The National Post today had a lovely headline – FAT nation. Took up nearly half the front page. Think they were trying to catch our attention? If so, good job. Now if people would only listen, maybe we’d get somewhere. I’ve been ranting for a while now on how our kids (and when I say our, I mean this in a global sense since I’m kid-less and plan on staying that way) have begun growing outward at a far faster rate than they are growing upward. If you walk by any schoolyard or mall the effects are easily seen. The number of overweight and obese children is staggering. The Maritimes are the worst, with 32% of our kids falling into these two categories.
In my mind, the reasons for this are numerous but simple. Think back to when you were a kid. Was the television your babysitter? Did you spend all day surfing the net? Playing video games? Stuffing your face with junk food? I know I didn’t. My mother couldn’t kick me out of the house fast enough, even on the rainy days.
“Kelly, go outside and play.”
“But Mom, I’m reading.”
“Then go outside and read.”
And when I wasn’t reading, that’s exactly what I was doing. Running around the neighborhood with my brother and our friends playing games like tag or baseball and Eagle (my brother made this one up and it is still my favorite – divide your friends into two groups, have a dungeon and spend the rest of the day trying to capture the other team to put into the dungeon while simultaneously rescuing your team from theirs), going on adventures, riding our bikes. Our parents had to drag us inside when the sun went down. When we did watch television, we were allowed one hour a night. That was it. My mom didn’t budge on this one. Craig and I often tried to split it up. He’d watch one show and tell me what happened, I watched another and responded in kind. If nothing else, it enhanced our storytelling abilities.
In school, gym class was mandatory. Remember that? Do they even have gym these days? And hyperactivity? They didn’t throw a bunch of prescription drugs at you, they made you run a few extra laps around the track. These days, so many kids sit on their asses all day, stuffing their face with unhealthy processed food, and no one seems to be doing anything about it. Government cuts funding and gym class becomes abolished; fast food has become a staple in our lives, portion sizes have all been super-sized, and inactivity has become a past time. Hell, some have raised it to an art form. And then we cry about our overweight and obese kids.
I don’t understand how, with all of the health risks involved with childhood and adult obesity we aren’t rising up, as a nation, as a community, and doing something about this, getting involved, forcing a change. Why not turn our kids’ TVs off? Heck, get rid of them altogether, what kid really needs a TV in his room anyway? Come on out of your cave and join the family! Why not restrict access to the computer and video games? Do they need to maneuver a joystick for three hours on end? Will the world stop rotating on its access if they do? Why not insist gym be reinstated as mandatory so that at least for one hour a day our kids get some exercise? Why not force the school cafeterias to sell nothing but healthy food? Why don’t we do something other than read an article in the newspaper about how widespread and epidemic this has become and do something other than shake our heads and say, ‘Yeah, it’s gotten way out of control’.
I know, I know… I don’t have kids so what am I shooting my mouth off about? It doesn’t affect me. But it does. I keep thinking of what these kids have in store for their lives – everything from compromised health to the criticism and humiliation they’ll suffer at the hands of their peers. The scars of both will carry into their adulthood; it’ll lessen the enjoyment of their lives. I may not have kids, but I want the kids out there to have the best of what the world has to offer. They have a right to it, and we have a right as the generation they look to for guidance to see that they get it. But what are we doing about it? There has to be a solution.