TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY
By James Turnage
If you turn on the television to any broadcast or cable news station, you are probably going to hear a report about obesity in America. One of the prime reasons health care costs are rising is related to severely overweight adults and children. Diabetes, heart disease, joint and back problems can all be directly connected to obesity.
Most frightening for our country’s future is the number of children and teenagers who fit into this category. Unless their weight problem is faced head on and reduced to a manageable number, their life expectancy is greatly reduced, and their chances of disease increased.
A new report says that recurrence of certain diseases such as breast cancer are more likely if the woman is overweight. And children of obese parents are more likely to become obese than others.
We know the cause of the problem. Obviously we eat in a less than healthy way. Both parents and children consume millions of pounds of fast food monthly. Dinner is seldom “home cooked”. Pre-prepared foods and take out are staples for entirely too many American families. The United States is the only country where snacking is common practice. Chips of all kinds, crackers, and microwaveable snacks are part of the plan for a trip to the grocery store.
I was a child raised in the 1950’s, graduating high school in 1964. I will make no claim that what we ate on a daily basis would be considered healthy by the standards of nutritionists today. My mother was a single parent, raising my brother and me on an insufficient salary, working every hour her company would ask her to. Breakfast would sometimes be cereal and fruit, and there was always milk, (no 2% in those days), but sometimes it would be a piece of cake made from an inexpensive boxed mix. She always had our lunches packed for school. Our brown bags frequently contained a couple of “PBJ’s”, or maybe tuna, and a package of Hostess Cup Cakes, or Twinkies. The healthiest meal of the day was dinner. Mom always cooked, no matter how tired she was. Because they were cheap, we had lots of hamburger and fried chicken, served with mashed potatoes and peas or corn. Sometimes she added a salad made of Iceberg lettuce and Miracle Whip. For desert there was almost always ice cream in the freezer, and a slice of her ‘homemade cake’.
Doesn’t sound healthy, does it? Maybe it wasn’t. So, why were there so few obese children in the schools I attended? I was not aware that any of my classmates had diets greatly dissimilar to my own. My brother and I were considered skinny throughout our school years.
I hear ‘experts’ talk all the time about what we should feed our children. I have seen doctors on television advocating surgical practices to stop weight gain, and they include children for their procedures. Professional sports has become involved with the seriousness of the problem with programs like the NFL’s “Play 60”, telling children to get out and physically play for at least an hour a day. None of this will solve even a small percentage of the problem.
This is an extremely serious problem that is controllable. As with many of current situations, it must be solved in the home.
It is obvious that my brother and I ate a lot of fatty foods, and yet we didn’t gain weight. Why? It’s so simple because of what we did not have in the 50’s and 60’s when we were children. We didn’t have fast food joints, computers, cell phones, and game consoles. Kids today would say, “What did you do for fun?” I would tell them that an average day for me began with my brother and I playing catch behind our apartment until we had to leave for school. And after school we would go to the playground and play basketball, baseball or football until it was pitch dark or my mom found us and made us come home. I would tell them that every weekend and all summer long we left the house before 9 o’clock in the morning riding our bicycles to find a game somewhere, returning just before dinner time, usually. Sometimes we forgot to eat. When we got thirsty, we found a hose in someone’s yard and drank from it.
So, what am I saying? The responsibility for yours and your children’s obesity rests on your shoulders, and yours alone. First, parents must set an example. Instead of driving everywhere, walk once in a while. My mom didn’t have a car until I was thirteen years old. Stop snacking, and stop eating more than you need to sustain yourself. Lead by example. Then, when you tell your kids you’re taking away the television, computers, and Gameboys in their rooms they’ll at least have some understanding of the purpose for their ‘punishment’. Besides, it’s better if everyone is together to watch television, and computer time should be limited. Cook meals. Stop microwaving and take the time to plan tasty and healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Stop buying snacks to eat between meals, not only do we not need them, they are often the most unhealthy foods we consume. Keep fresh fruit and vegetables such and celery and carrots available if you or they must snack. And kick them out of the house. Tell them to go play something, anything. I don’t see kids playing jump rope or hop scotch anymore. I remember playing hide and go seek with the other kids in the neighborhood until 9 or 10 o’clock in the summer.
Here in the 21st century, we have innumerable inventions that make our lives easier and more fun. They have also helped to create the most unhealthy country in the free world. It’s not the fault of the inventors, or even the corporate billionaires who profit from the overuse of their product. 100% of the responsibility lies with the American family. We have to stop looking for easy solutions to problems we have created for ourselves.
Nothing will happen overnight. It will take dedication and perseverance to accomplish the elimination of self-created obesity in our country. It begins and ends with you, the consumer.
My wife asked me why advertisers are promoting the addition of vitamin D into so many foods today. I told her, it’s very simple. The main source of vitamin D is good ole sunshine, something many of our children barely come in contact with.