Over the years, I've seen a lot of fingers pointed when it comes to figuring out the root cause of today's skyrocketing obesity rates. Is it the schools? Parents? Television? Fast-food restaurants? The health care system? Some combination of all of the above? Or maybe there is some other source out there that researchers have not yet pinpointed.
That's what Melinda Sothern is banking on. At 55, Sothern is a leading fitness and nutrition expert at Louisiana State University. And according to her theory, today's obesity rate is less about the choices that Americans are making today and more about the choices that young mothers made, or didn't make, in the post-war 1950s. If she's right, it may very well make reproductive-age women the central focus of America's efforts to lose weight.
Sothern doesn't deny that a sedentary lifestyle and fast-food addiction will cause a person to gain weight. But according to her research, America's obesity problem began in the 1980s, after a generation of children were raised by mothers who smoked, turned their noses up at breastfeeding and restricted their weight during many, closely spaced pregnancies.
"It was the evil '50s. A perfect recipe for obesity," she said in a recent interview with the Star Tribune.
If she's right, then Sothern suggests that the key to reducing obesity has less to do with teaching folks about diet and exercise than it does about making sure that pregnant mothers are in optimal health while their babies are growing and developing in the womb and that those mothers choose to breastfeed after their babies are born. One of her suggestions: women who are significantly overweight should be discouraged from having babies until they shed pounds.
It's an interesting theory to say the least, but I worry that it will put even more pressure on moms to be "perfect" while pregnant. What do you think?