Friday 18 October 2019

Comment: 'I predict a future where fat kids can sue their parents'

Will overweight children be able to sue their parents for childhood diets? Getty Images
Will overweight children be able to sue their parents for childhood diets? Getty Images
Fiona Ness

Fiona Ness

Please, don't call the guards, but Je m'accuse. I am guilty of a heinous act. What crime? The one where I give my kids treats. I give them in full knowledge that poor food choices lead to a life of obesity and ill health. A life of cancer risks, heart disease and ­diabetes and even infertility.

If this doesn't qualify as child abuse, then what does?

When it comes to treats and obesity, there is a massive disconnect between cause and effect. When I give my children treats it doesn't feel like abuse: it feels like love.

With the news that over 30pc of the nation's children are now overweight or obese, the pressure to desist from treat-giving is immense; yet I continue - secreting a Percy Pig here, a square of fudge there, from my bag when I arrive home from work.

As a household we avoid junk or processed food in favour of balanced, home-cooked meals, but that ice-cream dessert we reserve only for weekends? I have been sneaking it in on particularly glum Wednesdays too. And then there's the child labour expended in our home-made cookie and cake baking that's practically a cottage industry.

Am I engaged in a criminal act? There are certainly increasing calls from the food Nazis to criminalise parents who feed their children junk food. The Fat Letters being sent home from school in Britain are a case in point.

I'm not sure about criminalisation; I predict a future where fat kids can sue their parents for compensation for the reduction in their life circumstances and expectancy, caused by their childhood diets.

And what parent in this age can realistically plead ignorance of the facts of what bad food is and does, in their defence? Even Heat magazine and reality TV addicts know that man cannot live on pizza and X Factor alone.

I know it, yet the small, sweet treats persist. So please, do judge me: I am a bad parent.

Their dad, by contrast, is not a bad parent. He grew up in a treatless-house. As a child in Cork, he had home-made soda bread and scrambled eggs for breakfast, while I was chowing down on dry Sugar Puffs in Scotland (the sweetie capital of the world). As an adult, he eats his fair share of treats, but has a zero-tolerance approach to me giving them to the children. He knows the benefits of an upbringing untainted by sugar.

I know I have to change, sign myself up for Treatpushers Anonymous, or make everyone go treat cold turkey. I know it makes sense, and yet I just can't fully rationalise it, that treating my children can't be a small, good thing.

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