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The Skinny on Why Our Kids Are Fat

I have always packed school lunches. I am not the best cook, so lunches are where my culinary excellence shows – dinosaur cut sandwiches, rosette strawberries, little melon balls.  I’m the Wolfgang Puck of the lunchbox set.

In September, we sent Eilis to public school for the first time.  In January, we sent Granuaile.  The schools have real cafeterias, not Burger King one day and Papa John’s the next – this is real, government regulated food.  So it’s better for them, right?  Michelle Obama wouldn’t let the school serve unhealthy lunches, would she?

Oh – and did I tell you this part?  Because my husband is disabled, we qualify for reduced price lunches.  The cost to feed my children lunch each day?  80 cents.  For both.

But wait, there’s more!

Granuaile’s school began a breakfast program!  This is a busy mom’s dream, right?  The kids can sleep in an extra 15 minutes, and I don’t have to scramble to get breakfast ready.  Bonus – Reduced price for breakfast?  40 cents.

I browse the menu each week when it comes out, and it looks like there are all sorts of healthy options.  There are salads, fruits, vegetables.  But the reality is that I’m not there when my kids go through the lunch line.  I hear the salads smell funky, or the vegetables taste bad.  And breakfast, where there are no options, feature things I’d never feed my kids.  Granuaile on Monday had PopTarts.  How is that healthy?  I’ll tell you the school answer – it’s a whole grain PopTart, and it has a serving of fruit inside.  Let’s just disregard the fact that the fruit is steeped in sugar and the whole grain is frosted.

And gym class – remember that?  I do, because as a fat kid, I hated it.  And one reason I hated it so much is that it was an every day thing.  EVERY DAY!!  Granuaile has PE once a week, and they don’t even ask them to dress in PE clothes – they just take them outside to play.  Eilis has it once a week, and the class time is so brief, I’m not even sure why they bother to make them change.

I’ve ranted on kids meals before.  Why, when you go to McDonald’s, is there no kids sized salad?  Because kids don’t want them, McDonald’s won’t sell them, and parents (especially in cash strapped times) are going to opt for the $1 double cheeseburger over the $4 healthy option.

We put televisions and computers in our kids’ rooms, expecting them to use them for homework or occasional entertainment, but when was the last time you saw a game on your street of kick ball or street hockey?  I don’t mean something organized by the school – I mean just random kids playing a game outside.  It doesn’t happen in my neighborhood.  We bought out kids a basketball net, and it was stolen out of our driveway.  I went through the neighborhood to see if I could find it, then convinced myself that it was a conspiracy of neighborhood families to steal it because my kids were outside, laughing, playing and having fun.  I’m pretty sure that’s not legal anymore.  It was a message to get my kids back where they belong – in front of an XBox game or on Club Penguin!

Commercials aimed at children don’t pitch fresh fruit and vegetables.  They pitch the things kids love and moms love to hate.  But I buy them.  You buy them.  How can you look at those tiny, pleading faces and walk past the ice cream aisle or the cookie display?  And places like Costco and Sam’s Club allow us to buy three boxes of cookies at one time – cheaper!

Did you know that less than 10% of parents seek treatment for their child’s obesity?  Why is that?  Do we not want to acknowledge our kids are fat?  Do we not want the doctor to point fingers at us?  Do we think it’s going to go away?

Time to step up, Moms and Dads.  If it’s too late to help ourselves, we have to do something to help our kids.

I think I’m going to go pack a school lunch.


6 Replies to “The Skinny on Why Our Kids Are Fat”

  1. You know what else I think a problem? Food is meant to be life sustaining, not pleasure. I have noticed that we really cater to our kids, literally. Growing up, there was dinner that was whatever mom or dad cooked. You ate it or you went to bed hungry. There were no alternatives or menus based on what the kids like. I did not like most foods my mom cooked and as a child was very thin. I learned to stuff food in my cheek and slide off to the bathroom and flush it. I learned to fit some in a napkin and throw it out. Then, I discovered applesauce which I poured over my entire plate to hide the taste. I think I need to go back to eating to feed my body not my pleasure seeking, fried food loving self. It might be too late for my daughter. She is difficult to feed. She does not eat cheese, pasta, hot dogs, anything wet or squishy. I’ve been told this is common in preemies, but she is almost 15 now and she does want to be healthy. She will have to get over these things in her own time, but I think we all need to remember what eating was supposed to be. It’s not about instant gratification. It’s about having the energy to work and play all day and keep your body healthy. I cannot even look at school lunches in the elementary schools. Madi will not buy lunch for any reason. When she was in 6th grade, I put $50 on her lunch account. She is now leaving 8th grade and has not spent one cent of that $50. I will try to lead by example and start eating better, I guess. Moms always have to be the buzzkill.

    1. You’re right, food was meant to be life sustaining, but in our defense, that often meant eating all the calories you could consume in one sitting, because you didn’t know when the next saber toothed tiger would wander past and let you kill him. We are hardwired to be overeaters, so that when lean times came, we’d have body fat to live off of.

      It does start with moms, and I know that puts my own kids at a terrible disadvantage. As a fat mom, they don’t really have a mom who exemplifies a normal relationship with food. I think, though, I have to learn that instead of having a gallon of ice cream in the house, so they have a treat every day, I’ll have to learn that once a week from the ice cream truck is way better for them.

  2. So true with everything you say! My girls in elementary school had gym twice a week and they changed for it and worked during those periods.

    At the high school they have it every other day due to science and most days they can walk the track. I am not sure they make a mile in 40 minutes. The funny thing is that Jess, who was never good at organized sports because of the noise, wants to play soccer or badminton or even basketball and they barely can get enough kids to do it. The teachers are no help because they feel as long as they are moving, it is enough.

    PS you are a good role model for your children. You work hard at your wait loss and it is not easy. Having grown up on weight watchers because it was the only thing that kept my mom’s weight in check, i never suffered. we had dessert as long as we ate our peas. Keep up the good work!!! love you!!

    1. Love you back – and maybe WW is a good way to bring up children – healthy, balanced, and you can have dessert!

  3. I think this varies a lot by area. Our schools do whole grain everything now for the past at least 5 years, nothing fried ever, and no desserts except a few healthy-ish things you can buy separately some days (fresh baked cookies once per week). They did switch out PB for sunflower butter with the salads which my kids detest. In ES they always had tons of great fruit and veggie options even things like jicama, kiwi, dried cherries, and fresh berries but in MS they seem to think kids won’t eat anything except apples, oranges, and bananas. In ES they had PE 3 or 4 times per week and it was always very active. In MS and HS they have it as much as any other class. We have a block schedule so they have it every other day for 2 hours. For the past 2 months they have a choice between soccer, field hockey, or flag football. They don’t have much time for electives because of all the PE though. B will never get to take any electives except band and Latin in HS! For kids who play sports daily it would be nice if they could waive PE to get some electives back. When you have 12 hours of soccer a week and 6 hours of swim you don’t really need the PE 😉

    1. What great food options they have! For my oldest two, they went to Catholic elementary schools, and the lunch menus were just take out food brought in, as they had no cafeteria staff. Middle school seems like they have healthy options, but I’m told the salads are slimey or they don’t smell good, and the healthier options beyond the salads are few and unappealing – or not filling. Granuaile can have a bagel and a yogurt for lunch, but they only give you butter for the bagel, and she’d rather cream cheese or peanut butter, so on the days she gets that option so she can have yogurt, she throws the whole bagel away and comes home hungry! UGH!

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