Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Did you lose some weight?

Because I found some on my thighs that can't possibly be mine!

I sometimes feel like I'm watching a merry-go-round go round, with the same things trotting past me again and again. One of them is called Diet. How many times have I seen that same old horse? I remember the protein diet that required just steak, then the carbohydrate diet which called for only salad. I lost and re-lost the same 40 pounds drinking hot lemonade, and eating three eggs for breakfast, and again for lunch and a chicken breast for dinner. These weren't fad diets I read in a magazine. They were highly regarded programs approved by doctors. I'm old enough to have seen a lot of scientists change their minds, and change them back again, especially about diet.

Facts have turned into fiction.
  1. I gave a report in Home Ec about the food groups. In those days there were seven.
  2. When my mom was having babies she started them on solids at one month. She stirred a raw egg yolk into the Gerber's cereal, and used all the left-over egg whites for Angel Food Cake.
  3. My pediatrician recommended coating pacifiers in honey to coax a new-born baby to take it.
  4. All children needed whole milk for the calories.
  5. A nutritious meal required potatoes and gravy, meat, rolls, butter and two vegetables, plus a side salad and dessert. This is the way my grandmothers and mother cooked.
I was required to eat everything on my plate. I remember sitting for hours at the kitchen table staring at my cold liver and onions while my mom did the dishes. I couldn't leave the table once because I didn't eat my sardines!

Back in the day, there was no mention of childhood obesity. We all dumped our hot lunches in the garbage can, after eating just the rice pudding or brownie. Then we ran around the playground for an hour. There was no mention of homework either. If we finished our work at school, we didn't have extra assignments until Jr. High. I came home from school every day, had cookies and milk, and played outside until it was dark. There were a few kids who were chubby, but it wasn't talked about, or monitored. I can't ever remember an adult telling me I should exercise or watch my food intake. Grandmothers and aunts were famous for telling teenagers (boys and girls) that they were too skinny! Then they offered us a slice of cake, or pie.

So anyway, things have changed. It's interesting to notice what we focus on now. Parents, teachers, school districts and even government agencies worry about butter, fruit juice and cupcakes (check Jo's blog on this one!) yet most families go for weeks at a time without eating dinner together. Are kids getting direction, love, humor or affection along with a meal? Or just dishing themselves up something healthy, but eating it alone? Shouldn't the greatest efforts be to support this tradition which has proven to strengthen kids in resisting drugs, sex, and dropping out of school? Questions about the fat content in the yogurt at lunch might not lift the weight the student is experiencing that day. A strong family unit might.

There is talk of mandatory drug testing in elementary schools, but kids are taking (and selling) their own parent's prescription medicines. Is anybody home? Wouldn't it be more effective in keeping poisons from a child's system, to watch him at various times of the day, keep track unobtrusively of his money, moods, private meetings with unknown associates. If he expects a parent to be present, he is less likely to traffic or use drugs in his home, and more likely to eat the organic apple placed in the fruit basket while mom jokes with him and encourages him to play basketball in the driveway for an hour before dinner. If mom and dad drink, smoke or use drugs of some kind themselves, it's pretty hard to convince a smart teenager that he should cut down on fries and burgers. It becomes a "choose your poison" kind of lifestyle. Cupcakes for lunch and video games after school are not the only things weighing him down.

Homework takes afternoons away from kids, and there's little time or energy left over for playtime. With the dangers kids are exposed to now, playing with friends often must be arranged, instead of occurring spontaneously in the neighborhood. This takes time, casual background checks, communication with the child, and friendly, consistent supervision. Shouldn't the public focus be on education, and public safety, allowing good parenting skills to be practiced at home. There's a lot of healthy stuff a child needs in his diet that can't be purchased from a vending machine, even with a carefully stocked selection.

Sometimes I wish the carousel would just stop for a few minutes, and let everybody off. We need to catch our breath and figure out what's really wrong, before we jump on and try to fix a random problem. Maybe the problem isn't obesity, maybe it's lack of self esteem, lack of parental respect for the child, a need for parental involvement in more than diet. That opens a new path to solutions. Tennis with dad, mowing the lawn for the neighbor, shoveling the snow for grandma...there could be individual family solutions tailor made for unique situations that banning all cupcakes wouldn't touch.

There is extra weight on families, but not just the kind a diet can remedy. As parents and grandparents we should exercise wisdom about what our priorities ought to be, in raising emotionally, spiritually and physically healthy kids. We can plan for the healthiest way to include all these concerns in our basic food groups. Then we need to binge on common sense.


Granny Annie said...

Preach it sista' Oma. Amen! I'm directing everyone here today to read this marvelous post. For those who won't believe this is true, I can swear it is. I lved in that age as well.

Halfmexican Mama said...

I have to agree on the homework part, there isnt enough time to have any time with your child as it is..last night mine did her homework, ate dinner, cleaned her room, bathed and went to bed. No time for cuddles, snuggles or chit chat..some days are better, but sheesh she is only 7!!

Walker Family said...

I agree--times are so different even from when I was little (and I'm only 31!) Everything comes back to the family--it is our responsibility to teach and love and play with and occasionally spoil our own kids. We would all be healthier if we did that!

marta said...

i have been wanting to read something like this! thanks oma, you hit it right on..

these crash diets always get me wondering. don't these people learn that you ALWAYS gain it all back and then some!?!

praise the children and feed them pb&j's. hurrah, hurrah!

gab said...

Welcome back, Mom! We were missing your opinions!

kenju said...

I was forced to be in the clean plate club too, Oma, except I was always very skinny (until I quit smoking at age 38). One thing was true for us: we always sat down to dinner as a family and we continued that with our children. It was mandatory!

Rebecca said...

Hi, Oma. Cuising through your corner of the blogosphere again, and very glad of it! You are, as usual, right. From the 2nd or third grade on, I had homework, but not so much that I didn't hear, "Go out and play." daily! I can't imagine telling my son to just go out and play, though he could use it! We have to get him on a team, arrange play dates, etc.

Regarding thighs, I have learned that it requires a full on lifestyle change. Get rid of the processed food. But with all the canned soup, frozen meals and hamburger helper out there, it is a hard sell to tell a woman such as myself who has put in a full day of work, and has a kid's homework and test prep yet to go, to prepare a meal from scratch using wholesome ingredients. Broil, don't fry. etc. All that requires time to prepare and clean up. Sheesh! I do it most nights, but many don't. And I do insist on sitting down as a family to eat, no matter what is served :)

Gramafolly said...

It's nice to have you home and giving great comments on good old fashioned common sense. I miss you when you leave.

moon said...

WELL SAID!! I came to read this , prompted by granny annie..so glad I did...all I can say really is...

great read, I will be back again for sure!!

mama jo said...

those are great comments...if people would just do those things...problems would go away..

Heed said...

I believe in the power of cookies, cupcakes and pie. They can get my kids to eat anything. Not only that... I love to have my afternoon snack with my kids. It's a treat for me to look forward to, too.

Ronni Bennett said...

What a remarkably astute thought - that kids (we) used to do our work in school and play from 3:30PM until dinner.

I remember that - hopscotch, bike riding, skating, dodge ball (oops, I think that's outlawed now), etc.

When I read what students are required to do these days - the amount of homework, outside activities and community service to look good on college admissions, extra classes, I wonder when they can be kids.

But my point, is that someone needs to take a serious look at how little time children have to run and play.