Walking dangerously parallel to a path first trod by Michael Pollan when he complained that feminism is one of the unwitting culprits of obesity in American children, researchers in India are starting to blame Indian mothers for spreading childhood obesity. Mothers are overfeeding their kids, suggests a new study from India’s National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation, and its all because they’re mistaking obesity for a sign of healthy vigor.
According to the Telegraph, childhood obesity (and adult obesity) in India owes itself in part to a lingering famine mentality. Grandmothers, so this logic goes, still remember a time when food was scarce, and have handed down their food anxiety to mothers, who in turn feed their kids until they acquire puffy cheek, double-chin aesthetic that serves as a mark of good health.
However, as the Foundation’s study found, obesity is becoming a serious problem in some Indian cities: 64.8 percent of women surveyed in four cities were overweight or obese, along with 19.2 percent of their sons and 18.1 percent of their daughters. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Anoop Misra, attributed these rising rates of obesity to the sorts of values previous generations had about health and nutrition: “Despite the obesity of their children they are fussing over them and if the child is overweight they consider them healthy rather than fat.”
Not only do some Indian families have a lingering (and in these instances, vestigial) famine mentality, they’ve also come to regard home cooking as “old fashioned,” preferring instead pre-packaged meals as a mark of modernity.
The study comes amid reports that obesity is a problem among India’s police and military personnel, so nutrition is becoming a hot topic in the national consciousness. Still, it seems everyone have to blame mothers for the poor dietary choices of entire nations? Surely the enormous corporate entities that create cheap, highly-processed, salt-blasted near-food are responsible for making their products irresistibly convenient and inexpensive deserve lot more credit in studies like these for rising rates of childhood obesity.
Image via AP, Manish Swarup