Hanging out at the beach and people watching is one of my favorite past times. Since I live in a tourist state, you often see people that have either never seen the ocean their entire life (I guess it is sort of like native Floridians never seeing snow) or maybe experience it once every decade or so.
Their habits on the beach can run both extremes and are quite funny. From pasty white people, with skin so fair it makes a napkin seem tan that never put on a drop of sun screen, to those that lather on SPF 75 not realizing they are applying a rubber coat to their skin!
So this past weekend, watching families having sun and fun, it hit upon me the difference in health habits that exists between families.
My observation is that obese parents more than likely leads to obese kids. When you start to look for it, you see it everywhere, in the stores, parks, restaurants, etc.
Obesity in America…
The obesity problem in America lies in the education of parents and the passing of that knowledge to their kids.
Proper parenting is the key to so many things in today’s society. Parents that abuse their kids will more than likely raise kids that will abuse their kids when they become parents. The same is true for those that smoke, drink, etc.
Many will argue and try to blame the fast food and beverage industry for this problem. They also argue that if you are of a lower income, in order to feed your family, you are forced to buy what you can afford and that the only affordable food is of the unhealthy variety.
None of this is true in my opinion…
For starters, we live in an age where we have choices, many choices. Good and bad choices. The food industry is competitive enough that most offer healthy alternatives to fast food. They advertise as such, they have nutritional value of their choices readily available. We have the internet where we have a wealth of data just a few clicks away. It is just that many people just choose to make bad choices, no one is forcing them to do so.
Junk food is not cheaper than healthy food. People just get that perception because the fast food industry advertises ‘great values’ in their meals. They rely on the ‘convenience factor’ of fast food as an enticement to purchase their product so they then promote how cheap it is. Their commercials deal with ‘meals’ not with volume grocery purchasing, thus the misperception.
You never see a grocery store chain advertise the cost of a meal. It is because they deal with bulk food purchase, i.e. bread, rice, poultry, fish, meat, vegetables, etc. When was the last time you heard a grocery store advertise ‘if you buy this loaf of bread it only costs you xx cents per sandwich’? Never, so people have no true price comparison and since fast food advertises meals and grocery stores don’t, one thinks fast food is the way to go in order to save money.
In fact, each time you do have a fast food meal, you have to get in your car and drive to the place then drive back. How inefficient and costly is that!? Imagine doing that for groceries, driving to the store every time you needed a glass of milk or a bowl of oatmeal. It would be considered nuts.
Years ago, I was in dire financial straits. I had to cut corners everywhere. The conveniences of life were immediately thrown out such as television (thus no cable TV), turning off the hot water heater, using electricity sparingly so as to save money. Amazingly, where I saved most of my money was by buying groceries and bringing my food to work and by not going out to restaurants!
Is it economics?
Some people try to point out that the obesity problem is worse for those that are not well off economically and will conclude that it must be that the only food they can afford is of the fast food variety. My belief is that they are just not educated enough to make the proper food choices. Those most economically challenged are usually those with the lower educational level. Obesity and poverty has more to do with education than with affordable healthy foods not being available.
One very simple example is in the choices one makes in drinking fluids. The cheapest and most abundant fluid out there is water. It is also the most essential. But many people choose to drink cola’s and flavored drinks which are much more expensive than plain old tap water.
At the end of the day, you have choices to make. There are good ones and there are bad ones. Without the proper education, you are likely to be swayed to make bad ones because many times they are just more convenient. Sadly, kids, being dependent to their parents while growing up, do not have choices, they live with the choices that parents make for them, good or bad.
Even if fast food chains across the country were banned tomorrow, many parents would make bad choices in the foods they purchase at the grocery store. Without the knowledge of reading government mandated food labels and know what is good or bad, they again purchase what is convenient to them, i.e. frozen pizza’s, frozen meals just throw it in the microwave and eat within minutes! Most of these highly processed foods are not good.
Part of the obesity problem along with convenience is the training of kids to like ‘certain foods’ high in bad fats and empty calories. Today’s life can be hectic if you are not capable of structuring your time to prioritize what’s important. So many parents will conveniently pick up junk for their kids thinking they are going good by providing them a meal. Other than the fact they also had healthy options, they conscientiously or unconscientiously are feeding their kids foods high in bad fats and sugar.
What they don’t realize is that they are ‘training’ their kid’s palettes to crave this type of food when they are hungry and as they become adults. It becomes an addiction after a while and a large contributing factor as to why we have so many obese children today. Add to that ‘time wasting’ non-athletic activities such as computer games, portable game-boys, smartphones that can download games, social media, etc., and we have created a society that gravitates towards sedentary rather than an active lifestyle!
The greatest gift one can give their child is the education of good nutrition. It is something that will last a lifetime, maintain a high quality of life and be passed on to future generations.
Education is the key to be….Fit Forlife!