A Conversation with Jill Castle about Childhood Obesity

Through her Nourished Child podcast, Jill Castle brings whole-child nutrition insights to families all over the world. U.S. News recently named The Nourished Child as one of the top ten podcasts for nutrition – the only one on its list for childhood nutrition. The latest edition of her podcast features an interview with ConscienHealth founder Ted Kyle. You’ll find a link to the full podcast below, as well as excerpts from the interview below the link to the audio. We appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this excellent program.

About the Harm of Bias in Childhood Obesity

Bias can cause more harm in childhood obesity than obesity itself. That’s because obesity is kind of a slow burn – especially for children who are not severely affected. As a child grows up, they may go through perfectly normal periods where they may have have more or less body fat. I look at pictures of myself as a child and can see times like when I was extremely lean and lanky. But at other were times, I was carrying more body fat. That’s just absolutely normal. So if you have a child that is fairly average in terms of what we call adiposity and tell them that they have a problem, guess what? You might be creating a problem where none exists.

About Severe Childhood Obesity

However, none of that discounts the child at age two who has plainly inherited a physiology that stores a whole lot of fat. That’s going to cause problems with their health, including things like what we formerly called adult-onset diabetes. Type 2 diabetes that might get started early in a child with severe physiologic obesity. That needs medical attention.

Unfortunately it’s not easy to find. There are good folks in Connecticut where you are, Jill. But you really have to look. They don’t promote themselves to say “we are the greatest center for severe childhood obesity.” It’s not a big money-maker for a children’s hospital.

About Supporting a Child with Good Medical Care

So if you have a child with severe obesity, you don’t need to be blaming that child. You need to be supporting that child just as you would if you had that child with type 1 diabetes. It’s not a choice they made for themselves. It is a physiologic problem and they need help with it.

Unfortunately, some advocates will argue that treating a child with obesity actually furthers the stigma of their condition. But the truth is that children with severe obesity know it. You can be sure that it’s not going to escape their attention that their obesity makes them stand out. Other children will point it out to them. Teachers will point it out to them in some subtle ways that are just as cruel as other people who are explicitly cruel. It’s not something that’s easy to ignore.

However, the research in pediatric obesity says that competent professionals, who are expert in providing care for severe childhood obesity, actually make things better. It’s because they know to pay attention to the psychosocial impact of childhood obesity and the impact on quality of life. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it not be a problem.

Click here for more details on this podcast and here for more on the challenge to provide better care for childhood obesity. Finally, be sure to subscribe to Jill Castle’s Nourished Child podcast on your favorite app. Our good friend Faith Newsome will be the featured guest for the very next edition. Don’t miss it.

Nourished Child Podcast Episode #108, illustration and podcast © Jill Castle

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April 24, 2020