Monday, July 29, 2013
Piece of Advice #106: Don't let your kids get fat
The CDC reports that in the United States about 18% of kids were obese in 2010, up from 5-7%(depending on age) in 1980. That's nearly one out of five kids. And that kid is obese, not pudgy. If you include the overweight kids, you're looking at one in three.
The astounding rate at which we've gained weight in this county often seems surreal to me. One in three, two in three... It's as if we all blinked in tandem and then opened our eyes again and everyone's fat now. I don't mean to rag on fat people. I ate all my hard feelings last year and am now working on getting those calories off. It happens. I know lots of nice overweight people and appreciate them as fellow travelers. But kids! Kids should not be fat. Kids are active and hyper and have fast metabolisms, the best metabolisms they will ever have. And no one, outside of those with genuine and serious medical problems, should be obese. That there are so many obese children is like a red flashing light/glaring siren warning. Something is deeply wrong with our society.
Stand by Me are twelve years old. I was twelve in 1983, and in that sixth grade yearbook there are approximately 250 kids, 10 of which are chubby. I did not see one obese kid. None. Just row after row of skinny little kids with horrible haircuts. We have not evolved to be fatter by changes in our genetic structure. We are fatter because our lifestyles are terribly unhealthy.
The premise of Stand by Me is that a group of kids walk twenty miles to find a dead body of a kid who's gone missing. Vern overhears his brother talking about this body he found and is unwilling to let anyone know about because he found it after he boosted a car and doesn't want the attention of the police to fall on him. So Vern and his friends decide to satisfy their curiosity and be heroes all at once and find this body. And they walk all day and part of another to do it.
It's a little shocking to think of the kind of freedom kids had once to wander about at will, twenty miles away from home with no one aware of what they are doing, but outside of that, I can't think of a kid I know who'd sign up for that kind of walking. I walk my son the 1.25 miles between our house and his school every day; he gets some exercise, but when he takes friends home after school with him, they are always surprised at how far he has to walk. "You do this every day?" they ask. Kids are terribly sedentary, entertained by television, video games, and every other kind of hypnotic media. Even when they are outside, they ride around on their battery powered mini-jeeps or motorized scooters. No one had that kind of stuff when I was a kid. Mom kicked you out the door when she got tired of you, and you made your own fun out of Lord knows what. One summer my sister and I built a fort out of pallets and bits of scrap wood left by a construction crew. The boys from a street over came and tore it down on a regular basis, and we built it back up again. It was great.
And then there's the tremendous lot of junk food and soda kids now consume. When I was a kid, you ate at home what you were served in a timely fashion. Mom made it, you ate it, end of story. You ate around the table together. We hardly ever went out to eat - only for special occasions, really. We certainly did not know what was on the McMenu of half of the fast food places in town. We also drank soda very rarely. Mostly we had water and milk (ours was from powder - gross). In the summer we sometimes drank unsweetened sun tea. Once in a while we had juice with breakfast. That was it. Soda really is the devil's drink - it has no nutritional value and tons and tons of sugar. It's terribly addicting as well. Kids should have very little access to it because they won't regulate their consumption. But you can't go anywhere now without seeing kids with soda or "power" drinks.
As a parent, I know it's a huge drag to have to fight the culture so hard on behalf of your kids, but it has to be done. Fat kids = fat adults, and fat adults have so many more health and social problems. That's not what you want for your children. Make them exercise, make them work a bit, limit their access to crap food and soda. Try and cook for them or, ideally, with them. Food they make (or grow!) themselves, kids will want to try. I know this all takes time and patience, but our parents did it for us, and everyone just thought it was normal. We can do it too with a little discipline and effort.