Donuts to Broccoli

18 08 2011

When my brothers and I were children (lo these many years ago), our mom went into the kitchen every night and cooked dinner for the family. We had beef, pork or chicken, potatoes, two kinds of colorful vegetables and, once a week or so, a homemade dessert.

Occasionally, noodles would take the place of the potatoes, but pasta never graced our table. We were Midwesterners, for crying out loud.

There was one obese kid in our school and we knew just a handful of obese adults. We didn’t know anyone who was undernourished, except as abstract beings brought into play when we didn’t want to eat black-eyed peas: “Don’t you know there are starving kids in (fill in the blank)? Eat your peas!”

It feels ridiculously self-indulgent to talk about obesity when families in Somalia and those escaping that land are starving, but there you are. Today I am thinking and acting locally.

Millions of obese Americans face health risks that could be eliminated or reduced by weight loss. Obesity impairs immune function and causes a host of other ailments. It’s time to step away from the donuts and embrace broccoli.

I used to cook a lot—experimenting in the kitchen was therapeutic. Then I became a parent. Between work and homework, the activities of two kids, and one incredibly annoying picky eater, I gradually found little time and less inclination to do anything in the kitchen besides microwave leftover take-out or “cook” a prepackaged dinner in the oven.

My weight has nearly doubled in the last 15 years and my kids are lethargic slugs.

When we were young, my brothers and I spent hours outside running and playing and were never tired. Long car trips were what exhausted us. Almost the opposite is true today—my kids can sit and text or surf the web or listen to their iPods for hours.

I physically feel the effects of obesity, and the guilt of not providing a healthier daily diet for my kids gnaws at me. Are any of you going through the same thing? Or maybe you were and you’ve found a way out? What did you do?

I bought some melon. And broccoli. And for once we’re going to eat them before they go bad, hiding in the back of the refrigerator.

Obesity is preventable. It’s time I got off my considerable rear end to do something about it for me and for my kids. And like it or not, they’re unplugging and getting off of the couch and out into the world.

If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of franςois @

Obesity in Children Often Overlooked by Parents

19 07 2010

We love our kids, no matter what.  We want them to be happy, healthy people, but in the U.S., our children’s health is increasingly at risk from obesity.

A new study “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010”  released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) found that 1/3rd of American children are now overweight or obese and nearly 10% of infants and toddlers are overweight. That is triple (triple!!) the childhood obesity rate of 1980.

Polls reveal that many parents believe that childhood obesity is a big problem, yet fail to recognize the problem within their own household. Obesity in children (defined as a body mass index, or BMI, between the 85th and 96th percentile for their age and gender) is reaching such epidemic proportions that Dr. James Marks, RWJF’s senior vice president says,“We’re in danger of raising the first generation of children who could live sicker and die younger than the generation before them” [emphasis added].

First Lady Michelle Obama is tackling the issue with the Let’s Move! campaign, a national effort to bring healthier food to schools and to low-income areas, and to get kids exercising.

From a health standpoint, there are few things a parent can do for a child that are more important than introducing a healthy lifestyle and eating habits.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), here are some actions parents and families can take to encourage healthier habits in kids:  

  1. Make sure your child eats breakfast daily
  2. Choose family meals together rather than eating out
  3. Limit screen time (less than 2 hours per day is recommended)
  4. Pay attention – relatively speaking your child may look “healthy,” but keep in mind that he/she may be surrounded by other overweight kids
  5. Encourage your child to get at least one hour  of exercise each day

It’s been shown time and again that too much screen time, whether sitting in front of video games, television, phones, or computers, is linked to insufficient exercise and an overall sedentary lifestyle, which in turn can lead to overweight kids. Along with eating foods overly packed with fat and calories (such as fast food) American kids are spending too much time sitting around.

In the words of a Nike commercial, we need to get our kids up off the couch, get them outside, and inspire them (hopefully with our own active healthy example) to“Just Do It!”


Sitting Through Life, or How To Die a Slow, Painful Death

27 01 2010

Oh, my achin’ buttocks!  Did you hear the latest?  Apparently, even if we exercise as we should, sitting around on our rear ends all day may kill us.

This could potentially wipe out 50 percent of our staff.  The part-timers are safe, but those of us glued to our ‘puters eight hours a day (or more, because I put in the overtime, unlike some colleagues I could mention, but why go there) are staring death straight in the face, or some other body part, we’re not really sure where to fix our gaze.

Studies are reporting that those of us who perform our jobs sitting down are more likely to be fat (check), have a heart attack (yikes), or even ride that big office chair to the sky.

We cut back on trans fats, we force down whole grains, and some of us even exercise.  And now we find it’s all for naught?

Pass the doughnuts, ’cause I’m sittin’ down.