The nation’s schools — under fire for unhealthy school lunches, well-stocked vending machines and phys-ed cuts — may actually do a better job than parents in keeping children fit and trim. A study found that 5- and 6-year-olds gained more weight over the summer than during the school year, casting doubt on the assumption that kids are more active during summer vacation.
This is frightening. I try my best to put good, healthy food in front of my fmily. I often stick to the South Beach cookbooks because they’re really not even dieting books so much as just healthy menus. But aware as I am of the sorry state of menus for elementary and high school children, I’m disheartened to know that American parents can’t do better.
But I’m not surprised. I work long hours, but still force myself to exercise an hour a day, 5 times a week. I’m in good shape for my age. But when I go on vacation, when I have more than a few moments to notice the passersby strolling around, I’m always amazed how few fit Americans there are in “real” America (by which I mean your average Joes and Janes–and not the nightclub crowd). Kids imitate us, so it’s not surprising that children are just as lazy as their parents. And don’t kid yourself–it is plain old laziness for the majority of us who could get up 30 minutes earlier, or stay up 30 minutes later, to work in that jog around the block, bike, pushups, situps, etc.
I’ve got to relate another story while I’m at it. And this goes to the general reluctance to tell your friends how to live (but the relative urge to tell strangers on the internet…). A good friend of mine a few years ago decided to get in shape. Now he wasn’t obese, but he was pushing plump. A fellow law student. He related to me how he’d started using the stationary bikes for 30 minutes a day. I was pleased, but didn’t belabor my happiness that he’d decided to get serious (as I said, I try to keep the evangelizing to a minimum with the friends, for the friendships’ sakes).
I finally had the chance to workout with him, and I witnessed in him the complete ignorance that many Americans must have about EXERCISE. To him–let’s call him Max–exercise was getting on the bike, slowly pedeling the pedels, and not really breaking much of a sweat. His heartrate didn’t really push 110 to 120, max.
Well, as many of you will know, he wasn’t doing anything for his 30-something body or heart. Just about zilch. I learned at that moment why these diet fads all rake in so much money, and also why none of them seem to work for so many. The real secret to fitness, of course, is eating less, eating healthily, and true exercise. Yes, sweaty, uncomfortable, and long. I’m in my mid 30s, so for me that means sustained exercise daily for about 45 minutes of heartrates of about 155-160. Yes, I can get drenched. And yes, I had to work up to that point–but I was never dry on the way up there.
So Max, best of luck to you, but I’m guessing (since you’re as headstrong as I) that you’ll always be chubby. I am no longer.
And on the food point? You don’t have to buy The Okinawa Program, that book about eating like the people with the greatest longevity in the world, to follow their program. Visiting Japan reveals what it means to eat healthily–small amounts, so that when you stop eating, you still have room (and desire) for more. Moderate to small amounts of fat (the Atkins diet has some benefits, but mostly the fat element is just a “filler” to satisfy the tummy — it does you more good for your cardiovascular system to eat less and remain hungry, than to eat Atkins amounts of fat). Many vegetables. And fish, tofu, poultry, and smaller portions and seldom servings of red meat. And–compared to the typical American’s palate–cut drastically the amount of refined sugar. That means, watch carefully the sodas, the sweetened yoghurts, the desserts–and consume them early in the day, so you don’t sleep on the refined sugars (or other carbs, for that matter), which facilitates the buildup of body fat.
Plus–if you start early with the kids, it sticks–and they lose the taste for the sugar and fat. Amazing, but true, and easy with a little willpower.