo Boo” and her over-the-top reality TV family have struck a nerve with Georgians. Locals are cringing with concern that the nation might view this family as an accurate portrayal of our state. However, based on the children and families we see at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the truth is that Honey Boo Boo and her family’s health habits may be more of the norm in Georgia than everyone would like to believe.
We’ve seen Honey Boo Boo’s mom give her a sugary concoction of Mountain Dew and Red Bull they call “Go-Go Juice,” the family fights over “fat cakes” (packaged snack cakes) and at dinner she orders two sides of meat with her meal of meat. We hear people say they’re shocked when they see it on TV, but consider your family’s habits in light of theirs.
When was the last time you gave your kids sugar-heavy sports drinks after a soccer or little league game instead of the water their bodies really need? Have you eaten at an all-you-can-eat buffet and allowed your kid to load their plate with a variety of fatty meats, fried foods and decadent desserts? (And, as their role model for behavior, what do your kids see you eating at these types of places?) Does your family eat more fast food meals than home-cooked ones filled with vegetables/fruits? Ask yourself, if cameras followed you around, what behaviors would they show you role modeling at home?
Georgia is facing a major health issue as the state with the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the nation (nearly one million kids classified as overweight or obese). At Children’s we’re treating kids with diseases that once only faced adults, like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. While the majority of Georgia parents know childhood obesity is a problem, a Children’s study shows that parents of overweight and obese children just don’t believe their family has a problem, so they dismiss a few extra pounds here or there that over time could potentially lead to increased health risks for their child.
So back to Honey Boo Boo. Once you strip away the pageantry and spectacle of entertainment TV, what are we left with? We have a seemingly loving family who care for each other and are doing the best they know how. Are they eccentric? Sure. Could they alter their behaviors to be healthier? From what we’re shown on TV, most definitely. Are they that different than other local families? With nearly 40 percent of Georgia families having an increased risk of health effects stemming from childhood obesity (regardless of socio-economic status), Honey Boo Boo and her family are not as different as everyone wants to believe.
As a leader in the fight against the medical epidemic of childhood obesity, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta can’t sit silently as parents scoff at this family while denying potential health risks in their own homes. Show the children you love how much they mean to you by first acting as a healthy role model and second, making the hard decisions needed for their health.
It’s tough love time, Georgia. Our kids and families are in crisis, but if we all work together, we can do it.
Dr. Stephanie Walsh is Medical Director of Child Wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.