- Working Hypothesis
The misinformed and self righteous educators, who have no formal training in the field of nutrition, have indoctrinated a generation of youth with the idea that calories are evil, and it is healthy to adopt a restrictive diet—low in calories, fats, sugars, and carbohydrates—resulting in nothing more than a population of eating disorder ridden children.
- Academic Sources
- “Preventing Eating and Body Image Problems in Children and Adolescents Using the Health Promoting Schools Framework”
This study examines the effectiveness of a framework developed by the World Health Organization that can be used in schools to prevent eating disorders among adolescents—proper nutrition education within the school curriculum, creating a positive school environment, and building a relationship between the school and the community. When implemented properly, they can successfully prevent fad dieting, various eating disorders, and low self esteem related to body image. However, the study emphasizes the fact that many school programs cause more harm than good by labeling foods to be “good,” “bad,” or “junk.” Indoctrinating students with this attitude leads to an unhealthy relationship with food. Additionally, educators commonly and subconsciously project their personal prejudices toward food and body image onto the students, further aggravating the issue. The framework encourages a cross-curricular education that not only encourages diet prevention and positive self esteem, but educates students to the dangers of propaganda techniques used by the diet industry. Furthermore, the framework addresses the need for an overall healthy school climate and support from the community at large. Without effectively implementing a framework of this nature, excessive damage continues to be made by teachers who lack proper education and awareness to what they are actually preaching.
O’Dea, J., & Maloney, D. (2000). Preventing Eating and Body Image Problems in Children and Adolescents Using the Health Promoting Schools Framework. Journal of School Health, 70(1), 18. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A59971370/AONE?u=rowan&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=f9bd8bdc
Adolescents are undergoing changes of great magnitude as they develop cognitively, physically, and emotionally. Their abilities to make sound decisions is underdeveloped and can result in impulsive and dangerous behaviors. Rather than following a fully developed decision making framework, there are various psychosocial and emotional factors during adolescence that impact their ability to fully process information and make informed choices. Furthermore, adolescents are extremely impressionable and base many of their decisions on social norms or how they desire to be perceived by others. Another contributing factor to an adolescents poor decision making is a false sense of invincibility, as they weigh the possible consequences of their actions. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, responsible for impulse control and executive functions needed for decision making, is greatly reduced during adolescent years.
It is abundantly clear that adolescents are often incapable of making sound decisions when they are properly informed, much less when toxic and inaccurate information is being disseminated to them in a classroom where they are surrounded by their highly influential peers.
Halpern-Felsher, B. (2009). Adolescent decision making: an overview. The Prevention Researcher, 16(2), 3+. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A198715069/AONE?u=rowan&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=647cccdb
Zero calorie sugar substitutes are a prime example of low calorie not directly equating to good health. This study examines the unnatural changes that occur in the gut microbiome as a result of consuming artificial sweeteners. However, no official action, such as label warnings to the public, have been implemented.
When young people are encouraged to limit their caloric intake, it is easy to resort to foods and beverages containing artificial sweeteners. These sugar replacements falsely advertise themselves as healthier alternatives to foods and drinks containing real sugar, and thus higher calories. In an attempt to follow healthy eating advice learned in a classroom, adolescents could inadvertently be creating other health issues.
Abbott, A. (2014). Sugar substitutes linked to obesity. Nature (London), 513(7518), 290–290. https://doi.org/10.1038/513290a
The obsession our country has with combating obesity has created a hyperfixation on calories. This has created confusion and has skewed our perception of what is an appropriate amount of calories to consume daily. This article discusses the importance of calorie balance—the relationship between how many calories are consumed each day and how many are expended through basic body functions. Each individual has different caloric needs that are dependent on factors such as their physical activity level and their basal metabolic rate. Consumers have been slowly driven away from understanding the idea that calories are fuel for the body, a concept that must be instilled back into society.
As teachers continue to preach the benefits of a low calorie diet, they are perpetuating this false and dangerous belief. It is not the goal of every individual to lose weight. In fact, some individuals struggle to consume enough calories to maintain or gain necessary weight. A low calorie diet certainly should not be promoted to this demographic. A “one size fits all” mindset regarding caloric intake is simply irresponsible teaching.
Kapsak, W. R., DiMarco-Crook, C., Hill, J. O., Toner, C. D., & Edge, M. S. (2013). Confusion on All Sides of the Calorie Equation: Lessons Learned, Future Directions. Nutrition Today (Annapolis), 48(5), 195–202. https://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0b013e3182a68476
The consequences of restricting calories to an insufficient rate is extremely hazardous and in some cases lethal. Due to the even greater importance of children consuming an appropriate amount of calories each day to fuel their developing bodies, the effects of this unhealthy practice are even more serious among youth. The human body is designed to send uncomfortable hunger pains to act as a request for calories. When these hunger cues are forcibly and repeatedly ignored, the body begins to go into a state of starvation. There are countless negative effects that the body suffers during a period of malnutrition, both physically and mentally. The body resorts to breaking down important carbohydrates stored in the liver as well as protein stored in various muscles in an attempt to find another energy source in the absence of much needed calories. As the body continues to break down important proteins, muscles and enzymes begin to deteriorate, as a vast amount of the body’s systems decline in function. The result is an incredibly lethargic, dizzy, disoriented, and zombie-like individual who is incapable of functioning and unable to perform daily tasks. Eventually, extreme starvation may lead to the complete shutdown of all the body’s major systems, resulting in a coma or death.
In our country’s ongoing battle against childhood obesity, public school health education programs have become an advocate for limiting and restricting caloric intake. Promoting a low calorie diet is not healthy and necessary for all children. The dietary needs of growing children cannot be generalized as “low calorie equals a healthy diet.” It is presumptuous to assume that all children are in a situation in which they need to limit their calories. Health educators are not medically trained individuals capable of providing health care advice.
Nestle, M., & Nesheim, M. (2012). Why calories count : From science to politics. ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
3) Topics for Smaller Papers
- Definition Argument
The term “calorie” is misrepresented by the negative connotation that it has developed over time. Calories are the necessary fuel for the human body and must be recognized as such. Through the use of media and the ever growing diet food industry, society’s gross misconception continues to grow and cause a plethora of maladies among individuals.
- Cause/Effect Argument
Adolescents’ ability to make sound decisions independently is greatly compromised by their lack of executive functioning skills. This inability is directly related to the underdeveloped prefrontal cortex in their brain. Due to this lack of brain maturity, they are incapable of following the typical decision making process, which includes reviewing one’s options and the possible consequences. The immature adolescent feels a false sense of invincibility, which in turn creates an inaccurate assessment of their likely outcomes. As a result, poor decision making takes place. This disadvantage is further exacerbated by their vulnerability as an impressionable student; they have a preconceived notion that their educator will provide them with completely accurate information, which unfortunately is not necessarily the case.
- Rebuttal Argument
Proponents of the belief that a public health education should prioritize the war against obesity, which undeniably continues to plague our youth, are sorely mistaken. In recent years another health issue has emerged to epidemic proportions—eating disorders. In order to teach “healthy” dietary habits to children, it first must be acknowledged that diets must be individualized to meet the specific needs of each consumer. Advocating for a low calorie diet to battle obesity will certainly have a negative, and possibly deadly, impact on those struggling in the opposite direction. It must become sound teaching practice to teach children that all foods fit, including high calorie sweets in moderation.
4) Current State of Research Paper
As I have begun the research process, I am surprised to find that there are not many academic sources that blatantly agree with my hypothesis. The majority of my academic sources are studies or scientific evidence that happen to support my claim, without directly relating to the subject. In fact, many of the articles that do directly address my topic are still preaching about the dire need to combat obesity in the United States. Although this makes it slightly more challenging to collect sources, it is satisfying to make a bold claim that contradicts many of the sources out there. I remain loyal and confident in my claim and will continue to gather evidence to support it.