Hey Dad – this time it’s all YOUR fault

A new study on obesity has found children whose father is fat or obese are more likely to be fat or obese themselves. [beware of the ‘headless fatty’ shot of a lovely chubby bubby]

Young children with fat dads are more likely to become obese as they grow up, scientists have found.

Previous studies have indicated children are at risk of obesity if both parents are overweight or obese.
However a new study by University of Newcastle researchers found that having a fat dad made a child four times more likely to be obese by age eight or nine than those with healthy [my emphasis] dads.
But only having an obese or overweight mum in the family did not have the same effect.
Lead researcher Dr Emily Freeman said it was unclear why overweight dads had such a big impact on their children’s girths.

So lets unpack this first bit – Fat Dads = Unhealthy Dads = Fat kids. So how do they know that the Dads are unhealthy? I haven’t read the research paper but just going from the media article I don’t hold out a lot of hope that it gets explained.

One theory was a father’s eating and exercise habits could be influencing what his children eat and how much physical activity they do.

“We think it’s most likely to be because dads are being models of poor eating and exercise,” Dr Freeman said.

“You hear lots of stories about how mums do all the grocery shopping and cook the dinners, and women in general tend to be more knowledgeable about weight, diet and exercise.

“So we are not exactly sure what’s going on there.”

Couldn’t possibly be genetics could it? I mean these people are scientists you think they’d be all over the possible genetics aspect, right? Although they did miss the fat =/= unhealthy. I wonder why they can’t imagine that a fat dad could also be an active dad?

I wonder if fat shaming dads will have any effect?
ETA: thanks to @stephendann I have now read the research results. They didn’t conduct the research themselves, they used statistics collected by a Govt Agency. So I think that there are some big unexamined assumptions at the base of this study. It would be difficult to assess the amount of activity/fitness that a family does if all you have are a page of statistics.

Categories: culture wars, education, health, media, medicine, parenting, skepticism

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6 replies

  1. [TW fat shaming, mental illness, medical discussion]
    Is it just me, or is there a widespread reluctance to appear to lend credence to the idea that weight may be related to genetics or body make-up?* It is as if folks don’t want to give anyone any ideas that go against fat shaming and ‘Bunsen burner’ logic.
    Some days, choosing to take medication that has both compromised my satiety and led to weight gain feels like a rebellious act. I consciously chose my mind and life over my body fat ratio! An unconscionable lady-decision if ever there was one!
    *Plus privilege-blind foolery around food, gardens, free time and so on and so forth, obvs.

  2. And of course, the study fails at the very first hurdle – weight (or BMI) is not a reliable guide to fatness, even if fatness had anything significant to do with health.

  3. Having had my own fat shaming father, no, it doesn’t make any difference – I’m still fat.

  4. Oh for crying out loud.
    It would be WONDERFUL if our society would at least admit to ourselves that the reason the “naturally thin” body type is considered so desirable is because of its scarcity. It was deliberately chosen for that reason – because with increased availability of food and food storage technologies (such as refrigeration and similar) in even working class homes, it was possible for even the lower classes to put on “healthy flesh” without needing to achieve an aspirational level of income. In order to keep the lower orders in their place, some new level of aspirational image was required, and fortunately it was found in a few fashion models (or mannequins, as they used to be known) back in the 1960s. By making people (especially working class women) aspire toward a bodily configuration they weren’t likely to achieve (tall, broad-shouldered, slender) without spectacularly fortunate genetics, the advertising industry could keep people dissatisfied with their situations for years, and keep people buying products which had been guaranteed to “cure” their problem for even longer.
    Let’s all admit to ourselves that the diet industry is a multi-billion dollar multi-national industry, and their chief product is something which they shouldn’t legally be permitted to sell in the first place (it has a 90% failure rate at absolute best, it causes health problems in both the short and long terms in the majority of users, and the tactics used to sell it are at best pressure-based, and at worst outright coercive or cultish). They have a vested interest in selling us dissatisfaction with our bodies, and a vested interest in covering up or burying research which points to variation in healthy weight ranges being a normal part of human genetic variability across the species. They have a vested interest in funding research which can be sold to the press as supporting their fundamental argument, which is that all humans are able to achieve the aspirational body shape being sold to us (even though there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting the number able to achieve it is only about 10% of the overall population) given sufficient application of Their Product.
    And yeah, I agree, my weight is partially the fault of my paternal grandfather (who came from a line of barrel-chested, solid-bodied Yorkshiremen from the working classes). It’s also partially the fault of my maternal grandmother (whose working-class North English family tended toward short, solid body types as well). Plus there’s those ten fucking years of weight-loss dieting I did between the ages of twelve and twenty-three to blame for at least some of it too (I lost ten years of my life, ten years of sanity, and any possibility of liking cottage cheese; I gained a thyroid problem, all my original weight back double, chronic depression, low self-esteem, and chronic problems with my knees).
    If we’re going to be laying the blame for childhood “obesity”, how about we start with the advertising, weight-loss and fashion industries, and move out from there, hmmm?

  5. All I have for this study is five million facepalms.

  6. Good to see that they tested their hypothesis against families with a step-dad or other unrelated male father figure to see if it was in fact dad’s behaviour rather than genetics that caused the “problem”. Oh wait. They didn’t do that.

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