Although nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight, 83 percent of us say our eating habits are very healthy or somewhat healthy, according to a Thomson Medstat survey. Only 3 percent of Americans characterized their eating habits as “not at all healthy.”
Then why are we and our children so unhealthy? It could be that few parents today really understand how the standard American diet is absolutely detrimental to their children’s health because if they did, we wouldn’t have a national health crisis on our hands. And Houston, we do have a problem.
All you have to do is traverse a mall and check out the packs of pudgy preadolescents waddling in your direction or read the umpteenth newspaper story about the childhood obesity “epidemic” plaguing our country. The hot topic is even the subject of a reality show. “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids,” broadcast each week on the TLC cable network, features clueless parents and chubby children receiving tough love from nutrition specialist Lisa Hark, Ph.D.
This is how TV reviewer Bill Gibron explained the premise of the hour-long program: “Investing her angry schoolmarm shtick with good-natured gravitas, Dr. Hark is introduced to a family in need, then sets out to diagnose their failings. The entire brood is given a good going over from both medical and lifestyle standpoints. Tests are run, household habits are scrutinized.
Using morphing techniques that resemble a beer-bellied version of Michael Jackson's ‘Black and White,’ Dr. Hark gives her charges the incredibly bad news: if Mom and Dad don't stop larding their offspring with crap, by age forty, the kids will look like broken down, alcoholic Teamsters.”
After Dr. Hark lays down the new rules, the roly-poly kids—whose dinners have revolved around chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese from a box, and soggy microwave pizza—must suddenly eat “real” foods totally foreign to their taste buds, like fresh salads and steamed vegetables. What usually happens next is that the kids either throw a major hissy fit and refuse to eat their vegetables, or they nervously slip a forkful of broccoli into their mouths only to throw up on their plates.
It’s pretty obvious that these kids are not usually, if ever, fed these nutritious foods. But that’s not the only reason why we may be living out our own version of “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids.” Other ways include lifestyle changes such as the advent of couch potatoes, video games, and the overall sedentary lifestyle as well as over-packed, stress-filled schedules, and incessant junk food advertising—directed particularly at the young.
Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, says that millions of parents lead their children into fast food restaurants every day without thinking through the ramifications. “They rarely consider where this food came from, how it was made, or what it is doing to the community around them,” he wrote. Families just grab their plastic trays off the counter, find a table, unwrap their food, and dig in, unaware that they are participating in a transitory experience that’s soon forgotten. “They should know what really lurks between those sesame-seed buns,” said Schlosser. “As the old saying goes: You are what you eat.”
And so are your children.