Get Skinny?

After our last backpack trip we sat with the Scouts and had a good session of Start, Stop, and Continue.  I took the opportunity to do a little coaching on physical conditioning and that is where it got messy.
During our discussion on what we needed to do to get better at backpacking, I made mention that if you were overweight you needed to get skinny.  I was not targeting any one Scout, after all, we can all stand to lose a pound or two, I was simply stating that being overweight is not a good thing.  It leads to lots of problems down the road, the least of which being that ability to keep up on the hikes.
Now I am not Medical doctor, nor am I a nutritionist or health nut… I know that being fat is not healthy.  If you would like to argue that, so be it.  But I think that if you are alive in 2012 and do not understand the risk that you are putting yourself into by being overweight than you need to wake up.
One of the parents thought that me telling the Scouts to “Get skinny” was out of line.  They said that it was insensitive and hurtful.
During my discussion with the Scouts about getting in shape and losing weight, I put myself in with them.  I am in the process of losing weight for our trip to Philmont… but more importantly.. for my health.  I am almost 47 and do not want to let myself go.  The risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other issues are to great and I am not willing to go down that trail.
Childhood  obesity can have a harmful effect on the body in a variety of ways.  Obese children are more likely to have High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In one study, 70% of obese children had increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.  Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, and asthma.  Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.  Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn).  And obese children and adolescents have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood.  But what about the health  risks later.  Things like; Obese children are more likely to become obese adults.  Adult obesity is associated with a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.  If children are overweight, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.  So says the CDC.  According to the Center for Disease Control During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.”
Hurtful?  Sometimes the truth hurts.  I never made it a point to hurt anyone.. but if you are fat.. you owe it to yourself to get skinny.  In the discussion we talked about why people are fat or overweight.  Mostly because of lack of excercise and bad eating habits was the conclusion of the group.  I can’t help but agree with them.
So this parent comes up to me afterward and says that they did not appreciate me calling their kid fat.  I never called anyone “fat” but I apologized for the term.. but asked the parent if they thought it was a good idea for their son to be overweight.  I also asked the parent what they thought I should say.  They hummed and hawwed for a minute and then said that my language only hurt.  I suggested that maybe it was what the Scouts needed to hear.  They are never told this at School and at home they are the darling of the house and we can’t tell it like it is.. right?
I asked the parent what they were doing to help their son get in shape.  How many hours do they sit and play XBox?  How many meals a week include fast food?  Now this line of questioning may seem intrusive.. and it may be.. but the net result is overweight kids.  And to be honest with you, I think it has a lot to do with parents that allow it to happen.
When I was a kid.. oh no.. not “when I was a kid” again…. When I was a kid I don’t remember to many overweight kids.. yeah we had a few chunky kids, but by the time we all hit Middle School, they had grown into their bodies.  The reason I believe is because we ran all day.  During the summer we were outside from after breakfast till the street lights came on (that was our curfew).  We played and we played hard.  We took sack lunches with us and stayed outside.  Our bike was our main mode of transportation.  We all had farmer tans and were not afraid of a good wrestling match or dirt clod fight.  But we were healthy.  Aside from seasonal allergies and a broken arm, life when I was a kid was physical and fun.  We played organized sports and pick up games.  Baseball all spring and summer and football in the fall.  The heavy kids played on the line, but they were fast and could hit hard.  They replaced “kid fat” with muscle when we got a bit older and were in shape.
I am not calling out the kids of today.  They are overweight because we let them become overweight.
We are afraid that they will get hurt playing sports, we are protective of letting them take their bikes across town, we don’t let them go all day without checking in every hour.  We give them money to hit McDonald’s rather than packing a sack lunch.  We have “Gaming nights” and XBox tournaments instead of getting them on the baseball field.
It’s our fault.. and you know what.. The truth hurts!
In the Scout Oath the Scout makes three promises.  The last promise is to himself.  “to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight”.  This promise is there to keep our Scouts well.  Being overweight is not being well.
Parents that do not appreciate our message are not getting it.  If the language was hurtful, then do something about it.  It is not the intent to shame, hurt, or belittle anyone.  But telling a group of Scouts that the right thing to do is to “Get skinny” is life advice that no one else is willing to say.
No one is willing to tell these young men that fat will hurt a lot worse than words in the long run.  The longer we adults caiter to and allow our youth to stay overweight, the more problems we will have to deal with down the road.
I brag about my kids all the time.  I am proud of them and the one thing that they can never say is that I was not honest with them.  They are not overweight or out of shape.  They are allowed to stay outside and play.  My youngest is outside right now throwing the football around with a group of his friends.  They eat well, don’t drink pop, get good rest, and stay active.  They are in sports, band, Scouts, and run with their friends.  They get good grades and have a healthy mental outlook on life.  Why?  Because we make it that way.
There are no excuses.  There is a lack of action or a lot of action.  You pick it!  Money is not an issue, attitude is the issue.  Ironically lower income kids are more likely to be obese.  Why? Because they don’t eat well.  This is a learning thing.  But there is no excuse not to learn.  Lower income families spend more on junk food than other folks?  Why?  It’s more expensive to take my family to McDonald’s than it is to make a good home cooked meal.  In my opinion it is because people are lazy.  To lazy to learn, to lazy to plan and prepare, to lazy to do the right thing.  The truth hurts.
I was in line at our local Wal Mart a few weeks ago behind a lady and her three kids.  She was using her Oregon trial card (food stamps).  And everything she had in the basket was junk with the exception of milk.  I think that with every Oregon trail card should come a mandatory class on shopping for your family.  Healthy choices vs. junk.  And we wonder why we have overweight kids.  They claim that low income children have less access to sports and physical activity.  The schools all have programs that allow for student athletes that are on a ‘Free lunch’ program to participate at reduced or no cost.  How many of them take advantage of it?  There are free classes at the school that are geared to fitness.  How many parents encourage their child to take it?  Our high school offers a Zero period to students to come to the school before school and work out in the gym.  Who goes?  Just the football team… and they are all in shape.
I guess the message here is this.  We are quick to point out that our darling little boys are getting their feeling hurt because I want them to be healthy.  We are quick to take the easy way out and not encourage our boys to run and play and eat right.  We are quick to allow them to get fat and then wonder why.  But are we quick to do something about their weight?  Are we quick to feed them right and let them get active?  Are we quick to recognize the truth about childhood obesity?
It does not take the President of the United States to come up with a nifty program or the NFL to advertise and encourage kids to play 60 minutes a day to change this trend.  On my honor.. I will not let sit by and let it happen to the Scouts that I care for.
If a parent is not happy with the truth.. Let me remind them that a Scout is… Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Kind.. and always trying to do a good turn.  If we can help these young men get fit.. we are doing a great service beyond that of our schools, government, and yeah… even some families out there.
Have a Great Scouting Day!


  1. On the same camp out one of the new boys asked me why my face was round, amd my son’s was oval. I took the time to tell him it was because I had not treated my body right and had let myself get fat. Now I have to work twice as hard to not just maintain, but lose weight. I left him with the warning that if you don’t take care of your body at his age, it will be a problem by the time he gets to my age.

    Parents – if you or your children are fat do something about it. Face the facts, buck up, and be an example for your kids.


  2. I am of the opinion that Scouting Leaders need to start keeping their opinions to themselves, when it concerns the health of young people in Scouting, unless they are in immediate danger of some kind. This post reminds me of when I was a Scout, we were on a hike and the Scout Leader said to my friend come on Porky catch up. Now what the Scout Leader didn’t realise was that my friend had just stopped to sort out the fastening on his rucsac and so was a couple of paces behind. Now my friendly who was only a little chubby, laughed this off but I know it upset him quite a lot and unfortunately for a little while it became his nickname at school etc. But from this little comment from the Leader I know didn’t mean it in a hurtful way, it caused upset. My friend though never did any extra exercise, being 11 at the time he just grew physically. He’s now a 6’6″ strapping rugby player without an ounce of fat on him.

    Now while Scout Leaders will claim ‘Oh I didn’t mean anything by it’ or ‘I was merely offering some simple advice’. This isn’t the point, if your not even qualified to judge in matters then don’t or unless your asked to. Leaders wouldn’t go round calling youngsters stupid or think if they didn’t do well in exams, so why should they pontificate about people’s size and weight. As far as I am concerned as a leader myself, everyone is an individual and should be allowed to be an individual. We shouldn’t as leaders be casting our views and opinions on youngsters unless asked to, we should be there to give education and teachings on Scouting skills. I apologise if this may sound a bit preachy.


    1. But you see Ben, You miss the point. No one was called anything and if you consider your role as a Scout leader (Adult) one that is mearly there to take boys camping and teach Scout skills than you are missing that also. As Scout leaders we are way more than Scout craft teachers and chaperones on outings.
      We are teachers, we are an ear to listen, we are a (as Baden Powell said)”a friend”. We help with girl trouble, homework, help teach kids how to drive, a person to look up to when there is no one else around.
      You see Ben, I view my role as a Scoutmaster as a little bit more than just a camping guy. And the boys of my Troop view me as a lot more than just a guy they go camping with and see on Monday nights.
      In my 9 years as a Scoutmaster I have bailed Scouts out of hard times, helped with homework, driven them to sporting events, sat in the audience and cheered them on (even when my kids were not involved), counseled them on troubles with their girlfriends and oh yeah their parents.
      Ben, I will not keep my opinion to myself..What I say to them is in their best interest. No one was called names, no one was made to feel bad. And you know what… you are proof that some times the truth does hurt and if you [all] care for the Scouts in your unit you would be honest with them to.
      My opinion is that of the BSA… They want us all to get skinny. Pay attention to the fitness talk regarding Jamboree, Philmont, and other activities within the BSA.
      Kids are fat and need to do something about it. WE are fat and need to do something about it.
      Being overly sensitive about lanugauge is what got us here. The real world is what it is, and part of our jobs as Scoutmaster is to prepare young people for it. I am not mean or hurtful when I tell the truth. The boys expect it from me… and I expect it from them. Am I qualified to have an opinion. Yes I am.
      Have a Great Scouting Day!


  3. Right on Jerry. As a leader & a personal trainer by trade, we have a responsibility to teach our kids to do the right thing in all aspects of life. With so many clients wishing they could have spent more of their lives in better condition, we owe our kids that chance. BSA has requirements for high adventure trips as well, so with that upcoming trip to Philmont, it will be very important to be in good shape for those treks.

    Keep up the great work Jerry!


  4. I agree, I work with kids allday and being overweight is not healthy. You are right about telling it like it is. Trying to always spare feelings is a big part of what needs to be changed back to how it was in our childhood days. Keep up the good Scoutmaster example!


  5. I am so late to the party but that being said: I have lost 40# to compete in Tough Mudder in October in Austin, TX. And I have probably another 50# to do. Part of the reason I wanted to compete is to loose some weight so I AM NEVER THE REASON MY SCOUTS CAN’T DO AN ACTIVITY. That being said, there is a huge difference between skinny and fit. I have two very skinny Varsity Scouts that can’t hike worth a hill of beans and I have my son who is overweight and could hike for days and days and days. I have seen him out hike more experienced Scouts carrying less weight. Fit…………Scouts need to be fit.


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