Is this child abuse? If so, how do we fix it??

I was a chubby kid for sure.  No doubt about it, by age 10, I was definitely overweight.  I was not morbidly obese, however.  That didn’t come until adulthood.  I completely understand that kids will be overweight and that happens.  I feel like there are so many factors that contribute ranging from genetics to cultural factors.  I want to make it very clear that in no way do I expect every child in America to be thin or skinny.

As a parent myself, what I do expect is for parents to keep their children as healthy as they can.  While at the grocery store this week, I saw something that I just could not get out of my head.  It has bothered me to the point of making me want to blog about it today.  There was a family, a very young family, with one child.  The parents were morbidly obese.  They had one small child who looked to be about three or four.  He was a cute little thing and was sitting in the buggy eating a donut.

My issue- this child was morbidly obese.  Not chubby, not pleasingly plump, but morbidly obese.  It really bothered me.  Is it my business?  No not really, but I do not understand the concept of not being able to tell a four-year-old child NO, or enough is enough.  I do not believe in government interference to the point of charging these parents with child abuse.  I have read several articles on this very topic this week, and to me that is not the answer.

However, I must question the parenting skills when a 12-year-old child weight 400 pounds.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME????  That goes beyond spoiling and not wanting to say no or upset your child.  Read this story.

Can a small child hitchhike to Mc Donalds every day?  Can a 4-year-old stock the pantry with cookies and cakes and garbage?  Of course not.  While genetics clearly play a factor in weight gain in most of us, there is no denying that none of us gets to be morbidly obese  by pure genetics.  We control what goes into our mouths and into the mouths of our children.

The 400 pound 12-year-old that the above article talks about was taken from the home and placed into foster care.  The article goes on to say that after a year in foster care where the child was given three balanced meals per day plus two snacks and some moderate exercise, she lost 130 pounds and her diabetes and apnea went away.  She is still in foster care.

This kind of story really tears me up internally.  It kills me to think of a child being taken from the parents, but at what point is the determination made that this child is being abused and her life could be in danger?  I am six feet tall and at my highest was 326 pounds.  I was HORRIBLY obese and had a BMI of 44.  I cannot even imagine getting up to 400 pounds at my height, and while the article does not say how tall this 12-year-old child is, I am quite sure she is not six feet tall.

When a child has sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the parents are allowing this to happen, someone has to do something.  The big question is what to do?  I do not think taking the child away solves the issue.  I think the parents have to be dealt with.  There is something wrong with a parent who allows a small child to grow to 400 pounds.

I do not think forcing the parents into counseling and nutrition classes is too overbearing or too meddlesome when the life of the child is at stake.  The problem with just taking the child out of the home is that in most of these cases with morbidly obese children, the parents are morbidly obese as well.  If you remove the child and get them healthy and then place them back in the home with the parents who are still living and eating the same way, nothing changes and no one is truly helped.

When I saw that small child in the grocery store, it made me so sad because I had just read this article.  But what to do?  You certainly cannot walk up to the parents and tell them to STOP  FEEDING THE KIDS DONUTS!  I have actually thought about that child several times since seeing that family in the grocery store.  I know there is nothing I can do to help their specific situation, but I can do my part in general and with my own kids.

If something is not done soon about the obesity epidemic in this country and particularly the rising rate in obese kids, we are going to have some seriously ill teens and then adults down the road.  If you read the article above, even the longevity rates in america are declining in part due to the rise in obesity rates.


Change is hard and in a lot of households, love is expressed through food and big meals.  I am from a big family with Cajun and French ancestry in Louisiana.  I grew up in New Orleans, the food capital of the country.  When I decided to get healthy and to make sure my kids were as healthy as they could be, I faced a lot of resistance.  We decided that in our house there would be no cookies and snack cakes and soda.  We do not buy anything with sugar, except the kids’ peanut butter and grape jelly.  If they want a snack, we have sugar-free pudding, low-fat snack crackers, or healthy cereals.  We keep fresh fruit and raw veggies in the fridge and they know that if we are on vacation or at a party at someone else’s house, that is their chance to splurge and have that sweet treat.  My husband Ben and I do not deny them these things for special occasions.  Yes they all get a cake for their birthdays and get to have candy at Halloween.

It is all about moderation and daily habits.  Three years into our lifestyle change, they are all fine.  Some members of my extended family thought that removing the junk was just cruel and would have traumatized them.  WRONG.  They are all healthy, happy, and active and we do physical activities together.  Do they look just deprived?

We have not eaten at a fast food restaurant in over two years and they have lived to tell about it.  We go out to eat about once a week and they just NEVER ask for fast food.  They know it isn’t part of our lives anymore.  It just doesn’t come up in conversation.  I feel good about the healthy habits we have created in them.

If you have friends or family with a child who is dangerously obese, and again I am NOT talking about a chubby kid, I am talking a morbidly obese child who is clearly that way due to poor food choices by the parent and NOT genetics, I challenge you to invite parent and child to your house for a healthy meal and even encourage allowing the child to help cook.

Or you could invite them all to go for a nice walk with you.  There are things yo can so without being hurtful to introduce them to healthier choices.  Have you child invite their child over for a sleepover and plan some fun physical activities and plan for good food options.  While we cannot change every parent and get every parent to stop filling their kids with fattening garbage, we can try our best to e good influences.  I feel that as a gastric bypass patient and formerly morbidly obese person, I owe it to myself and to those around me to try to be a good example.  We CAN make a difference and while it may be small, a million small differences can add up to a HUGE impact!

How can you help?  Support obesity-related causes such as the  OAC.  Check out their website and consider joining.  They do things to fight childhood obesity and are a great organization.  Do you own a restaurant? Be sure to have healthy options for kids.  Do you work at a fitness center?  Offer deep discounts for families and children. Encourage your child to play organized sports and offer to be a coach or team mom.  The ways we can all help are endless!  It just takes a lot of people doing small things.

I want to know your thoughts on this topic.  Would you take the child from the home?  would you put the parents in counseling?  What are some ways YOU think you can impact the obesity epidemic in kids?


About Erin Akey

I am a formerly morbidly obese wife, mother, Christian, author, speaker, water fitness instructor, nutritionist, anti-obesity advocate, and Emerald Ambassador with Plexus Worldwide. I am passionate about helping people fight the disease of obesity and also preventing and addressing obesity in children. I believe we have so many amazing tools available to treat this disease and we all need to take advantage of the ones we feel are right for us. I am also passionate about women taking the time to care for their needs. We live in a world where so many of us spend all of our time taking care of others that we neglect ourselves. I am all about making God the center of everything and letting His will take control of our lives and watching the beautiful blessings come from that release of power! Live, Laugh, and LOVE every day! Be grateful and be humble and watch the world around you change!
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One Response to Is this child abuse? If so, how do we fix it??

  1. Joy says:

    I agree with you that parents are responsible for their kids’ diet choices. This hit home after I read this Mom’s Guide ( the other day and did a little more research realizing even the harm certain foods like sugar and processed foods were having on my son’s health. He is not obese but I also don’t want to contribute to any health problems he might get as a result in the future. It hit me that he eats what I prefer to eat. We are going to be making some changes.

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