I am Dr. Liliya Slutsker, a board-certified physician of pediatrics and obesity medicine. I want to share with you a short story.
I was in my office seeing patients as I do during my daily routine. The door opened, and one of the supervisors stepped in with a tray of beautiful cupcakes and everybody’s face lit up. There were jokes and laughter. The whole mood improved. At that moment, I realized something: how much we love cupcakes and how we get addicted to sweets! Just merely seeing a cupcake put us in a festive mood.
Since very early on, we give babies sweetened water when they cry, then we go to juices and consider it healthy, and we celebrate their first birthday with large and sweet cakes, cupcakes or ice cream cakes. Later, kids start attending daycare, schools and have more friends to celebrate more birthdays, graduations and holiday. And every time sweet and artful cupcakes are there.
So cupcakes have come to indicate a good thing; a celebratory or festive event where kids get presents, and parents letting them play and get away with behaviors that may be punished in normal circumstances. In this way, we are not only helping them to develop a sweet tooth, but we are also reinforcing their addiction with presents and festive behavior.
While our economic welfare is getting better, we have more sweets and more cake. As a result, more kids are overweight or obese; precisely 34% in Alabama. And you do not have to tell them that they are carrying extra weight: they know. The kids know because they feel how their friends or strangers look at them. They know because they are being teased and bullied. They know because they see some of their relatives or parents with the same problem, facing the consequences of high blood pressure and diabetes, wheelchair bound because of joint pain or getting treatment for cancer.
Did you know that that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the total mortality rate for U.S. youth ages 10-19 rose 12% from 2013 to 2016 in large part due to the sharp increase in injury death (unintentional accidents, suicides, homicides)? And the statistical prediction is that this younger generation is going to have a shorter lifespan than us due to rising obesity, and carrying the many ailments associated with it.
It is tough to even start a conversation with kids about weight. They start crying because they know they are overweight and they are scared but are not able to do anything about it. It is a disease, and it needs to be treated or we have to join forces to prevent it from happening in the first place.
In France, there is a ban on free refills for soda. We can do better than that. We have to raise awareness to protect our children, our society from this chronic illness. That is why I have declared war on cupcakes! I don’t want to just talk. I want to develop a strategy. And I want you to join me, to help me and become a cupcake fighter.
- To all the mamas: Please send me your best birthday celebration plan without cupcakes. The plan should have something fun, but healthy. Food snacks such as carrots, apples, berries and any sweets. It has to be healthy, but please avoid an all-or-nothing mentality. I will feature your suggestions on this blog.
- Grandmothers: Do not bring cupcakes to your grandchildren, but instead teach kids to cook. They would appreciate if you invite them to join you to make grilled cauliflower with cheddar cheese or something like that. Please send to this blog your favorite healthy food recipes!
- Grandfathers: Take your grandchildren for a hike, tell them great stories of fishing, or how the American rowing team won a gold medal in the 1939 Olympics.
- Parents: Please join places such as the YMCA. When you visit the Trussville Y, you may think, “Oh! It’s so loud and crowded,” but that is because kids are playing, shooting basketballs and having fun. Your kids should join them too. Let kids fidget, move — do not try to keep them still all the time. Remember, these are kids, their attention spans are short. They need to run, not be quiet and sit still; let kids be kids.
Please join me in the War on Cupcakes.
Yours in health,