“Not I!” I thought. My son never had a food or weight problem. I was busy spraining my arm patting myself on the back when I realized that, while those two things are true, it wasn’t because I was a good role model or conscientious dietician. The fact is, he doesn’t have a sweet tooth and he has his father’s metabolism, not mine. My son wasn’t a fat child because of inclination and genetics, not good parenting. Even realizing this, I stare through the cracked windows of my glass house and recognize that we are facing a crisis – a very real and very national one.
I remember only one seriously overweight kid in my grade growing up. His name was Stanley. When I first transferred from Catholic school to public school in the third grade, I had some trouble with some girls in my class. I didn’t know how to relate to them and they seemed to see me as fresh meat. At recess one day, one of the girls actually spit in my hair. I was embarrassed, very hurt, and seriously grossed out. That afternoon (or in my memory it was that afternoon, anyway) Stanley gave me a grape Now & Later candy. It was the first Now & Later I’d ever had. I liked it and I was thankful for the kindness of this boy. Stanley’s last name was Roundtree, which was really unfortunate for an overweight kid. You can imagine the teasing he endured. As the only kid that big in our grade, he was an easy target.
Look at kids now. How many seriously overweight children do you see in each grade? A whole lot more than one! And look at us adults. Obesity puts a huge amount of strain on the body. It strains the heart, the lungs, and the skeleton. How many people are walking around with little oxygen tanks now? Those little scooters are BIG business. Sleep apnea treatments are common. Who had even really heard of that 20 years ago? If we have descended this far in only 20 years, what’s it going to be like when this generation of grammar school children are grown? Who is going to take care of the millions whose bodies won’t allow them to take care of themselves?
First Lady Michelle Obama is the face of the Let’s Move organization. Polarizing politics aside, I think that we can all agree that we want our children to be healthier and happier than we are. Unfortunately, the Let’s Move website is bigger on ideas than on functionality. Prevent Obesity‘s site is a little better, but offers nothing in the way of nutritional education, which concerns me a great deal. When we teach our children than ketchup is a vegetable and that a fried fruit pie is as good as a piece of fruit, we are lying to them and setting them up to make poor nutritional choices. It’s time we stop putting a spin on everything and shoot straight when it comes to nutrition education.
Broccoli, squash, peas, beans, sweet potatoes – these are vegetables. Ketchup is not. Eating a slice of apple with added sugar cooked into a pie is not the same thing as eating an apple. If we as adults want to tell ourselves these lies to silence our consciences while we indulge, okay, get after it. But to lie to our children who look to us for truth and guidance is wrong. Period.
We must educate them with the truth about food. If we don’t, the advertising industry will fill the void, leading babies’ fat into adult obesity.