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Childhood Obesity: Different Questions Produce Different Answers

Operation Pull Your Own Weight (OPYOW) is different from other members of the childhood obesity prevention market because we ask different questions. And as the result OPYOW has come up with different, and possibly more viable answers.

For example, since OPYOW addresses childhood obesity from a functional perspective, we ask, “What activities are obese kids unable to do because of their excess weight?” We come up with answers like, “Obese kids can’t do conventional pull ups, parallel bar dips, hand stand push ups, single legged squats, and they can’t climb a rope.

With that information in hand we find ways to help kids who are currently not obese (we’re acting preventatively right?) learn to do conventional pull ups, parallel bar dips, hand stand push ups, or single legged squats. Or we help them learn to climb a rope. Furthermore, we suggest that if they maintain the ability to do any one of these things (which demands decent eating and exercise habits) they will never have to wrestle with obesity or the various problems that inevitably follow in its wake.

Student Motivation
A second example of how different questions produce different and sometimes more productive answers is our approach to student motivation. In this regard our question is, “How can we set the stage in such a way that we actively cultivate our student’s natural, inborn desire to be strong at everything (strong is always cool) and weak at nothing (weak is always un-cool)? In other words, how can we help students to actively choose to do those things that make them strong and independent, and avoid those things that make them weak and dependent?”

In that light we suggest that extrinsic rewards such as stars, stickers, and grades actually undermine natural tendencies, and they teach students to value things that render them controllable by those who control the extrinsic rewards. The lesson here is to avoid extrinsic rewards, and in their place we cultivate students’ innate appreciation for the experience of self exploration, discovery, and development to sink in, to become intrinsically valued, and to become the driving force instead of some extrinsically valued trinket.

VS Adult Motivation
A third example of how different questions produce different answers is seen in our approach to adult motivation. That is to say, we recognize that most adults must work for a living and so extrinsic rewards such as paychecks are seen in a much different light. In this instance we simply ask “Why are medical professionals around the world are being paid to systematically prevent previous epidemics like polio, diphtheria, small pox, and measles, while childhood obesity (which dwarfs the other four combined) has no comparable group of professionals being paid to systematically prevent it?

The lesson to be learned from this observation is that, as long as we continue to depend on altruism to reduce the childhood obesity epidemic we will continue to spin our collective wheels and lose the war. But as soon as we begin paying a group of professionals (we suggest physical education teachers around the nation) to actively prevent obesity, we’ll see documented reductions and the war will be decisively won in a decade or less, instead of a generation or more as predicted by experts in the field.

In contrast to conventional wisdom then, it's the adults, not the kids who are best motivated by extrinsic rewards. The kids' natural payoff is the intrinsically valuable experience of growing physically stronger among friends. The other lesson of course is that different questions inevitably produce different answers. Isn’t it time we start doing something that actually works for a change?

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