How do you solve childhood obesity? Listen to a 9 year old!!!

I love kids. Recently a friend of mine with an 11 year old daughter reminded me of something I had forgotten. Sit down with a kid, ask them a question and you’re probably going to get the unbridled truth. Something we often forget to do as adults because we are afraid of what people will think. But not a child. They are too young to know better. That’s the beauty of this.

May 22nd, 2014. Mark the date. It’s the date a sassy 9 year old girl from New York City told the rest of the world what I’ve thought for years. The emperor has no clothes. The emperor in this case is BMI(Body Mass Index) and the Fitnessgram measurement tool. “This kid is fat. According to the City of New York”. That was the front page of the NY Post when they told the story of Gwendolyn Williams, a 9 year old whose Fitnessgram “report card” said she was considered to be overweight.

In one felled swoop this 9 year old child opened the door to something amazing, and every single one of us missed it. Full disclosure. I’ve never like Body Mass Index as a measurement tool. I think it’s a horrible way of measuring whether one is overweight or unhealthy, especially a child. But we’re Americans. We like to measure things and over-research things. Inasmuch the “childhood obesity community” anointed Fitnessgram the measurement solution. Then along came this amazing 9 year old girl, Gwendolyn Williams, with her unbridled honesty.

You see Gwendolyn created the possibility that there is a better way to make an impact. She showed us what wasn’t working. Rather than focus on the negative side of this, we now have the space to create something better, something that works. Here it is. It’s not the end result will make change, it’s the journey that you send the kids on. To do that we need to think like kids. What their world in 2014 is like. Where do they live? How do they spend their time? It’s on the mobile devices and their tablets. They devour content at alarming rates. Something I remember Anne Sweeney saying they learned from one of their focus group before she left Disney. How do we engage kids in their world on a daily basis? It’s simple. We gamify being physically active and eating healthy. We make it challenging and fun and we put something in it for them. Everyone wants to know “what’s in it for me?” The younger generation more than most. So we put something in it for them.

Hence the space for something new. There are several apps and tools out there that have started down this path. It’s not the big guys everyone turns to for the answers. They are smaller companies that truly have found a way to make this fun for kids as well as families. You’re going to hear about them soon enough. For those skeptics, let me cut you off at the pass. I don’t have equity or any stake in any of these organizations. I just authentically believe that they have a better, fresher way of providing the resources that both teachers and parents need to make physical activity and nutrition fun for kids again.

We all owe Gwendolyn Williams a huge thank you for opening up the possibility for something greater than what we have in front of us right now. We are trying to inspire kids to eat healthier and become more physically active. The only thing a kid cares about is having fun. Show them how to have fun in the classroom and they will get better grades. Show them how to have fun being physically active and they’ll become physically active. Show them how to have fun with healthy food and they’ll eat healthy food.

Remember, we can all sit around pointing fingers arguing and being adults, but nothing positive comes out of that. Everything from this point backwards is done. We can’t do anything about it. The only thing that matters is solutions and how we move forward. So let’ take what this young lady has given us, embrace it and make this fun and create the impact our children deserve.

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