In order to beat the childhood obesity epidemic in this country we have to SELL KIDS on an action plan that they will enthusiastically approve. In other words, if kids fail to buy in, all the time, effort, energy, and resources we spend on promoting any program will be meaningless and inconsequential, not to mention a total waste.
So the bottom line question in my mind is, are we smart enough to create a program that kids will consider to be “COOL" (so they'll be intrinsically motivated to participate), but that will simultaneously turn the tide on childhood obesity? Here are a few thoughts on that question.
Bad, Strong, and Weak
As an ex teacher and coach I've met a lot of kids who pride themselves in being bad. And today being bad is often considered the same as being cool. But in seventeen years of teaching and coaching I never met even one kid who took any pride in being weak. In other words, every kid I ever met naturally wanted to be strong at everything and weak at nothing. It's that simple.
Here's What Being Bad Means
Lets’ translate all this in a little different way. Saying “I'm bad" is a modern way of saying “I'm strong. I don't cave in to teachers. I don't cave into parents. I don't cave in to authority and the status quo. I stand my ground. I don't take any crap from anyone, so don't mess with me. " In this sense, being bad is cool, which makes it acceptable.
Strong is Always Cool
Historically speaking, being strong has always been cool, and being weak has always been uncool. In this light, and in their heart of hearts, every kid I've ever met longs to be strong and cool at everything, while weak and uncool at nothing. It's human nature. It's built into the genes.
So What. . .
So what does all this terminology analysis have to do with beating childhood obesity you ask? I suggest that it points us towards an answer to the question we originally asked. . . “Are we smart enough to create a program that kids will consider to be cool (so they'll be intrinsically motivated to participate), but that will simultaneously turn the tide on childhood obesity?"
It's As Simple as ABC
I have a good friend that I only refer to as the old coach (he prefers the shadows over the spotlight) who contends that the cool solution to the 21st century childhood obesity crisis is as simple as A, B, C.
A. Kids who can do pull ups are never obese.
B. If you start them young using a height adjustable pull up bar and leg assisted pull ups, almost all kids can learn to do pull ups in a predictable amount of time and have great fun doing it. (Kids love being able to tackle a difficult task in public and winning time after time after time. )
C. If A and B are true, then it's also true that almost all kids can immunize themselves against obesity for a lifetime by learning to do pull ups, and by maintaining it for a lifetime.
A High School Graduation Requirement
In the coach's own words, “If we started teaching pull ups in kindergarten, and made pull ups a high school graduation requirement, the childhood obesity epidemic would be ancient history in less than a decade. Now with that information in hand, we suddenly have no excuses for failing to turn the tide on childhood obesity. It's simple. It's safe. It's cheap. It works for both boys and girls of any size and shape. And it's been proven to win enthusiastic approval from kids who all think it's extremely cool to be strong, and extremely uncool to be weak. What more can you possibly want?" I for one, always found it hard to argue with the old coach because he's usually right.
Rick Osbourne is a Chicago based writer who currently serves as Executive Director of Operation Pull Your Own Weight (http://www.pullyourownweight.net and http://www.pullyourownweight.com ), an informative website designed to help parents and educators immunize kids against obesity for a lifetime naturally, without resorting to pills, shots, or special diets to do the trick. Osbourne is also a public speaker and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org