Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kids, Weight and Attitudes to Food

Today I dropped my little boy off at a party. It was the birthday of one of his classmates. When I went to pick him up I was talking to one of the Mothers of one of the other boys there. Now, they did heath checks a couple of weeks ago in school. It’s a routine thing. Then they sent letters summing up their findings. My boy got a clear bill of health – within the perfect weight range, no illnesses, normal stats and all good. However, the Mother of one of the boys there was telling me they sent her a letter telling her that her son was “overweight.” Now if you look at the kid, you would never, ever, ever think he was overweight. Not a chance. But they based this on BMI. Now, BMI does not allow for anything about the child’s build. The lad’s Dad is muscular. He has, for a child of his age, a muscular physique. And he does not look remotely overweight. But now he is panicking about his own weight and asking, “Should I have cake?” at birthday parties.

Give me a break!!!

Let’s scrap this stupid BMI thing and stop making kids paranoid!!! 

Now I’m all for healthy eating. We’re big on that in my household. My son, though, has a healthy relationship with food. He knows, for example, that he likes how a McDonald’s tastes. But we’ve talked about the good and bad things in food and we talked about how great tasting food that maybe has more bad in it than good is something we definitely ARE allowed, but only as a special treat. He eats his fruit and vegetables, gets more than his 5 a day every single day and understands where food comes from. But if his school said to him that something would “make him fat,” I would go ballistic. I really believe in moderation. And I believe the phrase “that will make you fat,” is a sure fire way to make children paranoid.

Let’s exercise some sensibility. If my son had McDonald’s at lunch time on one Saturday, he doesn’t then get pizza at dinner time. If he’s had fast food once in a day then definitely, definitely not a second time. He has a healthy balanced dinner. And we cook fresh food and involve him in the cooking of it. Both Chloe and I cook, depending who is home first and he is always welcome to join in.

He loves making his own smoothies (under supervision of course) – actually prefers them to milkshakes now. He likes deciding what different types of fruit to put in there and experimenting. He enjoys helping to make fresh soups. He loves to cook with us. And we’re not health freaks, by any stretch of the imagination. I love a bit of steak – but I will have it with fresh potatoes and vegetables as opposed to greasy potato wedges. I don’t believe in calorie or carb counting. I think a lot of it, for most people, comes down to common sense. And it irritates me that schools cannot seem to instil the same attitude in kids. 

Everything in moderation.

Chloe is (and I write this with her consent) concerned about her weight. Technically, she is classed as being 5 pounds above her ‘healthy’ weight zone. But she is a swimmer and is very toned. We all know muscle weighs more than fat and so her weight against height measurement is just irrelevant given the amount of exercise she does. She, myself and my son go swimming twice a week. And she goes another two times alone. And we all run several times a week too and cycle. So she has a lot of muscle. 

I’ve always had the opposite issue. Myself and my sister are cursed with ludicrously over active metabolisms and while everyone tends to respond to that with “you’re so lucky,” once you have lived with it, you might disagree. I struggled up to being about 23, to look anything short of “weedy.” A good balance of exercise and a healthy diet has fixed that, eventually... but I think we’re a society absolutely consumed with concern about our weight.

Obesity is unhealthy. It’s that simple. So too is being underweight. But there’s a way to get a healthy approach to food into our children without making them think anything indulgent will “make them fat!!”
I don’t like the way that people talk of being “fat,” like it’s sub-human either. Being overweight isn’t  like a bloody character flaw the way some people talk about it as being. And I know from speaking to a couple of friends here in the UK who carry some extra weight, that it’s not as simple as “just don’t eat crap.” There are emotional connections some people carry to food and there are lifetime habits to break.

But I’m going off on a tangent. In my experience, if you want kids to have a healthy diet, honesty works!! Saying, “this is bad and this is good,” does not. My son’s attitude to food improved tenfold when he started being involved in the kitchen. He loves it and he absolutely loves good, fresh food. That’s not to say he can’t ever have a pizza. We order pizza every now and then. But when he’s had pizza one day, he doesn’t eat anymore crap that day. Simple as. I’ll say it again: everything in moderation

1 comment:

Paula said...

What a wonderful man you are and a wonderful boy your son is. Every time I read something from you I feel more like I get to know your wonderful family.