Monday, August 27, 2007

"Have It Your Way"

"Crispy bacon, sizzling sausage, melting American cheese, and fluffy eggs piled high on a split-top bun. The Enormous Omelet Sandwich. One more reason to get up in the morning." Disgusting. This may be worse than the grits, sausage, and the other fattening stuff Krystal manages to fit into the large styrofoam cup a former colleague devoured each morning.

About a year ago my friend Ivy wrote a blog post about how fast food isn't the problem causing obesity in children; he contends the problem is that children are not getting outside and playing enough. As an example, Ivy cites himself, noting that he ate McDonalds growing up and was always active; so he didn't get fat until he went to college, started drinking beer, and became less active.

I must admit that I also grew up eating a lot of fast food and did not struggle with my weight as a child. I remember ordering a sausage biscuit and strawberry milkshake at Burger King quite a few mornings; doughnuts and the like were not uncommon either. And like Ivy, I was very active and enjoyed playing outside. But weight aside, what was that kind of food doing to my arteries? And what kind of taste was I cultivating?

A little over a year ago I was hanging out at Donatello's parent's home, and his sister came in the room with a quesadilla filled with mushrooms and salmon. I was amazed and envious for two reasons. First, I was surprised that she cooked a quesadilla when there were delicious brownies (encrusted with Oreos too!) and cookies sitting out in the kitchen; I would have just fixed a plate of those for my meal. And secondly, I was shocked that she craved something so healthy. I crave sweets, pizza, Mexican food, and the like. I so wish that I craved healthy food like Donatello and his siblings do (and am proud to report that I now crave frozen blueberries with Cool Whip). And I am working on cultivating such a taste--if I stick with it for a while, I'll start craving spinach salad with apples and candied pecans. But for the most part, eating vegetables and fruits feel like a huge chore to me and has to be a very conscious effort. It's almost like I am fighting 18 plus years of a habit that is pretty thoroughly ingrained. Fortunately I've long since broken the fast food habit, and despite my affinity for salty fries and chocolate milkshakes, I rarely indulge if for no other reason than my feeling that McDonald's represents so much of what I do not like about America. Despite pretty well forsaking fast food, I still make pretty unsound dietary choices--often letting consecutive days pass without consumption of a fruit or vegetable.

So perhaps during this time of transition (I move on Saturday), I should add one more transition and make a conscious effort to eat at least one vegetable or fruit a day. Yes, I realize that is much less than the recommended amount, but for me that would be an improvement. It'll help to be living in the land of salad, sushi and edadame, and the like again--Calhoun doesn't exactly have those types of restaurants. Sure there's a Longhorn now, but that is about the only place you'll find romaine lettuce in your caesar salad.

Anyway--back to childhood obesity--one thing I've learned this summer as I've attempted to (slowly) lose the weight I managed to find in Europe is that you can exercise a ton, but until you change your diet (significantly), you're not going to lose the weight (at least at my age:). Sure that may seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but it was news to me. And when a kindergartner is given the choice of pizza every single day, I doubt they're going to make good choices on a regular basis (and my mom reports that they now pour ranch dressing all over it too). Nachos are another typical entree. So if these children are as immature and irresponsible as I sometimes am with my diet, they'll choose the nachos and ice cream.

My med school buddies report that they are seeing more and more overweight children, and it took one of them a few weeks to realize that when the children reported that they played football and other sports, they meant on video games. I vote for boycotting McDonalds and tossing the Gameboys, so that children can return to building forts, making mud slides, and starting impromptu games of softball in the front yard. And eating food that is just as simple as fast food but more healthy, i.e. a peanut butter sandwich with sliced apples. Sure fast food isn't exactly the devil, but since most Americans eat it more days than not, it's certainly not making the citizens of our nation a better and healthier group (or helping decrease these darn health insurance premiums).

p.s I'm grateful for flip flops...better than barefoot since it doesn't hurt and your feet stay clean, but airy and light so you still get the basic freedom of being without shoes.


libby said...

Hi Ally! Thanks for your comment and stopping by - i liked your post. I lost weight recently and changing my habits were the hardest thing. I'm an uber sweet tooth so my tactic is portion control, vs. giving up the things I love. And I agree that being active it key. That's something I NEED to improve drastically :S

Accidentally Me said...

I think it is really about a balance of things. McDonalds is not bad in itself...but eating there five times a week is. Kids can eat some junk, but they need to eat better things a lot of the time, and they need to be active as much as possible.

Diet and excercise go together...a better diet means more energy to excercise which keeps you in better shape and makes excercise more fun and more productive.

Ally said...

AM: I agree that moderation is the right balance.

Libby: I'm right there with you with the sweet tooth. As for being active, it's always saddening to me when I learn that they are cutting back P.E. in our schools more and more.

Scotty said...

Totally agree, and I freaking LOVE flip flops.

Anonymous said...

I think I would have had the brownies before cooking the quesadilla!

Ys said...

I couldn't imagine eating at McDonalds that often. It makes me feel a bit sick afterwards. It always seems like a good idea but then I realise it's not. I didn't eat much fastfood as a child cos we simply couldn't afford it. I used to hate veg and fruit but a few years ago I suddenly started craving for salad! I also started craving coffee though so it's not all good ;)

I agree, though. Kids these days need to get out and start playing kid games, not sit on their butts playing computer games all day! I would have been bored senseless as a child if I'd have been cooped up indoors so much.

allbilly said...

The truth is if you excercise enough, you really can eat or drink anything you want and still not gain weight. For example, if you run five to seven miles a day, you probably won't gain weight even if you do eat like shit. The other thing is you won't want to eat like shit cause then you can't run your five or seven miles. And you get on a healthy cycle.

We can't blame kids, or mcdonald's or video games. We CAN blame adults.

Frankly, a happy meal of four chicken nuggets, milk and apples isn't exactly "unhealthy". It's not broccoli and grilled chicken, but it isn't bad. Most kids get way, way too many empty calories from drinks. Sugar, sugar, sugar. And be sure you count fruit juice as too much sugar.

Oh well, luckily for me and my kids we have decent genes, are hyperactive, and like to do things outside.

Finally, explain to me why healthy food prices continue to escalate while mcdonalds maintains its prices and we continue to blame poor people for eating like shit...

ella said...

Since I've started training for a 5 mile run, I find that I've been eating like crap. McDonald's, Panda Express, you name it. My tummy isn't to happy from it and I don't think I've lost any weight (but I don't own a scale).

But when you are tired and hungry fast food is just so convenient. For portion control at McDonald's I'll order a Happy Meal.

cdp said...

mkay, I also love flip flops and now I am craving Mexican food so thanks A LOT.

You're spot on about this, in my totally not humble opinion. I try to feed my boys somewhat well, but I will also admit that we generally go for a kids meal about once a week. When you have to put a hot meal on the table seven nights a week, you start to run out of options. One great thing about this is that you can now get kids meals with apple slices and juice boxes! And my kids actually want that a lot of the time (I am so blessed.) Anyway, they also have great meals at school. Benj was just telling me that today he had spinach with lunch! I almost fell over! So for the most part I am trying to instill healthy habits but I also have help from the school cafeteria as well as ChickfilA.

My children are also active. Yes, William does have a Game Boy (sometimes Mama just needs peace and quiet) but we also swim, play soccer, and generally run around a good bit.

Thanks, because due to your post, I officially feel like A Good Parent now. hee hee.

Anonymous said...

You will have no problem eating great in Nashville. Everyone is so "organic" here.

I ate McD's growing up and I wasn't obese. It's a matter of staying active--growing up on a farm there wasn't a LOT of time spent inside in the evenings.

I need to get you my ph # in case you need anything. We will be in town all weekend in case you do!

icadle said...

I spent the weekend with a 18 month old who would eat hummus, corn, and all sorts of stuff. Her parents even let her have a couple sips of wine.

Ally said...

Ivy: I love seeing young children who eat things other than ketchup, fries, chicken nuggets, fries, ketchup...

FC&F: Thank you very much! I am very much looking forward to having more food options. E-mail me your number, please! I think, however, that they every minute of my first week in Nashville planned out already!

cdp: I think instilling an active lifestyle is so important--as is teaching moderation. Sounds like you've rightly declared yourself A Good Parent:)

Ella: That's what I used to do too--happy meals. Tonight I ordered the kid's meal at Cracker Barrel--that way it's super cheap and not too much food.

Billy: I totally agree about blaming adults. It's always striking to me when a mom says she cannot lose weight b/c of all of the kids' food in the house (i.e. snacks, cookies, etc.) As if it's a good idea for children or adults to eat so many empty calories. And while I do not disagree about the more healthy version of kids meals, I've truly never seen a child eat one (except when I made my little in Big Brothers Big Sisters:)

As for poor people's diet in America, I agree that it sucks that the cheapest food is also the most unhealthy. However adults can make good or rather better choices, and you can fix a meal at home that isn't horribly unhealthy for less than you can buy 4 meals at McDonald's if you really want to do so. But I agree; I wish it were easier and cheaper, but short of the government subsidizing certain foods, I don't see that changing.

Ally said...

Ys: Absolutely. When I ran a lot I quit eating any fast food, etc., and then when I had it again I was so sick.

A Life Uncommon: Making the quesadilla never would have even occurred to me with those goodies sitting there!

Scotty: I've got some on right now:)

Anonymous said...

The fact that childhood obesity is such a problem is appalling. An 8 year-old has no income and no transportation, so how in the hell are they eating that kind of food so often???? THE PARENTS. To me, it's child abuse to allow your child to be that much overweight when you almost have 100% control over what goes in their mouth.

The Egg said...

I also rediscovered fruits and veggies. I still crave junk and other unhealthy items, but I walk it off:) Another magical element to healthy living is plain old water. Drink lots and lots of water. Does wonders for the GI tract, skin, and who knows what else!

AaroN said...

I wish we had a hot date before you head off to Tennessee. I'd take you out to Krystal!!

Ally said...

Aaron: I actually like to have Krystals about once every year or tastes good, but then I am required to "sleep" it off:) I'm due for some, so come visit:)

the egg: I love some water too.

Anonymous: I agree. I knew a child who was really overweight, and their parents provided her with a six pack of Coke a day. Crazy. It's like setting your child up for numerous health problems.

Clearlykels said...

I'm not going to lie, I read the first part of your post and got so hungry. I was raised on very healthy foods. I never got to go to McDonalds until my parents got divorced and my dad would take us.

I think because of that I always have a banana or something like that to reach for-- actually, I have a banana in my purse right now just in case I get hungry.

That said, a big greasy breakfast rarely happens, but I do crave them. Oh, and I'm with Desiree-- I probably would've had a brownie while making the healthy food. That has been known to happen.

I live in flip flops.

cdp said...

Thinking of you. Good luck with the move! Let us know when you're settled. I'm so excited to hear about Nashville; and I will be praying for you!

Ally said...

cdp: Thank you so very much. What a sweet comment to get at the end of my day.

Clearlykels: Funny, I pulled a banana out of my purse yesterday while driving...and I felt SO healthy!