We’ve turned a corner — there are now more overweight people than starving people on the planet. The world has changed gradually and, slowly, we’ve restructured the style in which we live. In short, technology snuck up on us. Why should a kid ride his bike over to his friend’s house when he can call him on his cell phone. Why should he go out and play ball in the hot sun when he can play it on a video game inside where it is nice and cool.
As kids, we baby boomers had far more opportunities to move and use our bodies. If fed the same diet, kids today are at a higher risk for becoming overweight. They simply don’t have the same calorie burning potential that we had. Yes, technological advancements are visible all around us — including right around our bellies.
Sometime in the ’60s, while some of us were out riding our bikes, a Japanese scientist figured out how to make HFCS or high-fructose corn syrup (a sweetener with a much longer shelf life than sugar.) Add that to our big American idea of processing palm oil to a stable, highly saturated commercial fat and you have a recipe for a boat load of inexpensive, sugar and fat laden convenience snack foods that when packaged won’t spoil until the next ice age.
Our market shelves are lined with colorful boxes and packages of every kind of processed, chewy/crunchy/sweet/salty, habit-forming snack food imaginable. Adding insult to injury, portions have gotten larger.
We “supersized” the problem sometime in the ’70s when fast-food restaurants laughed all the way to the bank with the invention of the “value meal.” For example, a single serving of McDonald’s french fries in 1960 had 200 calories. Today, at 500 calories, a large order of fries is more than double that number.
Sometime in the ’90s, childhood became a career, and with our kids running to soccer, music lessons, dance classes and tutors in the evenings — the relaxed dinner hour with family sitting down to a home-cooked meal has gone by the way side. All this running around means more meals eaten on the run, and eating on the run usually means eating more calories and more processed, pre-fab foods.
There is no sign of technology slowing down, so if we continue to supersize our intake and gradually decrease the number of calories we burn, there is nowhere for our kids' weight to go but up the scale.
We cannot blame the youths of today for being overweight — we’ve created this epidemic ourselves. It’s time we each do our part to set things right. Leading by example is always the best teacher. When children see us enjoying exercise, taking the stairs by choice and speaking positively about fitness, they are more likely to want to engage in it. When they see us read a label and make careful food selections, they will see the value of eating well and feeling good.
More and more our children are being taught how to study and stay organized so they can excel in the classroom. It is up to us to teach them to enjoy movement and appreciate the use of their bodies so they can enjoy good health throughout their lives. They need both lessons.
President John F. Kennedy said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” Isn’t it time to shrink this supersized problem?
Love and health,
Loa Blasucci is a certified sports nutritionist and award-winning author. To see her book and newly released exercise DVD, visit her website, gotoloa.com