As I sat in the bleachers last night watching my oldest daughter at her first basketball practice, feeling like a "real" parent for the first time, I took a look around the gym. Kids of all shapes and sizes were bouncing basketballs, running after ones that had bounced off their feet, and chasing each other when the coach had lost their interest.
The kids were having a great time. None of them were concerned about the level of competition. Not a one complained about being tired. No one was self conscious about his or her clothes or shoes or anything. No one talked about what they ate, how much they weighed or anything like that. They were just kids, having a marvelous time.
The level of their physical activity for one hour was high. Each kid had to run around the court, keep his or her balance, practice good eye-hand coordination, and yet, no one whined about being tired or not having enough time to do this practice or anything.
Nothing like we adults tend to do at times.
Now, I am a self proclaimed exercise and running fanatic, so I must have something inside me that is pre-programmed to need to sweat at least once a day, hard. I need to feel my breathing heavy and my pulse racing. Call me a junkie, but I can still fit into my skinny jeans, and I'm 13 weeks pregnant. I, however, have encountered those in my life who would rather watch a ball game than participate in one. I still contend that through exercise, one can maintain a healthy lifestyle, and still eat normally (meaning, pizza on Fridays and an occasional doughnut).
Many Americans, however, are more interested in determining who or what is causing them to be fat, rather than taking their own health into their hands. High Fructose Corn Syrup is a naughty word, according to Michael Pollen, Rachael Ray, and other fancy-schmancy foodies. While I agree one shouldn't sit down and spoon up a bunch of the stuff, a lot of the problem is the AMOUNT of said corn syrup that is taken in coupled with the fact that it is often enjoyed while watching a movie, playing a video game, or just enjoying a double shot venti caramel machiatto in one's car on your way to your desk job. If we would maybe run around a bit like my little basketball player, maybe we could enjoy these treats and not worry about them killing us.
Although I have spoken up about Michael Pollen and how annoyed I am with his outspokenness (hello, Pot! It's Kettle!), I just finished reading an interesting article in Agri-News about his philosophies on not necessarily just American agriculture, but American nutrition. I have to say, gulp, I agree with him. During his presentation at the Food for Thought Conference in Indianapolis, he spoke on how the blame for the ruination of American health should not be solely placed upon farmers who produce products that go into high fructose corn syrup or other processed foods. Rather, we should be placing the blame on the fact that Americans are less concerned with nutrition and more concerned with convenience. Hmmmm...
Well, duh, I say. Thank you, Michael Pollen for speaking the somewhat obvious. Sadly, however, this may come as a surprise to some folks out there. Even if you're eating processed foods once in a while, if you just sit around and do nothing, and don't have an apple for a snack once in a while, your health will decline.
Well, duh, again, Emily.
I am not a perfect cook, nor am I a perfect parent, however, a magic word has come into my life as a parent who happens to consider herself health-conscious. That word, is no. I can say no to myself and children and even husband (ask his former co-workers about my phrase "make a healthy choice."). My kids eat Halloween candy, enjoy a McDonald's french fry once in a while, but on our table, within their reach is not a bowl of fruit snacks, but actual fruit. The kids know that if they want a snack, that's fine, but we need to talk about what they've eaten during the day and make a good choice based on that. Now, I'm not making my girls keep food diaries or anything crazy like that, but if we say no once in a while, and put a yes in there here and there, food becomes less of an issue, and more of a source of nutrition, rather than a lifestyle. We don't need to forbid foods. I believe that is the part of no that is tricky, but we need to balance everything out.
I also believe heavily in marketing. Like the commercials for Go-gurt and Pop Tarts and Dairy Queen, they have a target audience. I do too. My little girls have been choosing apples and bananas and grapes lately because that's what's in the bowl on the counter, at their eye level. Talk about ad placement...I'm a marketing GENIUS!! They prefer that for an afternoon snack, and that has nothing to do with my stellar parenting, but the marketing in which I employed to make the fruit look appetizing as well as accessible.
So, back to Michael Pollen, the gym full of kindergarten hoopsters, and the sedentary adults watching their kids. Should I blame Michael Pollen for the not-so-pretty picture he painted of production agriculture? No. He was presenting an idea in a way that was spun to fire up his audience. I agree that there are some farmers out there solely out to make a buck, and fortunately, I am married to some one who isn't a "factory farmer." Should I blame the little kindergartner for being winded during the lap they had to run, or should I blame his dad who loudly proclaimed that they had to hustle through the drive-thru to get to practice on time. Well, I shouldn't cast judgment on anyone, I know, but I do think his dad could do him a favor by packing a PB&J next time. That way, the poor kid won't chuck his nuggets as he does his laps. Who should I blame for the reason why I don't "look the way I did in high school?" I lettered in three sports and played in two summer leagues, lifted weights in the summer and swam with friends...no wonder why I was a little thinner back then! To whom should the blame be cast upon when our cholesterol is high when the discussion over dinner revolves around whether to microwave Hot Pockets or order take out pizza?
I believe wholeheartedly that American production agriculture and the regulations keeping our food safe are two things that you can count on. It's now up to us as consumers and eaters and parents and people to figure out that we need to focus less on convenience and more on living and breathing and pumping blood better. Through that, we can all live happily, in harmony and sing Kum-Bye-Ya around a campfire, while eating apples, not s'mores!