The Surprising Reason Why Men Find Curvy Women More Attractive

September 11, 2012

It appears that men’s preference for more curvy women has quite a lot to do with the fact that curvy figures historically have possessed more of the healthy omega-3 fatry acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is essential for proper brain development in children.

An article in the August 2012 issue of Psychology Today explains that men “know” something significant about women’s bodies that women don’t.  And it all has to do with nature’s mandate to produce children with great survival skills.  In fact, women are usually more like men’s ideals than they realize, and losing weight to meet the standard set by the fashion and modeling industries may not make them any more attractive to men.  ThinkStock.com

Men rate women as most attractive when they have a waist size that is 60-70% of their hip size.  To put things in perspective: The typical US undergrad has a waist that is 75% of her hip size. The average Playboy playmate is 53%, and the average fashion model is 46%. 

How does an “hourglass” figure relate to a woman’s success as a mother?  It has a lot to do with intelligence and body fat, which has everything to do with what you eat and where it comes from. 

The total amount of fat a human female carries is seven times that of other animals, and much more than men.  And the fat stored in women’s hips, butt, and legs is “protected” from weight fluctuations. Only during the last few months of pregnancy and while nursing do women start breaking down this lower-body fat, making it exclusively available to the growing fetus or infant.

Babies have an organ that is seven times larger than in other animals – the brain.  And it grows fastest in the first two years of life, and it only does so with ample supplies of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.  Guess where women’s bodies tend to stash DHA? In the hips and legs. 

American children rank 31st out of 64 nations in tests of academic ability. The highest scores are in places like Japan, where women have slender hourglass figures and have four times the amount of DHA in their blood.  American women are on average 20 pounds heavier than they were 40 years ago, and 40 pounds heavier than Japanese women of the same height.

Our modern eating habits may explain why we're packing on the pounds. With modern food processing techniques, the supply of DHA in our food supply has declined as we’ve become saturated with processed vegetable oils and animal products from animals fed grain and corn rather than grass.  As a result, in general, women’s body fat contains a lower percentage of DHA than previously in human history. However, developing babies still need the same amount.  So a woman’s body has no choice but to store more fat to ensure the proper amount of DHA is available. 

But that doesn't mean you should take drastic measures with your weight. The rise of the modern fashion model with the super-skinny, straight line body lacking curves has artificially skewed many women’s ideals of what is attractive.  The average fashion model has a general lack of curves that often leads to comparisons with the body type of a pre-teen boy.  The effect of fashion has affected women’s thinking:  Women are much less satisfied with their bodies after viewing images of super-skinny models.  However, men consistently prefer a curvier, fuller look that is nothing like the “ideal” presented by the fashion industry!

A better body that is both healthy and more attractive is – as usual – available through making better food choices.  Eating foods higher in DHA means your body needs to store less fat in order to have enough DHA. If we don’t get enough of what our bodies need, they tell us to eat more irrespective of real hunger.  

More for Sextember:

5 Ways to Prevent Facebook Drama During a Breakup

10 Dating Faux Pas

5 Signs a Date Went Badly

Sweet Spot of Stress

April 13, 2011

Hulk-rage-250 April is Stress Awareness Month.  It’s a good thing too since I’m sure you had no idea that chronic stress can take a real toll on you…right? It’s a common misperception that we need to eliminate stress. The truth is that struggling in life isn’t an option, it’s a requirement.

The good stress – “eustress” – keeps you focused, on your game, and doing things that matter to you.  The bad stress – “distress” – is inevitable at some point for all of us. 

Ideally, we periodically get hit with some negative stress, we handle it, recover to normal, manageable levels of stress, and life hums along.  Increasingly, life is less than ideal.

Stress used to be in the form of immediate threats to our survival.  (“Is that saber-toothed tiger going to eat me?”)  But now, the stresses are vague, long-term, and can’t be handled by a physical response.  (“My retirement fund is doing terribly.”  “How will I pay for college for my kids?”)

But the brain and the body only know one response to stress – the “fight or flight” response you’re likely familiar with. 

Your body gets pumped for action, and your brain starts alerting the attention and memory centers of the brain to heighten awareness of the stress. 

Acute stress is something we deal with in a relatively short period of time – hours or days at the most.  Chronic stress is anything that creates a stress response in your body for an extended period of time – weeks or months. 

The problem is when stress becomes chronic. Scientists don’t know exactly when the transition occurs from stress that builds up to stress that tears down, but they sure do know the effects when they see them.

Stress hormones (adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol) really like your hippocampus – a part of your brain that, among other things, plays a big role in memory.  If stress hormones get high enough for long enough, they can take over your memories, encoding even non-stressful events as stressful.  (Think of the war veteran who hears a firecracker and experiences a stress response like he was still in combat.)

Even worse, in excess amounts, stress hormones, can kill off the proteins that are designed to protect your brain from damage.  And with no nerve endings in your brain, you can’t feel the damage like you feel a sprained ankle.

The “feeling” of stress you experience is essentially the emotional echo of the underlying stress on your brain cells.  With chronic stress, the brain gets locked into the same pattern – typically one marked by pessimism, fear, and retreat from life. 

Normal events start to be perceived as stressful.  And the overabundance of stress can start to block access to existing memories.  (Think of stories you’ve heard about someone who panics while driving and steps on the gas instead of the brake pedal.)

Effective stress management does not involve eliminating stress.  It involves two components:

1.        Reducing the stress to eustress levels and acute distress events (like your car breaking down.)

2.        Re-taking control of your body’s response to stress.

The second one is best done with, you guessed it, exercise.  It provides a distraction, reduces muscle tension, builds brain resources, teaches you a different outcome to a stressor, reroutes your brain circuits to take action when stressed instead of “wait and worry,” and it sets you free (if you’re locked into a chronic stress pattern you feel anxious and restricted.)

One caveat though:  If you’re dealing with an excessive chronic stress load, your exercise efforts should not be at high intensity as very challenging workouts are another form of stress on the body so you don’t want to have workouts that “tear you down.”

Hitting the “sweet spot of stress” involves allowing enough stress into your life to give you purpose, meaning, and direction for your energies and efforts while avoiding getting locked into a chronic pattern of chronic stress that will tear down both your brain and your body.

My Teen’s a Nightmare – or Maybe Just Not Myelinated Yet

March 26, 2011

Teen-smokingAh, teenagers. Been there, done that. Do you remember being a teenager? Do you now have one of your own? Everyone falls into at least one of those two categories.It’s a universal truth that most teens are bad at decision-making. And anyone who has witnessed the “so-bad-it’s-hilarious” song and video “Friday” by Rebecca Black (getting over 55 million hits on You Tube at this writing) knows that teenage bad decisions keep coming.

On 3/28 at 10pm ET, Discovery Fit & Health will premiere My Teen's a Nightmare

Loud music, shouting, swearing, smoking and drinking -- these are just some teenage behaviors that are every parent's nightmare. But suppose you could just pack your bags and let someone else pick up the pieces? My Teen's a Nightmare gives overwrought parents the chance to do just that. Terrible teenagers are in for the shock of their lives -- their parents have left home and they're about to meet their match, teen expert Sarah Newton. Newton's moving in for four days to sort them out once and for all.

Ms. Newton has her hands full. But why?

The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) – home of our “executive decisions” like impulse control – doesn’t fully develop until we are well into our 20’s. So teenagers are governed more by the urges and impulses of a primitive “me first” reward system that isn’t yet kept in check by the PFC.

It’s not so much that teens make bad choices as they fail to inhibit behavior that has become reflexive. They have nearly adult bodies, but not adult brains. And their brains are close enough to being developed that it can get them into a whole lot of trouble.

Why do young people make bad decisions? All the circuits are there in their brains, but they have little myelin. Think of it like this…their brains are just about ready to go, a lot of the circuitry is connected, but their brains don’t yet know which circuits to treat as more important than the others.

When we repeat something often and learn it, those circuits in the brain get covered with more and more myelin. In essence, myelin is like insulation that wraps the circuit to protect it, keep it strong, and help it fire more readily. In terms of our discussion about teenagers, myelin = wisdom.

(For more details on the brain differences between teenagers and adults, see this excellent article from "How Stuff Works." )

But there is hope. In the book The Talent Code there is a reference to research from Marvin Eisenstadt who looked into the background of great historical or famous figures. There is a long and distinguished list of high achievers in history that lost a parent when they were young.

It sends a primal cue that "you are not safe."

This heightens the focus in a teenage brain at a time when the brain is most receptive to learning and mastering new skills. It provides a focus and direction for all the (commonly misspent) energy of youth.

When the proper motivation is there to focus the energy, teens can learn the skills and coping mechanisms necessary to achieve greatness later on in life.

Diabetes Disaster

March 24, 2011


Childhood obesity seems to be, quite literally, surrounding us these days. On Friday, March 25 @ 8 PM, Discovery Fit & Health will premiere "Big Babies."

The global epidemic of obesity is spawning a nursery-load of super-sized newborns, stressing parents, straining hospitals, and endangering the lives of moms and babies alike. In this sensitive and personal look at a serious and worsening problem, Big Babies follows three overweight women on their anxious journeys through pregnancy, into the delivery room and home again with newborns who weigh-in at thirteen pounds and more: twice the weight of an average infant.

A few days ago, a local major newspaper published an article on type-2 diabetes (the disease formerly known as "adult-onset" diabetes.) Unfortunately, it contained a lot of misinformation, some of it coming in the form of quotes from people in executive positions of children’s obesity programs who should know better.

One example is the director of the Child/Adolescent Diabetes Program at Children’s National Medical Center who promotes the idea that...."no one caused their diabetes."

(Translation: You didn't do anything to cause diabetes; it is just something that happened to you.)

Later on in the same article we are (thankfully) hit with some facts..."adults with pre-diabetes who lost 7% of body weight reduced risk of diabetes by 58%" and "It's crucial to find these children before their condition progresses to diabetes so that it can be reversed by lifestyle changes."

(Translation: by taking action, you can prevent diabetes.)

Are we to believe that our actions have an effect on diabetes, but that our inactions don't?

Type-2 diabetes is either affected by lifestyle choices or it isn’t. It can’t be only affected by positive choices.

As long as leaders in diabetes research conceal the truth that the majority (not all) of type-2 diabetes cases are lifestyle related, we will continue to struggle with this problem. This in no way means that anyone should feel guilty about it, but the truth is that the majority (again, not all, just to be clear) of type-2 cases are mostly self-inflicted through "inactions." And that is the real shame because it means most cases are avoidable.

With newborns essentially being born obese, we need to deal with the truths of diabetes and obesity rather than worry about making people feel bad.

Are You an Animal or a Vegetable?

March 07, 2011

Humans are mammals, that’s for sure. But what happens if we stop moving?

Labor-saving, energy-saving, attention-grabbing technology has transformed the way we spend our daily lives in the last century.

Running-cold-weather-1 But we are born to move. Without a "need" for activity that is directly related to survival on a day-to-day basis, it’s awfully easy to have "busy" day that doesn’t include much movement. As a result, we stick "exercise" back into our daily routines. And if we don’t, the results become apparent pretty quickly.

But this isn’t about that. This is about a philosophical perspective on fitness and movement.

While reading "Spark: The Revoltionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain," I came across an interesting passage.

In the Chinese language, a subject is an animal, and an object is a vegetable. As well know, "subjects" are acted on by verbs in language. And verbs mean action. Subjects use verbs to act on objects.

In Chinese language, you can’t ask a vegetable to move since it is an object (and since it can’t understand language or even hear, but you get the idea.) So if you don’t move, you are not an animal anymore – you are vegetable!

Don’t be a vegetable...buy them, cook them, eat them, enjoy them.

And get moving, you animal!

The One & Only Bit of Fitness & Wealth Advice You Need for 2011

January 31, 2011

It's all clear to me now...

There is one single piece of advice that can propel you toward better fitness and eliminate wasted time, money, and effort.

New year's resolution

It's the end of January - typically the time of year where the annual enthusiasm for fitness begins to wane.  As a result, I've been thinking a lot about why people forever struggle with fitness.  There are numerous reasons, but there is one that has become clear to me recently.

After devoting most of my adult life the last 13 years to fitness both personally and professionally, I've been asked many of the same questions over and over again by people everywhere.  As a result, I've figured out one single tip I can give you to guarantee that you'll never stumble again with fitness.

How's that for a set-up?

A lot of the myths, misinformation, and misconceptions that are so pervasive with fitness have to come from somewhere.  And they continually confuse, mislead, and divert your effort and your money away from what works.  

And I've figured out where they come from. 

 They come from all of the worthless fitness books and videos put out by people who have no business having a fitness product.

So here's the One Fitness Rule for 2011:

Don't buy any fitness product/book/video from anyone who isn't in the fitness industry.

Why will this work?

Fitness is one of a few areas of life where people with no education or credentials can write a book or get a TV show or put out a video.  

If they have a fitness book or video out only because they were on a reality show, or because they are celebrity, or some other meaningless reason, then don't buy it.  The stuff put out by non-experts is full of either overly simplified advice you've already heard before, or even worse, simply bad information.

Man_fell_off_the_deep_end_lg_wht And it competes for your attention, effort, and money, for that which has value and will work to provide lasting fitness.

There's a lot of passionate, smart, dedicated, knowledgeable, and unfortunately, mostly anonymous fitness professionals out there who are not Real Housewives, a Celebrity Trainer, or a self-proclaimed Self-Help Guru...so you don't see their products.

But you can find them...just stay away from the infomercial products, the fitness books written by anyone from a any reality show (unless they are actually a certified fitness professional by a reputable organization.

You can find one in your area by using IDEA Fitness Connect.  This is a much-needed tool to put the truly qualified in touch with the fitness hungry public.  (Here's my profile on IDEA Fitness Connect so you can see what it looks like when you search.)

Go find the real deal near you and get fit for real so you can skip resolutions next year!

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert

Author, Abs Revealed
Everyday Fitness videos
Everyday Fitness on Facebook


Resolutionary Handbook - Top Tips for Gym Etiquette in 2011

December 31, 2010

In gyms across the world, it will be time for the "Attack of the Resolutionaries" as a recent Washington Post article put it.

As a long-time veteran gym-user, I can see it from both sides - there's the new exerciser struggling to feel comfortable in a foreign environment, and the experienced gym user looking to get through a workout unobstructed by clueless gym-goers.Guy_back_to_square_1_lg_wht






Here are my top 10 tips for proper conduct in a gym that can be a handbook for both the "resolutionary" and the experienced exerciser. 

1.  Face it, gyms are dirty places.

2.  Get off the phone!

What's on TV?

Hey guys, pick a season!

Weight belts? Really?

When your machine is making a weird noise...or you are making a weird noise

Give 'em space.

8.  Repeat after me: "I do not need someone to show me the machines."

Working in

Step away from the dumbbell rack.

BONUS Tip: See below...

Face It, Gyms Are Dirty Places

Stop spraying everything in sight every time you use it.  And please, STOP spraying the mats!  All you're doing is making them wet so they pick up more dirt when the next person puts them down...and gets wet from laying on the mat!

Please just wipe up your own sweat and leave it at that. Gyms are dirty places and no amount of spraying and wiping is going to change that.  

Get Off the Phone

'Nuff said.  Put the down the damn phone and workout.  Stop texting, talking, squeezing the phone to your shoulder while you are weight training.  

I recommend that you keep a separate music player that is different from your phone for your workouts so you're not disturbed by incoming calls or message that can wait. Really, they can wait.

What's on TV?

Who cares.  Stop bugging the staff at your gym to change the channel.  We're here to teach you how to exercise, not to fulfill your TV programming needs.  Most of us don't care what's on and you shouldn't either.  It's a gym, not your living room.  

Hey Guys, Pick a Season!

This is mostly for the younger males:  You look foolish in the winter knit cap with the tank top.  Is your head in winter and your torso in summer?  It doesn't make you look cool, or tough, or whatever good thing you think it makes you look like.  You are not in an LA gang.  Pick a season and stick with it.

Weight Belts? Really?

It still surprises me that I see people using weight belts.  1985 called and it wants it's weight training methods back.  I cover the reasons why weight belts are a bad idea in detail in my book, Abs Revealed, but I'll just say this: No one aside from power lifters needs one...and they only need them when they are going for a max lift.

When Your Machine is Making a Weird Noise...or You are Making a Weird Noise

Stop. Don't just ignore it and keep going!  It the pin is banging on the frame of your weight training equipment, or your feet are squeaking on the treadmill belt, it's a sign that something isn't right. Please don't just let your ego get the better of you and pretend like you don't hear it.  

And if you're singing while you're working out, for the love of god, stop.  (Here's how headphones work: Only you can hear the music.)  So if you're singing with your headphones on, all we can hear is you and you don't sound as good as you think you do.  

If you're weight training and you're breathing makes it sound like you are leaking air, stop.  There is no benefit unless your goal is to annoy people around you.

Give 'Em Space

As you move about the gym, pay attention to what's going on around you.  If someone is lunging, don't just walk right in front of where they are stepping.  Stay out of the space someone is using while working out.  

And on the flip side, if you're the one lunging (or doing anything else), try to use the space as economically as possible to remember that you aren't the only person on earth using that gym.

"I just need someone to show me the machines."

No, you don't.  You need someone to show you how to exercise.  The machines aren't magic. They are just equipment.  And since most people spend all day sitting, it's very likely that machines are not the best way for you to exercise.  

Working In

If someone's towel/water bottle/workout journal is on a piece of equipment, it means they are using it and were there first.  Ask if you can work in and don't take it upon yourself to move their things out of the way.  

On the flip side, if you're using something, and someone wants to work in, ask them if they would like to.  (And some people don't know what "working in" means...it's essentially sharing or taking turns using the equipment.)

Step Away From the Dumbbell Rack

You look fabulous, you really do.  But BACK UP after you get your dumbbells. Standing smack in front of the dumbbell rack while you do a set of lateral raises essentially blocks off most of the rack...It's just plain rude, dude.  Get your close-ups in the mirror in your bathroom, not at the gym.

BONUS Tip:  Not sure what to do, get help from a qualified expert, not the most fit looking person in the gym.

The most fit-looking person in the gym probably knows how to get themselves in shape so if you have their same body type, age, gender, injury history, and goals, by all means, get help from them.  Otherwise, don't struggle and suffer.  Get help from a qualified fitness expert.  You just signed up to spend several hundred dollars - and maybe more - on your gym membership so don't waste it by blindly working out. Get a few sessions with a trainer (No, it shouldn't be free with your membership.) that will teach you to exercise so you can get real and lasting results. 

There you have it.  Hopefully, harmony, fat loss, and better muscle definition will now be coming to a gym near you!

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
Everyday Fitness videos
"Like” Everyday Fitness on Facebook

Top 5 Birthday Party Survival Tips

September 26, 2010

skeleton blowing out birthday cake
It's September and that means it's 
Childhood Obesity monthDiscovery Health launched a week of programming titled Adventures in Parenting that includes a show directly relating to childhood obesity called "Big Kids" that aired recently - check local listing to look for repeat airings.

The endless parade of birthday parties at school and in homes that your kids inevitably attend is a challenge to their health and to your parenting resolve.  

To help out, I've put together a list of 

Top 5 Birthday Party Survival Tips

Tip #1 - The 5 Faves

Have your child make a list of their five favorites candy/treat items, and make it specific.  Pick a specific candy bar, flavor of ice cream, type of chip, type of hard candy, etc.  Then make an agreement that, while at the party, beyond any official cake and ice cream (Why does cake need ice cream anyway?) offerings, your child can only consume snack items from the list of "5 Faves."

Why it works: It helps your child decide what their favorite items are and limit intake of things that just randomly happen to be there. 

Tip #2 - Salt or Sugar: Make a Choice

Have your child promise to consume only one salty and/or one sugary treat.  They can have some chips (salty) and a slice of cake (sugary), but this means no soda, candy, or any other salty or sugary food that is offered.  In most cases, the cake will take care of the sugar.  And if you have cake, then no ice cream.  If they want ice cream, then no cake.  

Why it works:  It allows your child to partake of the "festivities" without completely abandoning all good sense and wisdom.

Tip #3 -  "Accidentally" Forget the Goody Bag

This tradition of goody bags loaded with edible and inedible but usually equally useless junk isn't doing our bodies any favors.  So go ahead, have your "accidentally" forget theirs...I won't tell anyone.  (Why does something called a "goody" bag almost never have anything actually good in it?)

Why it works:  The contents aren't worth the effort of the hosts to make sure your child gets theirs later and it's another opportunity to reinforce the "have a treat you like" and forgo the rest of the junk lesson that is an essential survival skill for kids around junk food.

Tip #4 - The Runaround

If you're hosting the party, make it compulsory to have one movement-based game that all the kids play that is the centerpiece of the festivities.  You can even give out some prizes (using the funds you'd get by skipping the goody bags) for winners.  It can be something simple, indoors, and old-school like Twister, or something outdoors and more energetic if the weather is nice.

Why it works:  It gets the kids some much-needed physical activity to help burn off the extra energy they always seem to have even before they load up on sugar at the party.

Tip #5 - Celebrate and Educate

I was once at a birthday party where the hosts bought fruit that is a signature produce item (a Kiwi fruit, for example) from a country and for each item, they had a brief explanation of the item and the country where it came from written on index cards and they had each kid read one.  Then they cut the fruit up and let everyone sample it. Brilliant.  I was so impressed by the creativity and care shown by these parents at this party.  Bonus points for not just teaching the kids something, but filling them up a bit on fruit before the cake came out!

Why it works:  Do I really need to explain this one?


Try one, try 'em all.  There's something in here to make sure your kids have a more positive physical outcome to any birthday party they attend.

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
Everyday Fitness videos
"Like” Everyday Fitness on Facebook

Red Flag in a Bag - Childhood Obesity

September 07, 2010

It's September and that means it's Childhood Obesity month.  Discovery Health is launching a week of programming titled Adventures in Parenting that includes a show directly relating to childhood obesity called "Big Kids" that airs on Sept. 16 @ 9 PM.  Be sure to check it out

I had quite an "adventure in parenting" last week.  We sent my 10-year old step-daughter off to a party/gathering of her fellow dance team members who were gathering at one of the parent's houses.

This is where she discovered a horror known as "Tacos in a Bag."  I hadn't heard of this before so I was curious.  

Taco in a bag 1Basically, you take a bag of corn chips, add taco meat, cheese, sour cream, and the token sprinkling of lettuce and tomatoes, smash it all up, and eat it with a spoon right out of the bag.

Everyone scratching your heads about why our kids struggle with obesity, it's really not that hard to figure out. It's the countless examples of tacos in a bag and other nutritional freak shows we think are "fun" and "festive."

I was at an amusement park recently and with great sadness overheard a family of very obese individuals who were clearly uncomfortable walking around lament that the youngest child - a boy of about 5 or 6 who was very, very overweight already - had never tried a funnel cake before so they had to get him one.

Oh yes, having a funnel cake is really truly making the most of life.  Way to live to the fullest.

And just so no one reads this and starts getting all testy and defensive, these types of situations make me sad, not angry.  Sad, because people are wrecking their bodies, their health, and their ability to enjoy their own life. And worse, they are irresponsibly teaching kids very wrong ideas about food that will have lasting consequences.

But seeing the disastrous and always-negative results of obesity first-hand, I don't pull punches when I see this kind of stuff.  I didn't create our current reality, I'm just calling it like it is.

Fortunately, our 10-year old had the decency to let the host down nicely by saying she couldn't eat that (the tacos-in-a-bag) because she has braces (but she wouldn't have eaten it without the cover.)  Even worse, the host simply shrugged and told her she'd have to wait until she got home to get something to eat.  What a jerk.

Nothing's going to change until we do.  

It's always somebody's birthday, or the church is having a bake sale, or the kids are selling candy bars for school, or it's Halloween, Christmas, Daddy Doughnut Day, Mommy Muffin Day, or they're selling deep fried whatever at the County/State Fair, or had a great/terrible game at Little League, or any other of the lame reasons we brush aside nutrition concerns for kids and blindly say, "C'mon, it's just one day."  It's always "just one day" for one reason or another.

Disclaimer: Before you keyboard warriors start typing about how you don't "agree" with me (as if truth needs anyone's agreement)...I'm not saying you can never have treats.  You just don't have them every day so you avoid teaching kids addiction to junk foods and the psychological connection with celebrating every victory and soothing every skinned knee with junk food.

Tacos-in-a-Bag and other nightmares are shining, crunchy, salty, saturated reasons why we're having more kids suffer from obesity.  

The Red Flags are all around as and waving wildly - how long will we continue to ignore them?

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
Everyday Fitness videos
"Like” Everyday Fitness on Facebook

A Childhood Surrounded By Obesity

September 01, 2010

It's September and that means it's Childhood Obesity month.  Discovery Health is launching a week of programming titled Adventures in Parenting that includes a show directly relating to childhood obesity called "Big Kids" that airs on Sept. 16 @ 9 PM.  Be sure to check it out.

I'm kicking it off with a bit of a different perspective on childhood obesity - the view of obesity by a child surrounded by it in their family.

What's it like to grow up with obesity?  Simply put, it sucks.  But for more than the obvious reasons.

By some mix of recessive genes and an innate love of running around and playing outside whenever I could, I wasn't obese as a child, but I was still surrounded by obesity.  And it has made a lasting mark on my life.

My parents were both obese (read "800 Pounds of Parents" on my website if you want more background), and many people in my family are.  

Here's what it's like to grow up surrounded by obesity:

Get ready for LOTS of chores! 

  • The less my parents could do, the more I had to do.  I didn't mind doing my part around the house, but as soon as I was old enough, it went way beyond taking out the trash and cleaning my room.  My father especially stayed as inactive as possible and shifted a lot of the physical burden around the house to me.  
  • Everything from cutting the grass, to shoveling snow to washing the cars, to changing the TV channel for my dad was added to my "to do" list.  (This was before remote controls...)  
  • Finally, a few weeks before my father died, I had to learn how to give him an IV since he needed a drip of blood thinners administered twice a day.  Good times!

You probably think YOUR parents embarrassed YOU as a teenager!  
You have no idea...What stories I can tell.  Here's a few.

  • You haven't been truly embarrassed as a teenager until you have to go into the bathroom and scrub your father's back in the shower because he couldn't reach it.  
  • Going out to eat was an engineering problem - my father had to strategically choose a seat that had a table not screwed down because if it were, it wouldn't have enough room for his stomach. Sometimes we'd have to move to a different table after arriving at the hostess' initial choice and discovering that it didn't accommodate his belly.
  • Seeing my father's massive boxer shorts hanging on the clothes line outside was always a cringe-worthy moment.  And, about those boxers...
  • He would often refuse to wear anything but underwear and a t-shirt while at home.  It didn't matter if I had friends coming over or not.  He'd parade around in underwear and a t-shirt.  I know, right?

Everything I know about nutrition, I wish I would've learned in kindergarten
I wasn't really taught how to eat healthfully, just how to eat.  

Everything in life is learned, and nutrition is no different.  In many cases, my parents didn't know better...they simply followed what they were taught.

  • If I would eat vegetables at all, they had to be drenched in butter or a nuclear war would ensue at the table trying to get me eating them.
  • I was made to eat "healthy" food (see above) here and there, but there was also a steady diet of soda, sugary cereals, salty chips, fast food (I just HAD to have those Star Wars Happy Meals!)
  • I celebrated every happy event with cake, ice cream, cookies, or other junk.  And we likewise often soothed skinned knees with the same stuff.  (And we wonder why as adult's we're constantly "rewarding" ourselves with some awful food or another.)
  • I reached adulthood without a clue as to what proper nutrition actually is - I've had to learn it all, and change a mountain of bad habits.  And it is hard.  Very hard.

What's my point of all this?  Obesity is when excessive weight ruins the quality of life for you and those around you.  It's not a certain amount of weight - it's when your life is negatively affected and limited by anyone's excessive weight. 

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
Everyday Fitness videos
"Like” Everyday Fitness on Facebook




Jonathan Ross — fitness expert for Discovery Fit & Health and creator of Aion Fitness — was voted Exercise TV's "Top Trainer" and named in Men's Journal magazine's list of Top 100 Trainers in America. His personal experiences with obesity — "800 pounds of parents" — directly inspired his fitness career. His ability to bring fitness to those who need it the most has made him a two-time Personal Trainer of the Year Award-Winner (ACE and IDEA). His book, Abs Revealed, is filled with cutting-edge exercises in a modern, intelligent approach to abdominal training. His leadership and fresh perspectives on fitness earn him praise as a frequent go-to source of credible fitness information.


discovery health







stay connected

our sites