Sunday, December 24, 2006

A child obesity puzzle

I don't say too much about childhood obesity; there's plenty to read out there, and my opinion isn't much different from yours, probably. Kids eat too many snacks and play too many video games, watch too much television and drink too much soda. But this article caught my eye.

At the same time children have gotten fatter, participation in youth sports has also increased. An interesting twist of fate, yes? Your kids are jazzed to play soccer but it doesn't seem to help move the pudge. And, truly, that's not a good reason to sign up for a team. You play team sports because you want to be part of the game, not to get rid of baby fat.

Like the author of one of the books cited in the article, when I was a kid we didn't really play on teams. We just played. My brother and I walked to and from school every day from late elementary school through high school. As soon as we banged through the front door we changed from "school" clothes to "play" clothes and headed back outside.

After we did our homework, of course.

Each season brought different outdoor types of outdoor fun, but we probably liked winter best. Bundling up against the cold, dragging sleds to the best hill in town – another long walk – and joining all the other kids from school trudging up and sliding down, over and over and over. Sometimes a few parents would build a fire in an old 50-gallon steel drum and bring a thermos of hot chocolate, but it was hard getting us away from the hill for even a little warmth and rest.

Ice skating, too, was something we looked forward to. I had tights and a little short skating skirt and wore a couple of heavy sweaters and loved the feeling of gliding around the ice, just like the skaters I watched on Wide World of Sports.

Well, maybe not just like them, but in my mind that's how I looked.

I don't want to sound like Grumpy Old Man from Saturday Night Live, shouting about his rough childhood and then exclaiming, "And we liked it!" So I'll stop right now. With just a final observation that I rarely find children playing in a neighborhood. They're probably all at the park. Or watching television.

Most of blogland seems to be taking time off for the holidays. But I'm home and this is how I've spent every morning of my life for almost a year now, so why not? This helps me more than it helps you. Heh. I'll be taking a short blog break next month, but in the meantime, I'll carry on as usual. Mr. Shrinking Knitter and I will be socializing later this evening, and I think I'll just relax and enjoy myself, while continuing to avoid sugar.

I hope Santa brings you everything you want and a special surprise, too.


Susie said...

Merry Christmas, Shrinking Knitter! I agree with your observations - free play is practically dead. As a mom, I have to reminde myself to push the kids out the door and play, and we have a massive lovely fenced yard. My bad...

I so enjoy your blog - both the knitting and the shrinking are inspirational!

Vickie said...

I am not a paranoid person - but in this day and age - one has to be very careful with kids' (especially girls) safety. I think that is the reason that you don't see kids out roaming like when we were all little.

I have two girls - ages 8 and 12 - we live next door to a park - I let them go - in two's only - and tell them if they get there and there are ANY adults - to come straight home. there is NO direct access to this park from the outside - it is in the middle of the neighborhood.

I only let them roller blade on our street (it is a very large cul-de-sac) and only bike ride around the neighborhood if their dad or brother or I goes with them.

YES - we have had children taken in our area - And honestly - we are the good end of town - but it scares me just as much.

So - structured activities are what we do - because they are safe.

Greta said...


I agree that the reason we don't see kids play is increased fear. i don't know if kids are actually at more risk now but every little thing that happens anywhere in the world is covered on the news now and that was not the case when I was young.

I was on an adult soccer team and did not find it great exercise because there was a lot of waiting around & very short bursts of running.

What I ate as a child was HUGELY different from most modern kids. Fast food was not invented nor all the chips and prepared grocery foods. We had a home-cooked meal every night. The meat was not grain fattened back then so it was very lean and extremely tough. I remember most nights there was meat & veggies & homemade canned fruit for dessert. My Mother dished out the food & there were no seconds offered or available. I don't remember wanting more but I was very very skinny. My ribs showed and nobody seemed to worry about it. Thats what kids looked like I suppose. I don't recall that my pediatrician was concerned. However, after food restriction until I was 18, I went nuts when I went away to college and loaded up on peanut butter & jelly, honey, donuts & cookies in the school cafeteria & gained 40 pounds in one school year. I lost the 40 pounds that summer at home and thus began my lifetime weight battle.

There has to be a nice middle ground. Some treats and some restrictions but not so that the kids feel deprived or so that they become obese. Quite often the obese kids live with obese parents but not all the time.

Have a wonderful Christmas. If you keep writing I will keep reading!

Tori said...

True about the safety issue and unfortunately this affects many American families. When I was little, my brother and I would be gone all day with our friends, checking back in with Mom at specific times, but we had SO much free play. I'm sad that my 4 year old won't get that as much. It's just not feasible timewise for me to be out all day with her. She is in the backyard a lot and I take her to the park next door daily, California weather permitting. Another thing I've noticed is the pressure to get your kids "on the computer". My sister-in-law warns me that my daughter won't understand computers if I don't get her on the computer. We didn't have computers when I was younger, and I understand them well enough, that when I was working, I was the expert people came to when Tech support wasn't available. There are two different philosophies staring with preschools in our area. One is acedamia by rote. The other is activities that support acedemics but no memorization at this point. They are taught to think things through. My daughter is in a school in the second category. I think lack of free play affects not only childhood obesity but the academic future of our children and there ability to think things through and problem solve.

Diets are horrible for so many reasons. Even if you eat healthy foods, the soil we grow our food in is depleted and not providing us the nutrition it once was. Scary stuff! We need to turn it around!

Anonymous said...

My kids are pretty safe around our home. I worry about their safety with some of our coaches. We are in Florida and have our share of abusive coaches. One of my favorite new books is by a mother who gives advise about keeping our kids safe. Physical and emotrional and all. The book is called --Home Team Advantage: the critical role of mothers in youth sports. Anyway. if I could get my younger girl to learn to knit I would be motre than thrilled--she is the active one.

NicoleW said...

Debbi, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Kristi said...

Another issue keeping youth from participating in team sports is the emphasis put on winning. I too, live in the middle of nowhere. Our junior varcity girls basketball team has 7 players on it, but yet on a regular basis 2 players NEVER leave the bench!!!!! Both girls are adequate players and definitely would not "lose the game" for us if allowed to play, but my goodness we couldn't take that chance. When younger girls see this treatment many decide not to go out at all. Leaving more and more spectating from the stands.

Spider63 said...

Obese Children are becoming an epidemic! Where are the parents?