Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Some years ago my mother in law, who grew up in North Dakota on a farm during the depression when “Happy Meal” meant pie for dessert made a surprising comment. She used the expression “little fatty” to describe her grandchild. My wife Bette and I were a little shocked, but also bemused at the retro-ness of the expression. Not anymore. After teaching school and parenting, I see nothing funny about childhood obesity –nor adult obesity for that matter. It’s epidemic. I’m also deeply disturbed at how nutritionless food is marketed to children.
As a child, I remember going into McDonald’s Hamburger joints. Back then they actually crowed having sold so many “Millions” of hamburgers. They would say 2 million sold, and then update it occasionally. Looking back, it seems sort of like Dr. Evil in Austin Powers talking about a extorting “million dollars” like it was a great amount of money. Now they just say billions and billions sold.
The point I’m making is back then eating out was occasional and not daily. Additionally, the burgers were small, the french fries were small, and if you got Coke, it was 8 ounces. I kid you not. Back then fast food was a luxury. Now it’s the cheapest meal around, it’s huge, and you get free refills. It’s also approximately three to four times the calories of the old meals.
I absolutely don’t blame McDonalds for this. They simply are following America’s new food pyramid consisting of: Fat, salt, and sugar – high fructose corn syrup to be exact. It’s what we want. Our biology wants us to hoard fat; be tranquilized by sugar: and flavor it all with a lot of salt. By the way, it’s killing us, and making us hate ourselves for being fat, even children. Could it be that Happy Meals and the like eventually lead to self loathing obese children?
There are many factors at work. We have a lot of teachers in my family. Schools have ended up being places of unending “bottom time” for children. Sit on your butt all day every day. In school’s desperate attempt at passing mandatory tests, and keeping order in the hallways and playgrounds, they have virtually eliminated physical activity from the daily routine. Fifteen minutes, maybe, for the playground, 20 minutes to eat lunch, 3 minutes between classes, no or occasional phy-ed. Are you seeing a pattern? May the most lethargic win this race. May the wiggly and active boys be considered “sick” and be subdued with ritilin and the like.
If grade school were a job, it would violate labor standards which mandates a 30 minute lunch and two 15 minute breaks daily. We have decided as a company to try to fight childhood obesity and have made it part of our mission to bring activity back to schools in the hopes that more active children will be happier, healthier, and feel better about themselves.
We have donated units to two school systems and are proud to say in one innovative classroom kids are learning and exercising at the same time. Our devices are silent and handheld. We hope this will become a trend in the not so distant future.