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Jim Karas tells parents ‘just say no’ to junk food

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Updated: September 11, 2012 2:00AM

A month ago, a major cable network announced that in the coming years they will discontinue running junk food advertisements during many of their kids’ programs. Is that going to keep our kids from begging for it and then eating it? Let’s explore this together.

Look at it this way: What if your favorite kids’ show (starring swizzle stick-skinny “supposed” teens wearing way too much makeup) runs ads from a buff personal trainer who looks like Channing Tatum or Jessica Biel. Would your little Jack or Jill suddenly throw down their donuts and demand to work out?

Probably not. Now, if instead, they were to run ads of something more realistic — obese diabetics waiting for their dialysis — then maybe that would make you, the parent, pause before plowing into the second row of Oreos or digging into the bottom of the “family”-sized Ruffles bag while thinking, “Who’s sneaking in and eating these chips?” But commercials alone aren’t enough to do the job.

Fact: If a child is raised in a home with one obese parent, then their risk of obesity goes up by 50 percent. If both parents are obese, then the risk rises to 80 percent. So when we stop running ads, will little Johnny suddenly say to his obese mother, “Hey mom, how about we load up on spinach and kale the next time you go to the store?” What is her likely reaction? No. That’s not what she wants to eat. If it had been, she most likely wouldn’t be obese.

See, mom and dad make the purchase decisions. Kids don’t. When I see kids nagging their parents for the wrong food in the store, why not steal a page from Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign, man- (or woman-) up and “Just Say No?”

I wholeheartedly point the finger at the parents. Odds are they are the reason a child is overweight or obese, except in all but very few cases (and no, you don’t fall into one of those exceptions).

I say we, as parents, should act as role models. If you really don’t want to lose weight to live longer or be healthier (or how about sexier?), then do it for your kids. Once they leave the house around 17 or 18, you can get right back into bed with your two best friends, Ben and Jerry, and eat yourself into an early grave. And if you’re lucky enough to get diabetes (one third of all children born in the year 2000 are projected to get it) then you might even get to star in that commercial!

Jim Karas donated his fee for writing this column to Northwestern Integrative Medicine.

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