Often times, the people closest to an issue are the ones who have the hardest time stepping back from the details in order to see the big picture. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the researcher who recently had a breakthrough on the childhood obesity front didn’t come from the usual pool of obesity “experts.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture just awarded Carol Costello — a retail, hospitality, and tourism professor at the University of Tennessee — $600,000 to study childhood obesity and weight. For more than a decade, Costello coordinated the food service for an event called “Destination ImagiNation” (DI). The program attracts thousands of kids from across the country to participate in problem-solving competitions. Serving contestants in the lunch line, the professor observed that even though foods eaten by these kids weren’t different from meals traditionally consumed by other American children, very few of them were overweight. Today’s Knoxville News Sentinel elaborated on this point:
Costello noticed the DI participants were not necessarily eating differently but thought the activity of working with a group toward a goal made the kids more active, and in turn, maintain an average weight.
“They aren’t (playing) video games, (and) they aren’t sitting in front of the TV,” Costello said. “They are engaged. Getting into an organization or an after-school program that allows the child to feel better about himself — working in a team, having positive outcomes — is really translative.”
This reaffirms the argument we’ve been making for decades: When it comes to Americans’ weight, La-Z-Boys are a bigger threat than leftovers.