All this talk about childhood obesity has me wondering what has really changed--the food or our children's lifestyles? Back in the 1950's when Kellogg's Frosted Flakes debuted as Sugar Frosted Flakes, childhood obesity wasn't a problem.
According to a BBC news report done in 1999, children in the 1950s--despite the food shortages of the post-war era--had more nutritious meals than their 1990s counterparts. Granted, these are British children and the talk I'm hearing about childhood obesity is being generated in the United States; however, this fact is what stands out to me: "Although the fat and overall calorie intake of the 1950s child was higher, generally children were more active than their 1990s counterparts." (Professor Michael Wadsworth, Director of the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development)
I'll take that a step further and make the guess that children's stress levels have also risen significantly since the 1950s. Everything I've read about stress indicates that stress releases cortisol, a hormone that causes increased abdominal fat. Kids used to only have to worry about SATs or other college entrance examinations. Now they have to worry about SOLs on an annual basis. They're asked in elementary school to name their future career goals. In addition to schoolwork, they worry about their parents' financial or marital situations, peer pressure, and reports they see splashed across the news.
Rather than forcing cereal and junk food manufacturers to stop marketing to our children, shouldn't we be more concerned about what's going on around them? In Matthew 17-20, Jesus says: "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes through the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man." (New American Standard Bible)
My advice, for what it's worth, is this: Turn the news off when your children are in the room. Talk about positive things. Don't fight in front of your children. Don't let them see you stressing out over money. And get them out from in front of the television or computer monitor regularly. Eliminate enough extra-curricular activities that you can gather your family around the dinner table two to three times a week. Exercise as a family--Wii dance games are a hoot!
And when the groceries run out, make them wait until the next grocery day to get "the good stuff." I'm not saying to let your family go hungry. But if you buy a box of Frosted Flakes one day and they're gone the next, don't rush out to buy another box. When I was growing up, grocery night was Friday night. I LOVED Friday nights. And do you know what we always had for dinner that night? Sandwiches! But the bread was fresh and we got stuff like potato chips and candy that we hadn't had since the previous week.
I'll admit that these days I'm heavier than I was when I was younger. That's because my job is sedentary, I have more stress, I exercise less, and I've forgotten the concept of "delayed gratification." That's how I know what's wrong with our many of our nation's children--I've got the same issues. And it ain't Tony's fault. It's mine.