As the obesity epidemic grows in scope, so too does the “blame game.” Lack of exercise, over-consumption of food, sedentary work environments, lifestyle choices, biological predispositions, genes…the list of possible culprits for America’s fatness goes on.
Fast food is a common target. Earlier this month, an advocacy group launched a campaign petitioning 26 hospitals across the country to remove a major fast food restaurant from their cafeterias with the aim of sending a “better message” to consumers.
Some of the reasoning behind the group’s initiative comes from a 2006 study published in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that allowing fast food centers to operate in hospitals not only affects guests’ consumption of fast food on the day of their visit, but also unintentionally boosts the perception of the “healthfulness” of fast food in general. Here’s more research that supports the initiative:
The prevalence of obesity-related diseases has risen sharply over the past thirty years, and the number of fast food restaurants in America has more than doubled over the same period (The National Bureau of Economic Research).
Studies have shown that “consumption of fast food among children in the US seems to have an adverse effect on dietary quality in ways that plausibly could increase risk for obesity.”
Studies have shown that increased proximity to fast food restaurants is linked to an increase in obesity.
Courtesy of wagnerfpa.wordpress.com.
So being near to fast food increases the likelihood of obesity, but will removing fast food from hospitals (and other institutions and neighborhoods) help solve the problem?
The New York Times recently reported that studies have shown that “there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.”
Restrictive “diets” and the “diet mentality” in general do not lead to long-term effective weight-loss. What does work, according to a recent study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, is eating less fat, exercising more, using prescription weight loss medications, or participating in commercial weight loss programs.
Calling for removal of fast food from hospitals sends the message that fast food restaurants are “bad” and can be blamed for obesity, lessening personal responsibility for our own health.
Blaming fast food restaurants for obesity can place us on a slippery slope. Should we remove buses from our streets to force people to choose the less convenient, but “healthier” walking or biking options? After all, sitting for long periods of time is correlated with obesity, and most adults do not get the recommended level of exercise.
Similarly, while we should limit consumption of fast food, we can’t eliminate it from the American diet as long as there is a demand for convenient, inexpensive, and (arguably) tasty food. We need to improve health through education and develop incentives that encourage healthy lifestyle decisions, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Perhaps a partnership between hospitals and Weight Watchers (or other proven commercial weight loss programs), or the establishment of walking groups or active events within hospital walls, could promote lasting change.
We won’t make any progress in the fight against obesity by playing the blame game at the expense of taking responsibility for our health into our own hands.
Courtesy of www.topnews.in.
What do you think? Will restricting fast food lead to a decrease in obesity? How can we as individuals, families, and institutions promote a healthier America?
Member Kathleen Hermann takes over the blog today to talk about how you can use your Midtown membership to give your kids the gift of health and wellness.
Take it away, Kathleen!
Imagine that you could purchase the gift of lifelong health or endow it in a will.
What parents wouldn’t sacrifice to secure such a valuable asset for their children?
Unfortunately, we cannot acquire health with cash alone; however, we CAN armor our children against a host of chronic diseases and set them on the right track for a flourishing, balanced life. We don’t have to wait to give this gift – we can start right now!
Of course, there is no lack of obstacles to raising healthy kids. Recent statistics show 1 out of every 3 children in America is overweight. We are reminded of this with every McDonald’s arch we pass, every cartoon character encouraging the consumption of sugary snacks, and every child we pass tapping away on his portable Nintendo.
Now, more than ever, just as we protect our children from tetanus and diphtheria, it is of equal importance to immunize them against the growing childhood disease of obesity.
Here are four ways you can use your Midtown membership to help your children on their lifelong path of health:
Midtown Varsity Programs
The fall session of Midtown Varsity children’s programming is under way. Offered in addition to the excellent sports camps that Midtown offers over summer and school breaks, these classes have many benefits:
They are designed not only for exercise, but also to show our children how to have fun in their physical pursuits and develop confidence in their abilities.
The age-appropriate yoga classes teach body awareness and coordination in combination with giving kids the relaxation skills needed to counter the pressures of modern life
Parents are not just delegated to a tiny waiting room or the sidelines. Rather, we are able to simultaneously recharge ourselves in Midtown’s facilities, making great use of limited time and ensuring both parent and child head home recharged.
Other than a nominal family sign-up fee, these classes are free to Midtown members.
2. The Gift of a Lifelong Sport
Our Midtown Junior Tennis Program is nationally recognized and our Midtown Currents Swim Team excels at local competitions. If you want the best place in the greater Rochester area to get your children hooked with the confidence and skills they need to enjoy these sports, look no further than Midtown.
It was the USTA that coined the phrase, “Tennis, the Sport for a Lifetime.” And it’s true. Because the level of play is controlled by the person playing, children can start tennis in the preschool years and still play competitive singles past their 80s.
In truth, although you should encourage your children to try any sport they show interest in, certain sports have a much earlier “retirement age” after the scholastic years of organized leagues. It’s difficult to find ten people, equipment, and two goals for a lacrosse scrimmage, and rounding up volunteers for a cheerleading pyramid in your 40s will likely be near impossible. However, tennis and swimming will always be available, often for free, in countless parks nationwide. They are not only competitive sports but also lifetime skills you can enjoy through the years.
3. Kidtown and the Café
In most gyms, your snack choices are limited to the five rows in a standard vending machine.
Luckily, Midtown isn’t most gyms.
At Midtown, in addition to myriad healthful choices offered on the full Bon Marche and Gould Street cafe menus, there are choices catered expressly to the tastes, needs and portion sizes of children.
It’s much less tempting to stop for a Happy Meal to appease a hungry whining child on the way to the gym when you know he or she can enjoy a nourishing, appetizing meal right in Kidtown.
The children’s meals are offered with sides such as carrot sticks, fruit, and applesauce; soda is not even listed as a beverage option. There are few eateries that offer a healthy salad as a kids meal option or which serve their kids meal sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Of course, we should expect nothing less from Midtown.
Kidtown is more than accommodating of bagged lunches brought from home and also offers the children fresh water while they play. And play they do. With a kid-sized basketball court, tumbling mats, riding toys, bouncing balls, and access to the gym, my kids often leave Kidtown in a good sweat.
4. Leading by Example
The first step in encouraging a certain lifestyle for your children is believing that it matters.
Your family will sense you are passionate about staying fit and eating right by witnessing your own commitment to these values. When they are young, children accept our convictions without question, but even older children and teens are influenced by what their parents believe and do. That is why the best tool that we have in fighting childhood obesity is staring us right in the mirror. Much more than a celebrity spokesperson or clever cartoon, we have the power to encourage healthy habits in our children simply by our own demonstration.
When I pick up my kids in Kidtown, they often ask me how many miles I ran that day, or if I took a class with one of their friend’s mommies. To them, physical activity is as typical a part of daily living as brushing their teeth.
I can’t help but feel proud to see my example rubbing off when my three-year-old packs her doll in the play stroller and announces that she is taking her baby for a jog, before trotting up and down the sidewalk. I got the same feeling watching my five-year-old challenging herself to swim “laps” like the “grown-ups” in Midtown’s pool this summer.
Watching how they are forming habits at a young age further reminds me of the importance of introducing fitness and healthy living in their lives now. I know that the example I set will be the key to enforcing these values.
Luckily, most days setting that example is as simple as going to Midtown.
How do you encourage your kids to lead healthy, active lives?