Enough Kidding Around, Time to Help Child Nutrition
So this is a hard post for me to write. I don’t have any kids. I didn’t have siblings my age or younger growing up. All of this makes it an uphill climb to write about child nutrition.
I probably can’t sympathize that well with you folks that do have kids, but I am going to try because dang it…you deserve it. You need it!
I am not going to give you a Dr. Phil parenting lesson, but I am going to give you some words of encouragement. And if this resonates with any of you, then hopefully you can use some of this to help make a difference in your house.
Why Should We Be Worried About Child Nutrition?
One of the big reasons why I wrote this daunting post is because I hear so much concern from you about the health of your children. You love them so much and it is hard for you to see them make poor health choices at a young age.
Almost as strong as that love is the bull’s eye on the back of your kids from Corporate America. Again, I am not a tree-hugging hippie. I love capitalism, but with capitalism comes people selling stuff where the ends justify the means. For reference, see the tobacco industry.
A lot of money is spent on advertising directly to your kids. According to the Yale University Rudd Center, the grain industry spends more on advertising on cereal than any other industry with the exception of the auto-manufacturers. Over $150 million dollars are spent each year on advertising from the likes of General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Post. What makes this bad is that the specific cereals targeted toward children have 85% more sugar than the cereal marketed to adults.
We have talked quite a bit about what sugar can do to your body in The Sugar Series. The bottom line is it makes you fat and even worse it is as addictive as crack. I am sure you don’t have any cocaine sitting in your food shelves and don’t plan on it. Maybe we should all reconsider the sugar as well. If you can get sugars and grains out of your kids’ lives, then they will have more energy to play sports with other kids, better confidence in social groups and school, and a better shot at a fulfilling future.
As a kid I lost over 50 pounds in high school. My mother played a big role in that. She gently confronted me on the cold truth that I was overweight and tried to help me with better cooking and weight loss programs. Much of my success was due to her kick start. I think cut out sugar and exercised a lot. It completely changed my outlook on life, confidence, and happiness in high school years.
Would You Buy Your Child a Pack of Marlboro’s?
In order to get a grasp on the true severity of sugar, grains and how they are impacting your children then you have to understand them for what they are. I talk about how unhealthy grains and sugarsare to your body quite a bit so I won’t bore you with that again. But you will notice some common traits in most junk food, it usually comes with some form of grains and/or sugar. It is really terrible stuff. I mean bad.
While it might be controversial, I would definitely say that in some ways sugar and grains are worse than cigarettes. Both grains and sugar are long-term toxins and addictive just like cigarettes. They take years to impact your body from a chronic disease standpoint. Because of so many unique genetic dispositions, some will see this sooner than others. Cigarettes at least everyone knows it is terrible. You have huge ad campaigns against it and warning labels on the product. It is now even looked at as disgusting and unattractive.
Sugar and grains have very different street cred. They are not only tolerated, but highly embraced. In fact, you know as well as I do that people will get highly disappointed or angry if you don’t eat their sugary-flour gift they made just for you. Yogurt and whole wheat bagels are probably two of the most common “healthy” foods promoted through our media and government. Yet they spike insulin and help to promote obesity. Terrible food is everywhere and no one is embarrassed about it. Because people embrace foods with sugar and grains as healthy, they are a constant staple in our diets and big reason why 2 out of 3 are overweight.
So let’s replace sugar with cigarettes for a second. If a loving family member came over and gave you a pack of cigarettes to thank you for helping them move, would you smoke them out of the kindness of your heart? Uh…no.
Let’s say your child’s best friend invited you child over for a birthday party and they were planning a fun evening of getting smashed with beer bongs, weed, and Marlboro’s. Would you be excited about that? My guess is if you are a loving parent, you would probably second guess that.
Evidence of Sugar and Grain Impacting Kids
So how do we know sugar and grains have this type of impact on kids? Here are a couple examples.
Dr. Robert Lustig in his famous lecture on sugar mentions that teenage boys have increased in daily calorie consumption by 275 calories over the past 20 years. 83% of it is coming directly from carbs like grains and sugar. So not only are they eating more, but they are going after the addictive stuff. That makes sense right? Sugar and grains disable satiating hormones like Leptin and PYY whether you are a kid or an adult. There is nothing telling your brain you have had enough so you keep going back to the same trough for more.
It also makes sense why this overeating of junk food causes obesity, which leads to chronic diseases and a crappy life. What is worse is what it can do to your child’s self-esteem. I saw plenty of kids that didn’t go to prom, dances, events, struggled in school, or faced a lot of verbal abuse because of weight issues. That might not happen to your child if they have weight issues, but knowing from experience with how cruel kids can be in K-12 it isn’t that far from the truth.
Another example of how sugar, especially sugary drinks, causes health issues is the Fizzy Drink study in Christchurch in England. They had half the students participate in an educational training on what sugar does to the body. They didn’t give any health education to the other students. During the course of a 12 month period, the students that were educated dropped consumption of sugar by .6 glasses a day. They also lowered their risk of obesity slightly. What is more amazing is that the students that weren’t involved in the education increased their consumption of sugar and were 7.5% more likely to be obese as they grew up.
As we have talked about, obesity leads to a plethora of diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and several of the major causes of death.
So just like any other addictive substance you have to think about what is in your kid’s best interest. Think of when you were a child, wouldn’t you have wanted your parents to feed you healthy from the beginning so you wouldn’t go down the wrong path even slightly? What if that meant you could have grown taller, run faster, aged better, not suffered from depression or anything else that sugar and grains impact? Uh…makes good sense to me.
Just as Much For You
This is also one of these “for your better good” situations. Yes I am talking to you the parent. You know as well as I do, that although you buy those Scooby Snacks for the kids, they are just as much for you. I know that I would be willing to woof them down in a fat kid minute.
This is one of the few times where you need to be a bit selfish first, in order to help your kids. Just like how you have to put on your oxygen mask first before you start helping others with theirs. It makes a lot of sense to start by being a good example to your children and eating healthy on your own. Otherwise your credibility is shot to begin with.
It is also important that both parents are on board with this. Not absolutely necessary, but it sure helps when everyone is on the same page and your kids don’t have one of you as an excuse to eat unhealthy themselves.
How Do You Help Your Kids Eat Healthy
The next part is, “How do you do it?” How do you help your kid out overcome all of these challenges they face with peers, school food, vending machines, video games, etc?
I have no idea…hahahahah. Great post huh?
Ok I have some suggestions. Take them if you think they make sense because each person responds differently to how you help them out. So they may or may not work, but you may have to figure out how to customize this to motivate your child.
My first thought is that if you clear out the house of crap food, you can leverage the lazy nature that your children may have. There is a smaller chance that they aren’t going to go out and buy candy. They might, but at least you are taking control of the place where they potentially eat the most.
Get them involved in activities, sports, etc. There is something really synergistic about eating well and being active. When I lost 50 pounds during my freshmen year it started with exercise. As you may know exercise is tough if you are overweight. After a while either you give up or start to realize that you need to eat better in order to have more energy. Eating well seemed to follow right behind exercising.
I can talk a lot about goal setting, journal writing, and countless other things, but the truth is you can’t force them. In fact, if you do I am sure you have learned that will backfire and they will come to despise you. They have to be open to it and often that means getting humbled by life’s cruel events.
The Best Move You Can Make to Help Your Child
As I mentioned, I think it comes down to understanding each child for who they are.
Figure out what they care about. Figure out what makes them tick. Once you do, there is always a way to connect the dots. Health impacts everything: health, confidence, depression, motivation, performance in sports, performance in academics, job performance, looks, and yes even puberty. Which of these motivates your child? Is there something else that makes them tick? If you don’t know, then it might make sense to spend some more time with them until you do. Show them how a healthy lifestyle gets them there.
Yes this is the exact same strategy I use at this website or any successful motivator. You got to let a person know you care enough about them that you are willing to listen to them. No it won’t work with everyone or at least not all at once. In fact, if you read any books by Malcolm Gladwell or anyone else that studies social psychology, you probably will hear that your children’s peers will be more influential than you. This may mean you want to introduce your children to other kids that are positive influences and live healthy lifestyles.
So yeah this all might seem like a huge challenge, but so what? You love your kid and you know it is the right thing to do. Get to know your kid. Gain their trust by trying to understand them. If you do, then this will be an easier process. Notice I didn’t say easy, just a bit easier.
Then if things get really tough, we can put them in weight watchers like my parents did. Hearing 40-50 year old women talk about menopause in support groups was enough to motivate me as a teenager. I felt like I was getting water boarded.
Ok I will get off my soapbox now. I hope this didn’t come across too preachy. I wouldn’t want someone telling me how to raise my kids.
I know you care about your kids a whole lot. That is so awesome. Hopefully something here may click with you and them. And maybe, just maybe their health will improve your relationship will grow a bit stronger too.