So, let's take a break from the usual report on my workouts and motivating pep talks. Something has been eating away at me and I am more and more agitated, which means I probably need to do some processing of the issue to understand why I feel this way.
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
Here's the thing: this won't be your typical article on childhood obesity. I have a weird take on things because I am a Mom and I KNOW how difficult it is to consistently feed your kids healthy food and keep them active.
It seems there are two basic camps to this whole issue.
On the one hand, you have the parents that have been labeled as lazy enablers. They just "love" their child so much that they want them to be happy, in detriment to the child's own health. You hear things like this from them: "Yeah, I know it's not good for him, but I don't know how to get him to stop eating it. He will throw a fit if he doesn't have it."
On the other side of the aisle, you have the militant and judgmental holier-than-thou parents, who say things like this: "It is your JOB as a parent to do the hard work of teaching health to your child! Their LIFE is at stake and if you don't do your job, your child's obesity is on YOUR shoulders. You are to blame and you are not a fit parent."
The problem is, I don't fall into either side perfectly. I kind of fall in the middle. I am a walking hypocrite. I am inconsistent in my efforts to keep my kids on the right track, diet-wise, although we have made GREAT strides in our household in the area of physical activity!
We have a unique situation, in that my in-laws actually live in the same house with us and have their own separate kitchen. We buy our groceries, they buy theirs...but we are one family, so naturally, things travel from one fridge to another quite frequently. This make it VERY difficult to control what's happening with the kids' diets. We've had the "family meetings" and explained our desires for health for our kids, etc. Everyone knows everyone else's viewpoint on diet. It doesn't stop my kids from raiding Grandpa's junk food stash (which is sizeable) pretty much ALL THE TIME. Clearly, we have some limits to set...and, yeah...that's the hard work that needs to be done.
But let's not just blame the grandparents. That's not fair. The reality is that my kids have set eating patterns that are not healthy (and the grandparents didn't always live with us!) And, as kids are, they are picky and are not apt to try too many new things (although, they've been improving in this area as well...my 10-year old tried kale chips and LOVED them, to my shock and surprise!) My kids will FIGHT over a bag of edamame or a bowl of guacamole. They sure do love their fruit and, for the most part, my 7 year old likes the "healthier" cereals over the sugary ones, for some random reason. Still, a rather large part of their diet is frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, ice cream and Toaster Strudels. Ugh.
The other day, I went to the mall and saw a woman (rather thin herself) pushing her daughter in a stroller. This kid had to be about 5 yrs old (definitely old enough to walk) and probably weighed around 80 lbs. My brain automatically went to judgment. Frankly, I was outraged at this mom for not making her kid WALK. Unfair of me, because what if there was some medical issue and the child could not walk? Still...it's so easy to see the speck in someone else's eye and not the log in your own, isn't it?
This whole topic is irritating and frustrating for me. I feel so passionately about it and I'm so upset that this country has let this happen to our youth. At the same time, if I look down deep, my frustration is with myself as a mom...for not putting into place good habits for my own kids and for starting their lives out with a bad example (my own obesity). How can we expect to change as a nation if we aren't willing to start right in our own homes?
We are always hardest on ourselves though, aren't we? It probably wouldn't hurt to look at the positive side of things as well.
My 4 yr old (boy) is pretty insistent lately that he is going to "get big muscles" and that kind of warms my heart (seriously, his arms are twigs right now. LOL). He is rather tall and weighs 39 lbs. He is NOT obese. None of my kids are...but I wouldn't call them totally healthy either.
We put the Boy in soccer. His first time having an activity just for him and not having to sit on the sidelines and watch his sisters do stuff. You should have seen him strut his stuff on that field. Hilarious. And he hugged me afterwards and said, "Mommy, I loooooove soccer."
Signed my 10 yr-old girl up for martial arts. You would have loved the look of confidence and strength and empowerment in her eye when she had that first lesson (and every one thereafter). I didn't expect it (silly me!), but she is beginning to believe in herself...and I see the beginnings of a strong woman in her.
My silly 7-year old girl couldn't care less about the rules of soccer or the fact that her coach is standing right next to her. She will still completely ignore a game going on around her and crouch down to study an ant hill in the middle of the field...and do a few cartwheels too. But...at least she's out there. Right?
Aforementioned silly 7 yr-old asked to join me on a bike ride the other day and made it 2 miles on a little crappy bike with training wheels. Good for her!
Both girls were completely engrossed in the Ironkids website with me the other night and are super excited to enter their first triathlon next Summer!
My 10 yr old has refused to eat "pink slime" and has allowed us to pack her healthy lunches for the entire last school year. She doesn't always eat them, but the food is offered to her. (We barred Grandpa from packing lunches last year. Haha.)
On the food front, things are slower moving...but the kids do SEE their mom eating better and occasionally become curious to put something weird in their mouths. So, I'll take that as a baby step.
The long and short of it is...we can sit around all day either enabling our kids or berating ourselves for being awful parents, but what are we DOING to teach them, to be a role model and to incorporate health into their lives, either in overt or sneaky ways?
Maybe this country won't ever conquer childhood obesity. But we can address it one kid at a time...and why not start with our own?