Fat Facts, Future, Fiction, Fantasy, and Fables
This summer I had the opportunity to teach summer school for the
fifth time. It is always rewarding to see students over the past summers.
I get excited to see these young men and women become more mature and
eventually taller than me! This summer however, brought something
different. Children came to visit me not just taller, but much heavier than
the summer before. Some of the eight- and nine-year-olds looked more like
teenagers and many of them were even bigger than me. This change concerned
Obesity is a disease that has spread like wildfire throughout our
society. In 1977, the national average caloric intake was 3300 calories a
day. It has skyrocketed to include 500 more calories a day in just the last
twenty years. A typical fast food meal at Mc Donald’s has more than tripled
in total calories. A serving of fries alone has nearly doubled in their
total caloric intake for a meal. Meals eaten away from home have gone up
20% in the last twenty years. Sweets and desserts make up 25% of Americans’
diets. Salt and fruit-flavored drinks make up another 5% of all the
calories consumed in the U.S. Fast food consumption of fat has become an
acceptable social activity.
The number of new food choices that are not healthy has grown at an
enormous rate. Since the 1970’s, condiments climbed to include two thousand
more choices and bakery foods now include one thousand more items. Fruit and
vegetable choices have only grown to 250 more options. A typical fast food
meal is 1600 calories. That is 80% of adult’s caloric intake for one day.
Junk food is one third of the United States diet. The arches of McDonalds
and Ronald McDonald are more familiar icons than the Christian cross.
In 2000, Americans spent 100 million dollars on fast food. More
money is spent on fast food than on higher education, computers, movies,
periodicals, and music. The typical American purchases 90% of the annual
thirty pounds of French fries from fast food restaurants. Health problems
arising from health problems cost twice as much as the costs for the total
fast food industry.
High fructose syrup was invented because of the national food
shortage in the early 1970’s. Soda manufactures quickly joined those using
the syrup since replacing sugar with the syrup saved them nearly 20% of
their profits. Palm oil, a saturated fat, was a product manufactured in the
1970’s to also combat the crisis. This saturated fat made food last longer,
could be grown year round, and was inexpensive to manufacture. Weight gain
has been contributed to high fructose drinks and saturated fat. These
synthetic ingredients originally created to combat the food crisis have
contributed the obesity of Americans.
Another problem with obesity is that it has become an acceptable
disease in our society. Children in particular have been gravely affected
by this behavior and attitude. Terms for clothing changed in the early
1990’s:. Levi’s were replaced by the easy fitting, loose and baggy jeans;
sizes became inflated. Socioeconomic levels of obesity changed as
well. The richest of the 1970’s were the most overweight. In the 21st
century, this statistic has flipped and now the lowest economic population
has the highest rate of obesity.
In 1992, 24% of the newest diabetes two cases were children. It has
almost doubled to 45% in 1999. One in ten healthcare visits is for
diabetes. Children also suffer from an increase in other health issues
relating to obesity like sleep apnea, hypertension, and arthritis of the
knee and sight problems. Skin problems in skin folds are another problem
overweight children encounter. Fifteen percent of all children ages 6-19
are overweight and that figure has tripled in the last thirty years.
Furthermore, 70-80% of overweight children become overweight adults. Obese
parents are 60-70% more likely to have obese children. Parents who are not
overweight have a 70% chance of helping their children avoid obesity.
Trainers and teachers must turn the tide and encourage good health.
What can teachers and personal trainers do to turn the tide of
obesity? First, they must model a healthy lifestyle. If you expect kids to
eat healthy, you must do it yourself. They must integrate healthy habits
into the classroom or the physical education setting. This can be done in a
variety of ways. Leaders must show how to live a healthy lifestyle by
giving children practical ways to integrate exercise in their daily lives
and demonstrate the way to eat right. Nutritionists are wonderful guests
who can provide tips for living and eating right. Many grocery stores offer
tours complete with registered dieticians. If children are overweight,
intense education is necessary. Students who learned through positive
nutrition education to follow good eating habits between the ages of 6-12
were less overweight just ten years later. Teach children to divide foods
into green, yellow, and red colors. Food labeled green, vegetables and
fruits, may be eaten in any amount. Yellow foods, complex carbohydrates
such as potatoes and pasta, may be eaten in moderation. Red light foods,
sugary and fatty foods, provide only empty calories and should be kept to a
Children and adults should take responsibility for how much they
exercise and what types of food they eat. Children must be taught to eat
only when they are hungry and not to use food as a comfort or reward.
Encourage children and their parents to have small meals every four hours,
make eating times enjoyable, and not eat in front of the television.
Discuss the pyramid and healthy snacks.
The cafeteria must be freed from poor food choices. When teachers
notice the garbage on the menu or the availability of vending machines, they
should express their feelings about these poor food choices. School
cafeterias can offer discounts on fruits and vegetables as healthier food
alternatives. One high school in Minnesota did that and they saw an
increase of 400% in their sales of healthy alternatives. Vending machines
should replace fatty and sugary drinks with healthier food; students will
eventually stop buying junk and will choose healthier alternatives.
Students must be offered healthy snacks frequently—as often as two or three
times a day.
Students must have active activities instead of mindless exposure to
the television. Currently, children watch an average of 26 hours a week or
one month of television every year. It was found 17% of weight problems,
15% of raised blood cholesterol, 17% of smoking, and 15% of poor
cardiovascular fitness could be linked to excessive TV viewing. In
childhood and adolescence, the typical American child spends more time
watching TV than any other activity except sleep outside of school.
Children, who watch less than an hour of television a day, typically have
the lowest BMI.
Teachers and trainers must fight for daily recess and physical
education. Every child must have a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise
everyday since only 10% of all children walk to school. Some easy ideas for
adding moderate exercise include playing tag, dance, jump rope, riding a
bike, roller skating, or taking part in an after-school or community
physical education program. Small changes can result in big changes for
our youth of tomorrow.
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Diabetes. Arizona: Institute for Natural Resources, 2003.
Henneberry, Laurie. Helping Kids Reach Their Personal Best. n.l.: Hope
Children’s Hospital, 2004.
“School for Obese to open up in California.” Health News 29 Jun. 2004.
“Refined Sugar and its Effect on Appetite.” Health Science E-Alert 22 Jun.
Investigation Reports the Super Size Generation. A&E, New York. 2001.
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Nelson, Sandra. “Students Need More Physical Education.” Sun News 11 Jun.,
Obesity and Children: Helping Your Child Keep a Healthy Weight
“Junk Food One-Third of U.S. Diet, Study Finds.” Reuters Health 2 Jun. 2004.
Norton, Amy. “School Nutrition Programs Can Work.” Reuter’s Health. 23 Dec.
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Ten Ways to Teach Kid’s Effective Exercise
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