Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm a NERD. Are you a NERD?

Currently, most of my clients are adults who are over the age of 40.  However, one of my areas of focus is the state of health of our children.  I admitted in yesterday’s blog that I am not a registered dietician and do not have a degree is sports & fitness, but I do know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to nutrition and exercise.  So, let me say today that I am not a parent, but I do know that the lifestyle of today’s typical kids is killing them.  We teach our children to “just say no” to smoking, drinking, and drugs.  But, ya know what?  The death rates and economic costs of obesity now have surpassed the smoking-related death rates and economic costs.  For children who are diagnosed with diabetes before age 15, their lifespan is reduced by 17-27 years.  How can we see these stats and continue to allow Happy Meals over fresh-made dinners, video games over backyard tag, and email conversations while walking in the mall? 

I am honestly not here to blame any one person, group, or party.  Parents are not the only ones to blame – as they say, it takes a village.  But I do think that someone needs to stand up for our children.  They should be taught at an early age that being healthy is not only essential, it can be fun and exciting.  I know parents struggle with celebrities who serve as our current “idols” or “role models” for kids.  We should also make our kids aware of the health traps they face on TV and the internet every day.  Everything they see on TV is not always good for them – they should know that Jersey Shore is not reality, a Happy Meal does not equal happiness, and a Wii cannot replace the energy-boosting power of running around the backyard or playing in the park.  On average, our kids see 10,000 food ads per year.  Of those ads, 95% are for sugared cereal, soft drinks, fast food, and candy.  These numbers are in stark contrast to the kinds of foods they should be eating. 

With kids, we should focus less on the scale and how they look and more on how they feel.  We should tell them that good nutrition means we have to fuel our bodies so they will work the way they should.  When we eat fried and sugary foods like French fries and candy, we are clogging our bodies with bad things and not feeding it the fuel we need.  Think about your vehicle – we go to the gas station and fill it up with gas, right?  Well, what would happen if we poured a liter of soda or a gallon of Kool-Aid into the car’s tank?  It would sputter and not get very far, if it even started at all.  Our bodies are the same way!  Our kids need to fuel their bodies so they can run, jump, play, and even think and use their brains in school.  Our ancestors were called “hunters & gatherers”, but somehow, we have evolved into “package openers & drive-thruers”.  We can simply sit in our cars and have someone hand us fast food directly into our car window.  Instead, we can show our kids how to eat the rainbow every day.  Whose favorite color is white or brown?  No one I know!  Bright colors not only make our eyes happy, they make our bodies happy!  The more color we eat, the better it is for us!  We can also teach our kids that they need at least one hour of physical activity every single day.  We need this to help our heart, our muscles, our joints, and our brains.  Playing, climbing, swimming, all counts as exercise – and it can be fun.  And, just as important as exercise is rest.  School-age kids need 10-11 hours of sleep every night.  That is about 2-3 hours more than we adults should get.  This is very important for their bodies to grow and to have the energy to have fun and brain power to do well in school.  I present this to kids as being health NERDs – we need to get Nutrition, Exercise, and Rest Daily.  It’s not about being skinny rather than fat or pretty rather than ugly.  If we are all NERDs, we won’t have to worry about that – together we will all have a healthy weight, a healthy mind, and a healthy body!  I’m a NERD.  Are you a NERD?  Are you willing to teach your kids to be NERDs? 

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