Times Are Definitely Changing

Last night’s fitblog chat had an awesome topic; how advertising affects the health of our nation. 

Do you think major companies promote their unhealthy products to a point that made the obesity rate soar, our overall concept of health diminish or change, and the life expectancy of the current generation to be less than those of the past?

It was ironic that this was the discussion because yesterday in my Personal and Social Development Class, the kids took turns explaining a typical day in their homes.  Most of them shared they leave home in the morning with no breakfast, or a PopTart while running out the door, barely any contact with their parents, or a negative interaction with a family member. 

They then come to school, hungry, tired, and ultimately mad at their situation so lash out at me, my colleagues, or other students, which creates more anger and resentment because of the disciplinary consequence.  None of these feelings are really about the work they are forced to do, the kid next to them that has the same “kicks,” or the peanut butter and jelly they eat for lunch everyday because that’s all the cafeteria provides for the CLIIP classroom.  Their fury and irritation is at home, and when they were further explained their evenings, I kind of understood why.

Most of them go home, go on the computer, or their cell phones and make plans for the night.  Whenever they solidify a friend or place to “chill,” they leave, and don’t return until 9:00-10:00 PM. 

“What do you do for dinner?” My co-teacher asked.

“Just grab whatever.  There’s usually something in the fridge…you know, pizza rolls, hot pockets, or we get McDonalds or Burger King…man the fries at Burger King are tight.”

Ok, that was my best effort to directly quote what a student says, because usually I need a translator to understand their language, but regardless, most of them were unfamiliar with the concept of a sit-down dinner, home-cooked meal, or family time.

So really, this brings me to two conclusions.

I don’t necessarily blame advertising agencies or massive corporations for corrupting the health of our nation.  I blame the tremendous shift in values within the family unit, and finances.

I am not saying we sat down and ate our meals together everyday when I was growing up.  That would have been nearly impossible with a five-year age gap between my sister and I, the sports practices and club meetings that occurred all year-long, and my mom (and later my Poppy) working random hours because our family owned their own business.  BUT during the week there was always something home-made ready when our individual meal times took place, and at least someone around who asked about our days. 

These kids have neither of those things! In fact, a third of my population is the parental figure for their younger siblings, which is why frozen entrees and fast food are staples in their diets.  They have no one to teach them any differently! 

For this reason I am hoping that I can secure the home-ec room to maybe teach them some simple meals or snacks that require minimal preparation, aren’t super expensive, and have a balanced nutritional profile.  If anyone has suggestions please let me know!  I am hoping the kids will appreciate it.

My second conclusion, the value of a dollar, I somewhat touched on in my post following when I watched Food Inc. 

Junky food is CHEAP!  I am always looking through my weekly grocery-ads and seeing, buy one get one free bags of chips, sugary drinks for a dollar, and frozen pizza to feed the entire family for almost nothing!  No wonder parents chose these options over apples that are $2.50 a pound, or whole-grain snack foods that can be double the BOGO potato crisps. 

I personally feel that you can live healthily on a budget.  After all, we manage to buy produce, yogurt, nuts, cows milk, almond milk, nut butters, lean meats, etc. and stay within my weekly budget, but coupons aren’t typically available for these things so you have to work a little harder to find the deals.  Not to mention I visit farmers markets and a few different grocery stores depending on their bonus card promotions. 

(I also don’t think people consider the long-term costs of poor health…hello hospital bills!  They are wicked expensive!)

All of this probably sounds time-consuming, but we added it up one time and we save an average of $50 dollars a week by taking 2-3 hours out of my life to prepare a list, cut coupons, menu plan, and actually do the shopping. 

I understand that may seem unfeasible for some, and that could be true.  Everyone’s lives, schedules, financial situations, and priorities are different, but going back to the original question, about who or what is to blame for the declining health of our country, it is not fair to completely target corporations, commercials, or gimmicks. 

It is the shift in family values, the hectic schedules, lack of education, easy access to junk, and a slew of other things that contribute to our current wellness situation.

I would love to hear the thoughts of others! I found it really interesting to read the variety of responses generated from the four questions on fitblog chat last night, so it would be great to hear from you. 

Hope you have an awesome hump day!

Look for the WIAW post tonight, featuring a killer dinner recipe!


22 thoughts on “Times Are Definitely Changing

  1. I grew up eating some of the foods that are bashed as awful and bad for kids. The difference was we always ate dinner as a family, there were seven of us so no treat ever lasted long, and after school we’d play outside until dark. I definitely think the parents’ have the ultimate say in what goes into the house and just because your kid is screaming for it doesn’t mean you have to buy it. I realize some kids can get it from other outside sources, but often the parents turn a blind eye to that. And, I think they can instead educate their kids on why having a treat is ok if it’s not all the time. Then they learn to balance the “good” and “bad” foods (I hate those terms btw).

    • I agree with you that labeling food as good and bad is a terrible idea! Judgement is not necessary because it completely disregards the idea of moderation and sometimes having a cookie is pretty darn awesome. Thanks for your opinion! I thought this was such an interesting topic!

    • Growing up I had a stay at home mom (which I know is pretty much un-heard of now). She cooked all our dinners and we did and still do eat as a family. She also provided “treats” (baked cookies and cakes), but I feel I grew up eating basically healthy and well-rounded foods. I think the big problem today comes from all the technology (computers, cell phones and TV) that has replaced any type of excerise and imagination. I feel like things are already imagined for kids and they just pop it in the TV or work the controls. I actually feel sorry for kids concerning this.

      • I totally agree about the technology!! the kids I have in class are totally clueless when it comes to thinking for themselves. they dont even know how to use a dictionary!! the emphasis has definitely changed from being a whole, well-rounded person, to being the fastest at texting. its pretty sad!

  2. I do what I can. I am really struggling financially, so I can’t always make the best choices. For example, organic yogurt or cottage cheese for me is like $5 or over that. So I can only afford anything NOT organic (which can be 3-4 dollars, or $2 when I find the no-name generic sale brands!). Huge difference in pricing, so I have to just go with non-organic , etc.
    I don’t like food labelling though. I’m trying to disregard it and just eat anything — whether its considered “junkY” or not. I do most everything backward or against the “rules” I guess.

    • i dont think you necessarily have to buy organic. i know we dont in my house unless we consume the skin. but there is always a special on some kind of greek yogurt, some sort of veggie, starch and or lean proteins. but i am totally a generic purchaser! i use a lot of egg whites and the store branc is almost a dollar cheaper!

  3. I’ve found coupons for organic things, there’s a site called Mambo Sprouts that will have them sometimes, I would check there :). But you are right, a lot of it really is junk and junky foods are cheap and easy.

    I don’t think this is just a problem for your students or disadvantaged kids. A lot of kids in middle and upper middle class families have the same situation where their parents work long hours or aren’t there for them and have bad home situations… but I do agree it’s not as bad of a problem for them.

    Another thing you didn’t mention is vending machines in schools. Even if parents work hard to keep their kids healthy, they have access at school, even in elementary school. And at all times of the day sometimes, and no healthy option in the machines. I remember in high school, kids who were on free or reduced lunches wouldn’t even get it, they would eat from the vending machine instead. As if the actual lunch food wasn’t junky enough because it had french fries every day…

  4. Okay so this post is awesome and im showing it to my parents. They are convinced my heathly eating is way to expensive and i should just eat cheap. Uhh no, eating all that junky stuff makes me feel horrible. If i have to spend a few extra bucks and feel better then so be it 🙂

  5. I don’t blame advertising or HFCS or any of that either. It’s an easy scapegoat, but it’s too easy. I agree with what you’ve said, and I also think there has been a major lifestyle shift in terms of the amount of work we do in the past 100 years.

    When my grandparents were in grade school (in the 1920s), they walked 1 mile to school each morning and the same again home in the evening. They also walked home for lunch at midday! Their playtime was outside, running around, and the chores they did were physical (both of them grew up on farms).

    When my mom was in grade school (in the 1950s), she walked 6 blocks to school and also walked home for lunch. (My dad lived in a city and took a bus, but did physical labor after-school jobs from a very young age because it “built character”.) She and her siblings also played outside for fun.

    When I was in grade school (in the 90s…heck yeah), I walked about 3 blocks, and my friends’ parents thought my parents were crazy for not “letting” me take the bus. While my own household never watched TV and we did mostly active things, the majority of my classmates spent most of their time watching TV or playing Nintendo. And snacking.

    We don’t necessarily eat THAT much more than we have in recent history…but what we do eat is more calorically dense, and more importantly, we’re incredibly sedentary.

    (also, i have to comment that Burger King fries are, indeed, TIGHT.)

    • The lack of activity drives me nuts! If we even have to walk 6 extra steps to get to another classroom because the floor is wet or something silly, they have a meltdown right in the hallway. Today we had gym and they had to do a five minute warm up of cardio and they complained for 10 minutes because they actually got on the machines. it is so frustrating and breaks my heart that they dont know any different but you are right, all they do is text, facebook and play video games!
      thank you for reinforcing their opinion of the fries haha I have never tried them but perhaps I shall put it on my list!

  6. I just started reading your blog recently and I just had to comment on this post because it made me think of something I had read about junk food vs. healthy food prices. I used to think cost was the main factor behind people’s decision to eat junk food but in reality, junk food isn’t much cheaper than healthy food. I think you’ll find this interesting and perhaps something you could show your students. I know prices vary based on geographic location but its still something to think about.

    I also think the shift in family values has been a major contributing factor in the increase in obesity and the increased consumption of junk food and fast food. My family growing up sounds a lot like how yours was. We were always busy with many different schedules but dinner was always either cooked for us to eat when we got home, cooked and packed for on-the-go to eat in the car, or was prepared for us to heat in the microwave when we got home. The convenience of fast food is a huge draw for parents because its fast and easy. I think families today spend a lot less time together and there is a lot less actual parenting going on too. There is very little effort required when picking up fast food to feed your children versus actually having to cook a meal and clean up afterwards.

    • I totally agree! I feel like it is almost a form of neglect, or at least gives kids that impression that perhaps their parents dont care enough to provide something and sit down as a family. Thank you so much for that article! I am planning on doing another lesson next week with them and we are going to watch either Food Inc or Supersize me! They are definitely opposed to both these films because they are documentary and educational rather than violence and sex but i think it could be really worth their while! Thanks for commenting. You have GREAT insight.

  7. I think one of the largest problems is the lack of nutritional education. I attended a public school in Northern VA and we never discussed nutrition or how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t learn anything about nutrition until I started doing my own research. I think that education (starting at a younger age) would be incredibly beneficial. Also our food quality kinda sucks. I had been reading this blog written by a teacher in a middle class neighborhood in Chicago who ate the cafeteria food everyday for a year. There are nutritional guidelines in regards to having so mny vegetables, fruit, etc but did you know that ketchup counts as a vegetable!? It’s no wonder that kids are so confused about healthy eating.

    • I mean I like ketchup but counting it as a veggie?!?! I see that everyday in my school… Their fruit is red food colored apple sauce or a tiny bowl of fruit cocktail… They may have some healthy options but the kids hardly ever choose them. We did get fat free chocolate milk this year haha I suppose that’s an upgrade.

  8. What a great post! I think health education is severly lacking. My students are not required to take health. In high school they can take it if they choose to. (I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take a fun elective like sign language, vet tech, or tv production over health.) Kids need the knowledge in order to make healthy choices.*

    • i agree! they do not prioritize health AT ALL but why should they when the kids complain how boring it is. its sad because we are just creating a cycle of poor health.

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