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Monday, January 17, 2011


Recently I saw two things that scared the shit out of me.

First, a girl of about 10, sitting on a bench in the grocery store while her parents shopped, reading a book, her gut hanging out over her pants.

Second, a pamphlet at our pediatrician's office for a program to address childhood obesity.  Grade school kids can now have a "team" of professionals, doctor, nutritionist, trainer to help combat their weight problems.

I've heard this talk for a while now about fat Americans, and worse, fat American children.  But I was like an ostrich with my head in the sand, looking around at only my super healthy friends and their kids who are all perfectly proportioned. 
Then I went to our town's indoor pool.  Then last summer to the beach.  I sat with my mouth agape.  Oh, my goodness...this is what all the talk is about.  School age kids with the enormous bellies of a beer-drinking couch potato. Just think of how almost impossible it will be for these kids to be a normal weight as an adult.  They will have all those hungry fat cells to feed for the rest of their lives, not to mention a likely host of physical ailments and diseases. 

I know I'm going out on a limb here, but this feels a bit like child abuse.

Hospital and doctors offices now have those "couch" seats that are twice as wide as a conventionally rooms waiting room chair.  The rate of childhood Type II diabetes, previously reserved for the middle-aged and, usually, overweight, is on the rise.

And all the while physical education has been cut to 2 days a week at Ella's school, TV watching is at all time highs and her school cafeteria offers chocolate milk everyday of the week.  Does anyone else see the irony of this?

Recently, I wrote an email to the director of food services for Ella's school district about the chocolate milk.  As a lunch volunteer, I know that about 95% of kids get chocolate milk every single day.  I told her I wondered if it could be reserved for Fridays, offered that maybe it would be better for these young palates to learn to like plain milk along with healthier food so their taste buds and appetites won't be slave to sugar, fat and artificial flavor.  She responded with the patent: "We think it is better for kids to get the milk into them and they drink more if it's chocolate."

I backed down when I hit resistance but recently have gotten fired up about it again and I think I'm going to try to challenge the school policy (and I'm sure make a ton of friends in the process.)

The third thing that happened that scared me silly is that a dear friend's mother, a vibrant, healthy woman living the model lifestyle, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  How could she, of all people, get this insipid disease? The prevalence of cancer, even in the healthiest of people makes me certain that there is a strong environmental component.

Sandi has been reading this book about eating whole foods (as in unrefined, unprocessed) and we have been having lengthy discussions about food and nutrition for ourselves and our kids.  I said to her, "Maybe in order for the general population to start taking pesticide use more seriously there needs to be some massive outbreak of sickness to wake everyone up. (Pause)  Oh, yeah, everyone is getting cancer and still the poison on our food is legal."

As a result of all these startling awarenesses, we have been doing some major revamping at our house.  We've aimed to not buy things in boxes unless they are minimally processed or organic, to try to eat foods in the their most whole, unadulterated form, to buy more organic and swallow hard when it is prohibitively expensive and to be unapologetic about demanding better nutrition for our kids- at least within the wall of our house. 

Their little bodies develop only this one time and it is our job to give those growing and multiplying cells the best chance they've got. 

There is a TON more on this...stay tuned.


Christine said...

Do I have bad timing or what? I should have read this before I asked if you wanted to buy any Girl Scout cookies. Silly me.

Check out and join Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution USA. There are many people across this country advocating for exactly what you are talking about.

gretchen said...

The Food Revolution show stemmed from a TED talk that Jamie Oliver did:

And on recess/PE cuts, the other big one is homework. Not sure how McG does homework, but it's my own personal hotbutton issue. Kids need to be out playing after school, not doing hours of meaningless busywork!

Angela said...

Oh my goodness. I was at a middle school basketball game a few days ago and there were 2 cheerleaders that were really overweight (one so much that she did not have a uniform) and 2 more that were borderline. Then at halftime, it was Pringles and M&M's (bought by their parents) as far as the eyes could see. The parents were eating the junk too! When I was in school, the coaches would have never let us eat like this during a game.

I think you should go further ahead with the chocolate milk campaign! Use's B's school as an example and tell them to call out here get advice/statistics on who drinks what…

Also, I think people need to realize that it is not only what they eat, but what they surround themselves in that can affect their health. You can eat organic all you want, but if you go home and clean your bathroom with Lysol, Swiffer and Windex, and your entire family breathes it in, then are you any better off? Ok, I'm done :)


gretchen said...

When I taught, we had a salad bar, which is fairly unusual. However, there was one kid who always ordered "salad bar" and I'm sure his mom was all excited that he was eating "salad" every day, but he'd fill his tray with.... butterscotch pudding and bacon bits. And that is all. Mmm. Salad.

Katie said...

I'd REALLY like to talk to you more about this, Suzanne. We're in the same boat with Hampden schools, and we'll fight right alongside you on this. (we have ALSO written letters, and Mikayla herself drafted a PETITION to the school to provide healtier lunch options, and all of her friends signed it...we didn't even find out she did it until after it was done! Our little advocate...;o)
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution WAS a good show, and it actually PROVED that children will drink white milk if it is their only option - and yet, schools KEPT throwing that choc milk out there. The show also proved that schools can provide healthy options to children for the SAME cost as this processed junk. (which is also an excuse schools use to serve this crap)
Go ahead and call it child abuse - because IT IS. I agree with you 100% on that. We're causing permanent damage to health of our children, and it's an epidemic, and it's scary as hell, and we SHOULD do something about it.

Christine said...

I've been thinking more about this today and wanted to mention that it's important to also look into the products you use in your home. From soap and shampoo to chap stick products are filled with ingredients containing known carcinogens. We don't to feed our kids these toxins and we certainly don't want to fill our homes with them either. Just a thought.

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