News from Shape Up America!
February 2006
Shape Up America! Newsletter


Are Marketers Selling Our Kids into a Lifetime of “Diabesity®”?
by Barbara J. Moore, PhD
NOTE: Diabesity® is a registered trademark of Shape Up America! Use of this term for any purpose is strictly forbidden without the express written consent of Shape Up America! For inquiries, please contact us at

The food and beverage industries spend approximately $10 billion a year on marketing their products directly to American youth. According to a hard hitting report published by the Institute of Medicine1 (IOM), “the preponderance of the products introduced and marketed for children and youth have been high in total calories, sugars, salt, fat, and low in nutrients.” Senator Tom Harkin recently remarked: “The food industry doesn’t spend $10 billion a year on ads to kids because they like to waste money. Their ads not only work, they work brilliantly.”2 Dr. Thomas Frieden, a health commissioner in New York, predicts that ''...20 years from now people will look back and say: 'What were they thinking? They're in the middle of an epidemic and kids are watching 20,000 hours of commercials for junk food.' ''3 As the IOM report says, “Marketing works.” This means that $10 billion of advertising money is shaping the tastes, preferences and consumption patterns of our nation’s children, setting them up for a lifetime of disease and disability – especially a lifetime of obesity and type 2 diabetes – or Diabesity®.

The report, Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity? 4 was developed by the IOM at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which had received a mandate from the U.S. Congress to undertake the project. One key point made in the report is that “[b]efore a certain age, children lack the defenses, or skills, to discriminate commercial from noncommercial content, or to attribute persuasive intent to advertising.” That means that children cannot distinguish TV programs from the commercials and they do not recognize that commercials are designed to sell them a product. Even children who are as old as age 11 can fail to make this distinction. Why is this of such grave concern to us all? Because a significant percentage of our nation’s children are too fat and they are falling ill as a direct consequence of their obesity. These advertisements for unhealthy foods provide children with “pester power” – and parents get worn down and give in to their children’s constant requests for candy, sweetened cereals, cookies, cupcakes, and sugary soda and other beverages. As a consequence, the report concludes: “Statistically, there is strong evidence that exposure to television advertising is associated with adiposity in children ages 2-11 years and teens ages 12-18 years.”

It Takes a Nation to Combat Pester Power

The food and beverage choices made by children can indeed shape their short-term and long-term health. It is imperative that we work together, as a nation, to protect our children and steer them away from the high calorie, high fat, and high sugar fare that they routinely see on TV and at a child’s eye level on the supermarket shelves. Through the development of “advergames” and other strategies especially appealing to children, the Internet and TV marketers are collaborating in their efforts to control “share of mind” – a marketing term referring to the objective of building “cradle to grave” brand loyalty that will turn our children into “super consumers” – indeed supersized consumers.5 One recent report from the University of Texas, cited by the IOM report, graphically demonstrates that the percentage increase in the number of new products targeted to children has skyrocketed.6 This is because our children and teens have money to spend – as much as $365 billion a year, according to one estimate from The California Endowment.5 The challenge is to reduce our children’s exposure to these commercial messages at home, at school and in the community. Indeed, we all need to turn off the TV, turn off our computers, make wiser food choices, go outside and get more fresh air and physical activity. We are all in this together and must do more to protect our own health and the health of our children.

What can be done about this situation? Below, I have synthesized the IOM report’s major recommendations to the marketers in the food and beverage industries and entertainment industry, parents, schools, and policymakers:

  1. Food and beverage companies AND restaurants should use their ingenuity and creativity to play a “transforming leadership role” in promoting and marketing more healthful diets for children and youth.
  2. These industries should work with government, scientific, public health and consumer groups to establish STANDARDS for marketing foods and beverages to children and youth.
  3. The media and entertainment industry should support and promote healthful foods and beverages to children and youth.
  4. Because of their fundamental influence on the diets of children, parents and families should be the target of “social marketing efforts” designed to improve children’s diets, and such efforts should be funded by government, “in partnership with the private sector.”
  5. Education of children and youth should “promote healthful diets for children and youth in all aspects of the school environment.”
  6. Government at all levels (local, state and federal) should “marshal the full range of public policy levers to foster the development and promotion of healthful diets for children and youth.” [Note: the report says that industry compliance with such policies should be voluntary at first, but should become mandatory, if necessary.]
  7. The research community should conduct “sustained, multidisciplinary work on how marketing influences the food and beverage choices of children and youth.”

The CDC is predicting that one out of every three children will develop diabetes in their lifetime. (For Hispanics, the prediction is one out of two). This prediction is based upon the unabated escalation of childhood obesity, which is fueling the epidemic of “Diabesity®” or obesity-related type 2 diabetes. By preventing childhood obesity, we can stem this growing epidemic of diabetes. If we have the will, we can do it.

1The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences. The IOM convenes appropriately-credentialed professionals to examine “policy matters pertaining to the health of the public.”

2Burros M., Federal advisory group calls for change in food marketing to children. New York Times. December 7, 2005.
Available at: 07kids.html? ex=1138338000&en=fe1563e46f5c8954&ei=5070.

3Kleinfield NR. Diabetes and its awful toll quietly emerge as a crisis. New York Times. January 9, 2006.
Available at: sec=health& res=9907E2DA1F30F93AA35752C0A9609C8B63.

4Institute of Medicine. 2006. Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity? Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at:

5Samuels S, Crapo L. Food and Beverage Industry Marketing Practices Aimed at Children: Developing Strategies for Preventing Obesity and Diabetes. November 2003. A report on the proceedings from a meeting sponsored by The California Endowment, held in San Francisco in June 2003.

6Williams J. 2005b. Product Proliferation Analysis for New Food and Beverage Products Targeted to Children 1994-2004. University of Texas at Austin Working Paper.

Strengthening Your Core – Your Back
by Michael Roussell

Ever since humans developed an upright posture, they have suffered from back problems. The complaints get louder and louder as our lifestyles are increasingly sedentary. This month we continue our series on resistance exercises that you can do in your own home – with a special focus on back training. Unfortunately, if you were to go into any gym in America, you would see most people training their chest and arm muscles and rarely their legs and back. This is probably a reflection of our culture’s obsession with “beach” muscles. Yet, strong legs and back will improve your quality of life and help prevent injury more than strong chest and arms any day.

Strengthening your back is very important because the muscles of your back serve as a source of protection and support for the bones of your spine and spinal cord. Former professional bodybuilder Ken “Flex” Wheeler once got in a very bad car accident that by all rights should have killed or at least paralyzed him. His doctors speculated that the only reason he was not a quadriplegic was because the muscles of his back were so developed that they secured, protected, and prevented his spinal cord from being damaged. Now none of us will likely develop the musculature of Flex Wheeler, but you get the point.

The back is the most complicated mixture of muscles in the body and because of this, we will only be focusing on strengthening the muscles of the upper back. Arguably, the best exercise for strengthening the upper back is the pull-up/chin-up. One of the problems with this exercise, especially for beginners, is that you need a fair amount of back strength to complete this movement in the first place. To help build up the strength to complete a pull-up/chin-up, I recommend that people start out with the reverse pushup.

To complete this movement, you will need a metal bar (or something of similar strength that is capable of holding the weight of your body) and two sturdy chairs. As you can see from the picture above demonstrating the starting position, your body is in the pushup position, just flipped over.

If you are overweight, pulling your own weight off the ground will be considerably more difficult. To combat this issue and still work your back musculature, allow your body to bend at the waist so in the starting position your bottom is touching the ground but your back is not. Your back should be at a 45 degree angle to the ground. This adjustment of positioning will reduce some of the tension in the exercise and make it easier for those having trouble lifting their weight.

Three other precautions when getting set in the starting position:

  1. Make sure the bar will support your weight and secure the bar so that it will not break or move while you perform this exercise repeatedly.
  2. Use a grip just slightly wider than your shoulders (there is no need to take a really wide grip).
  3. Use an overhand grip (palms facing towards your feet). This will increase the work done by your back and minimize the stress on your biceps muscles in your arms during the course of the movement.

To initiate the movement, think of pulling your elbows down to the floor as you bring your chest up to touch the bar. It is very important to keep your body as straight as possible during the movement, so keep your core and legs tight and tensed. Pause at the top of the movement (with the bar touching your lower chest) and lower your body back down in a controlled fashion.

Remember that resistance or strength training exercises should not be performed every day. You should rest 48 to 72 hours after weight resistance exercise before doing that same exercise again.

Level Goal Comment
Beginner 1 set of 8-10 reps Start out with just 1 or 2 reps and build up slowly (over many weeks or months) until you can complete 1 entire set of 8-10 reps. If you are overweight, please modify your position as described above
Intermediate 2 sets of 8-10 reps Start out with 1 set of 8-10 reps and slowly work your way up to 2 sets of 8-10 reps per set. If you are overweight, please modify your position as described above
Advanced 3 sets of 8-10 reps Start out with 2 sets of reps and slowly work your way up to 3 sets of 8-10 reps per set. If you are overweight, please modify your position as described above

If you are at the ADVANCED stage and are looking for a little harder variation, you can elevate your feet on a sturdy box. This will make the movement a little harder and will work your back muscles in a slightly different manner.

Next month, we are going to take a break from the body weight exercise theme and talk about fitness myths. If you have any fitness questions or myths you would like us to address, feel free to contact us at

Parents: An effective way to help your child
To jump-start your child’s health, consider hiring a coach—for you! Choosing healthful eating and physical activity habits, while decreasing family stress, pays huge dividends in a child’s physical development and enhances cognitive and emotional development. The coaches at the Parent Coaching Institute ( are trained professionals who support, affirm and provide resources so that you can make the choices you want for your child’s optimal health. Coaching is proven to be an effective method for staying on track with priorities and meeting desired goals. Coaching can be done in person or over the phone and at a time most convenient for parents, including evenings.

To learn more, contact the Parent Coaching Institute at 888-599-4447 or

Book Review
Weight Watchers® Family Power: 5 Simple Rules for a Healthy-Weight Home
By Karen Miller-Kovach, M.S, R.D. (240 pages)

In 2004, Shape Up America! expanded its mission to include a special commitment to the prevention and treatment of obesity in children. In keeping with this mission, we draw your attention to a book that parents of young children will welcome in their efforts to promote what Miller-Kovach calls “a healthy-weight home.” This book offers clear and direct information on the five rules that families should follow, and the five roles that parents play in reinforcing these rules in order to help their children achieve and maintain a healthy weight. These rules, which apply to everyone in the home, focus on eating wholesome, nutritious foods and allowing for treats; limiting non-homework screen time to two hours or less a day; and being active one hour or more a day.

The knowledgeable reader will see a harmony between the principles underpinning this book and the 2005 report published by the Institute of Medicine, Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. But the reading level and tone of Family Power makes it more accessible for the average parent. Plus, it’s filled with real life problem-solving vignettes that were gleaned from a two-year test of a new family power service that Weight Watchers has undertaken in Orlando, FL.

The strength of this book is its emphasis on parents – the eating, drinking and activity policies that parents establish and enforce in the home and the critical role that parents play as role models, protectors and advocates for their children. It also offers valuable background information on definitions (e.g., “overweight” vs. “obesity” and “snack” vs. “treat”) and the assessment of children and teens. The book acknowledges and addresses issues that may arise in nontraditional families, due to single parenting or divorce. It also offers parents valuable perspectives on health care professionals, schools and community resources. The weakness of this book is that its treatment of infants and teens is perfunctory, but for parents of preschool, elementary and middle school age children, this book is a “must read.”

Disclosure Statement: Shape Up America! received sponsorship support from Weight Watchers International in the years 1994-1996 and 2004-2005.

Recipe of the Month
Here’s a carrot recipe that the entire family will enjoy, all year long.
Serves 4


  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 Tbsp. margarine
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, or ½ Tbsp. dried ginger
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • A pinch of salt


  1. Cook carrots in boiling water for 3 minutes or until tender. Cool.
  2. In a saucepan, melt margarine and sugar until it begins to boil. Reduce heat, cook for 5 minutes to caramelize.
  3. Add apple juice and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce is reduced to a light syrup.
  4. Add carrots, ginger and cumin. Cook on medium heat until glazed.
  5. Add salt and pepper.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 118 calories, 3 grams total fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 179 milligrams sodium, 22 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 1.4 grams protein

Source: 5 A Day recipe,

phone: 202-974-5051

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Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD

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