Today, President Obama signed a presidential memorandum on preventing childhood obesity, a cause taken up by First Lady Michelle Obama. It focused on school lunches, exercise, and public awareness about healthy food. Also today I saw an article highlighting a research study suggesting family meals, adequate sleep, and limited TV could help reduce childhood obesity. Interesting that these news tidbits both came at me within one hour. Let’s dig into it, shall we?
First, I’ll share just a few general observations about these two bits of news. The research study implies that the risk for childhood obesity can be managed by the family’s lifestyle choices. The study does caution that the lowered risk may come from something other than the direct influence of the family meal, sleep, and limited TV routines. It could be that families who do these routines also do other healthy things that keep kids at a healthy weight – healthier food choices by parents at mealtime, parents modeling good exercise habits, encouragement for kids to be physically active.
The first lady’s plan includes increased public awareness about healthy foods, efforts to make healthier food more affordable, and improving nutrition in school meals. Admittedly, Michelle Obama says that the government will play a rather small role in a larger effort. Ultimately, families and businesses everywhere need to do their part to make this change happen.
Personal health really has to matter to families. It’s so easy to take the route of convenience and not really think about what you are eating. If left to our own devices, many of us would just eat what we feel like and forget about it. Also, I’m not sure how we make a bag of carrots not only cheaper but more appealing than a bag of greasy chips. That sounds like a tall order, especially because of one key factor – you can’t really make anyone do anything.
Michelle Obama even said that nobody really believes that government telling people to do this will just make it happen. Everyone needs to buy into it themselves. I agree – the old adage about leading a horse to water may sound cliche but it is very true. Also in a bad economy, will families really spend more on better food or try to pay their bills each month and keep buying the cheap low- nutrition food? When push comes to shove, it will be up to each family to decide.
While I’m glad to see this issue get some focus and attention, I’m uncertain how this will all play out. I hope somewhere in here, the findings from the study I mentioned above will play into the strategy. Not only focus on food and exercise, but get the family involved with overall healthy habits. What do you think? What does your family do to keep everyone at a healthy weight? Do you practice any or some of the family meal, sleep, and limited TV routines mentioned above?