Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Happy Meal…Not So Much

In case you haven’t heard, the fast-food giant McDonald’s has announced this week that they are launching a new, “improved” and “healthier” Happy Meal.  Now, instead of offering children the choice of apples or fries, as McDonald's had experimented with in the past, all Happy Meals will automatically include both.  The standard kid’s meal will include a quarter-cup of sliced apples (or mandarin slices or pineapple chunks) and 1.1 ounces of fries (down from 2.4 ounces).  Keep in mind that a serving of fruit is a half-cup.  So, they aren’t even offering a full serving of fruit in the kid’s meal.  Customers can skip the fries altogether and double the apple slices for a full serving, but parents must ask.

In her response to if she felt the new Happy Meals met nutritional standards, Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s, stated "I am confident about the changes that we're making on our Happy Meals."  She completely avoided the nutrition aspect of the meal.  With the exception of a few variations based upon what is ordered, the new meals will represent a 20% decrease in calories, a 15% decrease in sodium, and a 20% reduction in saturated fat, according to Fields.  That makes the meal a healthier option, but not healthy enough.  The new Happy Meal still weighs in with a total 89 grams of sugar.  Nutritionists recommend no more that 12 grams of added sugar per day for kids!  The chain estimates the changes to the Happy Meal will save an estimated 49 billion calories in American kids' diets annually.  Seriously?  If it will save that many calories our kids are consuming, parents are allowing way too many Happy Meals! 

Fields also announced that they would continue providing a toy with each Happy Meal.  So the fast food giant is willing to sacrifice our kids’ futures for a toy as a consolation prize?  For years kids have wanted a Happy Meal in part due to the toy that accompanies it.  McDonald’s has preyed upon kids’ idea of what is fun and markets directly to their young imagination.  In 2009, McDonald's spent $69.5 million on advertising for its Happy Meals.  In the first half of 2010, it spent $45.6 million alone.  "We only advertise the healthy items in the Happy Meal," said Fields. "We've been doing that for a number of years."  Maybe I am missing something, but I don’t see anything “healthy” about a Happy Meal. 

I realize McDonald’s - or any other fast food chain with kids' meals - is not the only one to blame.  Parents must make the decision to drive to a McDonald’s and allow their children to eat a Happy Meal.  Do you remember the guy who burned his mouth on the hot coffee and tried to sue the chain because the coffee was hot?  He lost that case.  And the same goes for eating calorie-loaded, fat-laden foods from the chain.  Ultimately we are responsible for what we out into our bodies and what we feed our children.  But at what point does someone step up and become the voice of reason?  As I have said so many times before, we are currently killing our kids.  Not only will obesity shorten their lifespan, obesity will limit the quality of life our youngsters have.  They are more likely to suffer diseases, cancer, and even mental health issues.  Obesity increases the risk of depression by 55%.  Furthermore, statistics show that people suffering from depression have 24.5% more belly fat than those who are not depressed.  So, from where I stand, a Happy Meal is a far cry from its connotation. 

Even if fast food marketers and producers won’t step up, we can take our own steps to getting healthier.  We can reverse the obesity epidemic that is currently being waged.  Together we can get healthy and increase the quality and quantity of our years.  If you or someone you love is facing obesity or simply wants to prevent it, I am here for you.  “Happy” is found in your health, not in a box with greasy food and a toy.  Go to to see all the ways I can help you and those you love.  Obesity is 100% preventable – let’s find true happiness today! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Children & Parents are Vulnerable to Obesigenic Environment

In a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, two doctors state that in extreme cases of childhood obesity, the state should consider removing the child from the home.  The authors state that severely obese children can eat more than 1,000 calories a day in excess of what their body requires, “suggesting profoundly dysfunctional eating and activity habits.”  So, the authors suggest that when training and other forms of support to parents don’t help change their children’s habits, foster care should be considered.  Although it’s not “desirable or practical, and probably not legally justifiable, for most”, it may be the only way to prevent imminent harm to those kids.  The authors note that foster care wouldn’t guarantee improved health, and that taking kids away from their parents is very traumatic.

I personally do not agree with taking children out of the home – I want a guarantee that our kids will get healthy.  The authors suggest foster care as a temporary placement for the child until the imminent risk has passed.  However, once the child is returned to the home, all the bad habits, inactivity, and poor food choices will return.  Taking severely obese children from their parents does not fix what is currently broken in our country.  Most parents of obese children are not harming their children on purpose – they simply do not know better.  The government should spend the time and money they would spend on this foster care and use it to teach and encourage parents to make better choices and to support them in their efforts.  We can prevent obesity – we can educate, encourage, support, and motivate families rather than punishing them for what they don’t know. 

We cannot expect a problem to simply go away without fixing what is broken.  And the country currently is very broken when it comes to obesity.  The most recent rankings among the states’ obesity rates show that Mississippi leads the nation in obesity with 34.5% of its residents obese.  However, even in the Colorado, the state with the lowest obesity rate of 21.4%, nearly 60% of its residents are either overweight or obese!  We are living in a society filled with fast food, sugary drinks, desk jobs, and video games – and it is killing us!  As the Journal article states, “Ubiquitous junk food marketing, lack of opportunities for physically active recreation, and other aspects of modern society promote unhealthful lifestyles in children. Inadequate or unskilled parental supervision can leave children vulnerable to these obesigenic environmental influences.”  The fact that we have an “obesigenic environment” should be the alarming issue.  We live in a society where the U.S. agriculture now produces 3,900 calories of food per person per day.  That is about twice the amount each person should consume per day.  Again I say, we must fix what is broken.

Many parents cite lack of time or lack of money (or both) as to reasons they can’t feed their children healthy foods or allow them to play sports or get physical activity.  For example, the census data for Mississippi shows that it is ranked #1 for persons living below poverty level and #50 for median household income.  On the flip side, Colorado is ranked #32 for persons below poverty level and #13 for median household income.  This trend is pretty consistent when reviewing poverty/income versus obesity rankings.  But, this does not have to be the trend – low income families do not have to automatically face obesity.  Parents can be taught and guided on ways to be healthy and stay within their financial and time budgets.  For example, some of the cheapest foods you can find in the grocery store are eggs and bananas – two very nutritious & delicious items that can be eaten any time of day.  Also, playing tag or a game of kickball with friends in a backyard or area field is absolutely free and gets kids active.  This is the time when the government should really heed the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!

If you or someone you care about is facing this obesigenic environment and doesn’t know how to get out, I will help educate, encourage, and motivate you to find your way out and get your life back.  Go to to see all the ways I can help you and those you love.  Obesity is 100% preventable – let’s fix what is broken and prevent it today! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Now That We Know Better…

I just arrived home from a trip to Starbucks with my “tall daily brew” – no cream or sugar and a teaspoon of my own agave syrup.  As I was waiting on my coffee, I saw an obese woman getting out of her car.  She walked around to the back to do something in the trunk.  As I noticed how lethargically she moved, I saw an advertising deco on the driver’s side door but couldn’t see what it advertised.  As I left, I was able to see that she represents a diet product business.  The bottom of the deco said “as used on Hollywood red carpets”.  At first it made me laugh, but as I drove home, it concerned me more and more.  Don’t we know better by now?  How can we have obese people selling diet products?  How can we as Americans be spending more on diet products than ever before, but still be fatter than ever before?  Haven’t we learned our lesson?  How can we not understand that being healthy is found in lifestyle and not instant pill-popping or juice-drinking?

You can see my Pop Pop's cigarette pack
(filterless Lucky Strike) in his pocket. He
passed away from cancer soon after this photo.
As I have thought this morning about the health and obesity crisis that this country is facing, I thought about the time it requires to reverse a national lifestyle.  Let’s take tobacco use and cigarette smoking for example.  Cigarettes were first sold commercially in American in 1865.  The cigarette-making machine was invented in 1881 and Phillip Morris came out with the Marlboro brand in 1902.  During World Wars I & II, soldiers were given free cigarettes.  After those wars, the popularity of smoking was brought back to the states and into American homes.  Women were smoking, even while pregnant.  Tobacco use was allowed in hospitals – doctors would hold a cigarette in one hand while examining with the other.  It wasn’t until 1964 that the Surgeon General announced that cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.  So, it took nearly 100 years to discover cigarettes may be harmful.  It wasn’t until 1988 that it was discovered nicotine is an addictive drug.  However, big tobacco heads swore until 1997 that nicotine was not addictive.  In 1998, California was the first state to enact a statewide smoking ban.  By 2009, 37 states had some form of a ban on smoking.  Still, tobacco subsidies in the United States totaled $1.1 billion from 1995-2010 and will continue until 2014.  Bottom line, we all now know how harmful tobacco use can be to our health, but it took us nearly a century and a half to reverse the popularity and regular use of tobacco, but the government is still subsiding tobacco. 

You can see my Grandaddy's cigarette pack
(filterless Camel) in his pocket. He passed away
from cardiac arrest several years later.

Let’s now compare this cycle to the use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  HFCS is a highly processed sweetener that has been shown to be harmful to humans and may be partly to blame for affecting Americans’ need for sweetness.  It is sweeter than sugar and has led many children and adults to crave even more sweetness in their diet.  HFCS was introduced into packaged and processed foods beginning in 1975.  By 1984, it was widely used in sodas and packaged foods.  Today, HFCS accounts for about half of the added sugar consumption in the US.  HFCS is easier to blend and transport because it is a liquid and is much cheaper to produce than sugar.  Since the mid 1990s, the US government has subsidized corn growers by $40 billion.  With only about 35 years of marketing, we may have a long road ahead before we can prove to Americans and manufacturers that HFCS is harmful.  But, now that we know better, can’t we make a change now?  We can at least take control of what we put into our (and our families’) bodies.  By eating fresh food straight from the earth, we know exactly what is and is NOT going into our bodies.  Let’s not put it upon our great-grandchildren in the 22nd century to ratify a ban on HFCS. 

And let’s keep in mind that HFCS is not the only nutritional invention that is causing us harm.  I just used this as an example.  Items like diet pills, energy drinks, hormone injections, meal replacements, etc have not been around very long but have all been shown to have harmful effects.  Let’s not wait around for the days when we say “if only I knew then…”  If we are really honest with ourselves, we know better now.  We just want to take the lazy, sugar-coated road.  And that road has only led to 66% of us being overweight or obese.  But, now that we know better, we can reverse this obesity epidemic and live better longer lives. 

If you or someone you knows better but needs help reversing your own trend, I will help you but on the brakes and head in the right direction.  Go to to see all the ways I can help you and those you love.  Also, prevent the trend by signing your kids up for my Camp Champ for Kiddos.  See for July’s flyer.  Obesity is 100% preventable – we know better and we can make the change today!