Pull Your Own Weight: Childhood obesity prevention and the light bulb

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A column by Rick Osbourne

So, how many psychoanalysts does it take to change a light bulb? Just one. But the light bulb must genuinely want to change. In this light (sorry) childhood obesity prevention is equally as simple as changing a light bulb. Calories in calories out, right? And in precisely the same way, the child must genuinely want to make the change in order for anything to work.

Of course that’s the dilemma isn’t it? We’ve spent the past two decades (as in over 20 years) and many billions of dollars trying to figure out how to reduce and eventually defeat childhood obesity. And after all this time, and all those billions spent, the one thing we know for sure is that kids must eat better and exercise more in order to solve the problem. What we’ve failed to figure though out is HOW TO MOTIVATE KIDS ENOUGH FOR THEM TO ACTUALLY EAT BETTER AND EXERCISE MORE! That’s the big challenge.

No Systematic Progress in Over Two Decades

We’ve raised awareness until it’s virtually impossible to be unaware of childhood obesity and all the problems that follow in its wake. We’ve made movies and documentary films on the subject. We’ve partnered with the NFL, the NBA, the PGA, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Clubs, with Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton. We’ve employed public relations. We’ve created slick, 4 color brochures, TV ads and web sites. We’ve developed catchy slogans complete with Disney cartoon characters. But WE’VE FAILED to move the dial even one tick.

There Is One Simple Solution, If…

But that doesn’t mean there’s no answer to this dilemma. There is an answer that the American Society of Exercise Physiologists has described as “A simple, easily implemented, easily documented, and affordable solution to childhood obesity.” Yet the bureaucratic experts in this field have successfully ignored this solution for years now. It’s as if they want to avoid solving the problem. It’s as if too many corporations are making too much money in the wake of this ongoing obesity epidemic. Why kill the goose that lays the golden egg, right?

Think about this. Statistics show that kids who can perform at least one conventional pull up are ALMOST NEVER OBESE. That’s common knowledge. Everyone knows it. What’s uncommon knowledge however is the fact that most kids (95% of them) can learn to do conventional pull ups in a predictable amount of time, say 6 weeks to 6 months. And if they simply maintain the ability to do at least one pull up (which requires decent eating and exercise habits) odds are they’ll NEVER BE OBESE or have to wrestle with the problems that follow in its wake.

But Most Importantly…

Most importantly however is that most kids genuinely enjoy the process of growing stronger along with their friends. After all, strong is always cool and weak is always uncool. Right? So with this simple, easily implemented, easily documented and affordable solution the motivation dilemma is resolved. No arm twisting. No extrinsic rewards. Just get out of the way, let them do what they naturally love to do – get stronger – and watch them change their own light bulbs.


Rick Osbourne is a former physical educator and a pioneer in the field of functional childhood obesity prevention. He currently serves as President of the Pull Your Own Weight Foundation which is an Illinois based, 501c3, not for profit organization whose focus is functional childhood obesity prevention. He’s written and published three books in this field, the latest of which is entitled Beating Childhood Obesity Now: A Simple Solution for Parents and Educators. He’s the Examiner’s national childhood obesity prevention correspondent. He writes an online column for The Edvocate. And you can connect with Rick via Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook.

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