This week’s quote comes from Christopher Wanjek, LiveScience’s “Bad Medicine” columnist, who warns readers about the cupcake police lurking in our schools:
It has come to this: In an effort to combat the growing obesity problem, the school board of Neenah, Wisconsin, has banned children from bringing in sweets to share with others for birthdays and other special occasions.
The real tragedy is that the actual carrying of a tray of cupcakes is about the only exercise many of these kids get.
Wanjek has a good point. But unfortunately, Neenah is not an isolated case. If today’s nutrition activists had their way, they would extend Neenah school board’s policy nationally. Yet our national debate on obesity is often times more a study in intellectual laziness than science. Why blame ourselves when we can just blame high-fructose corn syrup, fast-food restaurants, or trans fat? Or cupcakes?
As Wanjek suggests, singling out specific foods or ingredients is nonsensical. Physical activity is the best means to good health. Americans have been eating high-calorie meals for decades. It’s our lifestyle — more than our diet -- that has changed significantly.
For instance, the Mayo Clinic estimates that mechanized versions of previously manual tasks, such as washing dishes or mowing the lawn, decrease energy expenditure from 10,500 to 1,700 calories every month. That’s a rate of 30 pounds per year. In light of these facts, Neenah’s policies seem a bit ridiculous. Our comprehensive report, Small Choices, Big Bodies, chronicles the way these incremental lifestyle changes have accumulated on our waistlines.
Wisconsin’s Post-Crescent reports that, thankfully, not everyone sees things Neenah’s way. One parent asked the School Board to reconsider, asking, "How excited would you feel as a 6- or 7-year-old to bring bananas or carrot sticks to share with your friends?"
We’re waiting for some enterprising parent to push the envelope with carrot cake or banana bread. The mind boggles.