As you may have already heard, First Lady Michelle Obama launched a new American "Let's Move" campaign in mid-February to combat the pervasive problem of childhood obesity which has now become a lethal epidemic in the US as well as many other parts of the world. It's good that she is causing everyone to take stock and consider what they are doing to solve the problem rather than contribute to it.
I've been thinking about how my parents actually followed her suggested guidelines as I grew up, and I helped raise my own kids this way, too. But in recent years I've slipped a little myself and am starting to add some pounds, now that I'm in my fifties. I need to heed the wisdom of my own elders inculcated within me - and what Jamie Oliver is preaching (above.)
I found the following notes in a recent column by Dr. Mercola to be helpful food-for-thought and thus decided to adapt and include them in my reflections today, because I think it's important to re-apply these principles to myself and our family lifestyle - and maybe you'll feel the same, dear reader, as well:
It’s interesting to note that it is such a serious issue that United States' military leaders are now viewing obesity as a potential threat to national security. (Apparently obesity is the number one reason why applicants fail to qualify for military service, and is now posing serious health problems within all the services.)
It’s a truly disturbing sign of how modern life, with all of its conveniences, can undermine health and happiness – and perhaps even national (and international) security!
How Food Culture and Obesity are Related
As British chef and food advocate Jamie Oliver explains in the video above, our food culture has changed so drastically over the last 30 years, a majority of young children of today do not know what fresh, whole food is.
They can’t identify foods, let alone figure out where they come from or how they grow.
He shows how the three aspects of the “food landscape,” home, school, and main street, have all abandoned real food in favor of quick, cheap, processed foods.
Three decades ago, the food available in each of these three areas was mostly fresh and grown locally. Now the majority of foods served, whether at home, in school or in restaurants, are highly processed foods, filled with sugars and chemical additives.
During that same time, childhood obesity has more than tripled. Now, one in three children aged 10 to 17 is overweight or obese.
Healthy Eating Starts at Home
Home used to be the heart of passing on food culture. This rarely happens anymore, and children are suffering the consequences.
Many parents don’t even know how to cook with fresh ingredients, because their parents had embraced the novel convenience of the TV dinner back in the 50s.
It’s worth repeating many times over because it’s one of the main solutions to the obesity epidemic – we need to cook more of our food from scratch, at home!
Many people are under the mistaken impression that cooking from scratch is an extremely complicated affair that takes lots of time and costs more than they could possibly afford -- NOT necessarily true!
There are plenty of sources for simple recipes, many of which are free if you have access to the internet. In this previous article, Colleen Huber offers a list of helpful guidelines on how to cook whole food from scratch, while keeping your day job.
It does require some pre-planning in many cases, but remember that learning to plan your meals may actually reduce your stress levels rather than increase them!
Many people resort to fast foods and processed foods simply because they’re too frazzled at the end of their work day to figure out what to cook. Planning a menu and shopping ahead could actually turn meal time into a more relaxed time spent with family.
Also remember that whatever money you think you’re saving now by using processed foods, you’ll end up paying many times over later on when your health begins to fail.
Proper nutrition, consisting mainly of whole, fresh foods, really is your number one health insurance policy.
Likewise, children will not know which foods are healthy unless you, as a parent or grandparent, teach it to them. Poor eating habits at home, combined with poor food selections at school, may set up children up for long-term physical and behavioral problems.
According to a recent national study, preschool-aged children, in particular, reduce their future risk of obesity if they regularly engage in one or more of three specific household routines:
1) Eat dinner together as a family
2) Make sure children are getting enough sleep.
3) Limiting the child’s television viewing time
Well now, I'm telling myself: "If the shoe fits, wear it"- even in Australia!