obesity


At a recent family gathering, my 10-year-old daughter Grace was monkeying around with an older cousin when he started teasing her about her belly. Poking her stomach and asking whether she’s been eating too many cookies.

(Note: Grace is not overweight. She’s a very active, strong, healthy child. She has, however, filled out around her middle this year as most girls do just before heading into puberty. She has expressed some concern about her thickened middle, but so far has been satisfied with my explanation about growth–oftentimes kids grow out just before they grow up.)

As a mother, you always hate to hear your child teased. As a mother who has struggled with weight issues and disordered eating most of my life (and desperately wants to spare my child the same), I prayed that he would stop.

As the taunting continued, I panicked. My instinct was to tell him to stop. To cover his mouth with my hand. But, I didn’t want to make a bigger deal of the situation and bring even more attention to it. I desperately wanted him to stop though. I cringed every time he said it and I watched anxiously for Grace’s response.

And, of course, he did stop. The entire episode lasted less than 5 minutes.

I managed not to say anything until Grace was out of earshot, but then shared with him that Grace, like all little girls (and boys too), is sensitive about her body. It was a pleasant exchange. He apologized (which wasn’t necessary, I just wanted him to be aware) and commented that he’s noticed how sensitive his girlfriend is to comments about her body.

Thankfully, the teasing didn’t seem to phase Grace anymore than if he had been teasing her about the color of her eyes.

But I know better.

I know that the teasing about her belly stuck with her. Just as every negative comment about my body (even those that weren’t intended as negative) stuck with me. It got tucked somewhere in the back of her mind and is lurking there.  And, unfortunately, it will be supported and strengthened by lots of other comments, observations, media images and advertising messages.

Although this one incident was small–just a blip on the radar screen of her life–these small incidents accumulate and build. And our kids are paying attention. Close attention.

An ongoing study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that 40% of 9- and 10-year-old girls have tried to lose weight. Another study found that 53% of 13-year-old American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” The percentage grows to 78% by age 17. Shockingly, anorexia’s mortality is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old.

God help our girls (and boys). They are up against a lot.

So I’ll continue to be on guard and work to strengthen Grace’s defenses. I’ll try to instill in her the importance of being strong and healthy rather than being thin. I’ll support her as she finds and cultivates activities that are healthy and make her feel good about herself.  I’ll continue to emphasize healthy eating and exercise habits. I’ll encourage her to question media messages about female bodies.

And I’ll pray.

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Yesterday was my first day back to eating solid foods after three days of only vegetable broth. I am now into the third and final phase of CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse.

The first phase was eliminating all processed food, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, corn, meat and dairy for 5 days.

The second phase–designed to continue cleansing your system, restore the ph balance in your gut, and provide rest to your digestive system–was making and eating several nutrient-dense vegetable broths for three days.

The broth phase went really well for me and I didn’t feel at all overwhelmed with hunger. Unfortunately, the skies dumped almost 20 inches of snow on the Twin Cities so I wasn’t able to get the rest that is recommended for the phase–someone had to shovel the driveway (four times, but who’s counting). Still, I felt good.

Yesterday, as I started Phase III, I was back to hyper-clean eating. In Phase III, we begin introducing the foods we’ve eliminated back in our diets one at a time to determine whether any of them cause discomfort or other issues. Incredibly, I ate very little yesterday despite having not eaten solid foods for more than 72 hours.

I just wasn’t hungry. And, I recognized that.

One of the things many of my wellness clients have shared when we begin working together is that they don’t really know when they are hungry. They either don’t feel it or can’t recognize it. I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject, and I believe the lack of hunger recognition has two main causes: 1) We, especially women, spend so much time thinking about how much and what we should be eating, we can no longer separate our brain’s messages from our body’s. Thus we don’t recognize our body’s hunger or cravings; 2) We consume so much stuff our bodies don’t recognize as food (food processed beyond recognition, preservatives, perticides, etc), that our bodies send mixed messages.

When I cut out most processed food several years ago and went back to eating organic whenever possible, I definitely noticed an improvement in my hunger and thirst recognition. It still wasn’t totally clear though. I have often recognized that I need water because of a headache or feeling tired rather than because I felt thirsty.

Since beginning the cleanse, I actually feel thirsty. And hungry. My body’s hunger and thirst signals are clearer than they have been in years. There is no questioning when I feel hungry or thirsty.

So last evening, even though I’d found what looked to be a fabulous recipe for slow cooker chicken chick pea stew that fit the parameters of the cleanse, I had some blackberries and a peach instead. I just wasn’t hungry enough to eat the stew. (Actually, I did take a bite just to taste and it was an amazing recipe–I’ve posted it below.)

The stew can wait. Be well!

 

Slow Cooker Chicken and Chick Pea Stew (from About.com)

Prep Time: 15 minutes   Cook Time: 6 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and cut into pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 15-ounce can reduced-sodium garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Preparation:

Coat a 3-4 quart crockpot with nonstick cooking spray. Combine spices and sprinkle over chicken thighs. Add onions, carrots, and crushed garlic to the crockpot. Lay chicken thighs on top, followed by chickpeas and canned tomatoes.Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serves 4-6

Unfortunately, a lot of kids today spend the vast majority of their time at home in front of the tv or computer. And, their parents do too. According to most studies, adults are also spending more time in front of the tv.

The link between too much “screen time” and obesity is well documented. Study after study has shown that our kids are spending more time watching tv, playing video games, and sitting at the computer. And, they are heavier than ever.

Kids who regularly watch four or more hours of tv per day are more likely to be overweight. (At first blush, four hours seems like a lot, but when you think about a child watching an hour or so in the morning, an hour after school and two hours later in the evening, it doesn’t seem so crazy outrageous.) It’s widely accepted that more time in front of the tv or computer increases one’s odds of being overweight.

Most of the research that’s been done in this area suggests that screen time causes obesity (at least what I’ve read). Makes sense. You’re sitting there like a big lump and then you become a big lump.

Still, I wonder if there’s another possibility. Could we have this whole thing backwards? Perhaps the increase in tv time is a symptom rather than a cause.

Obviously, screen time isn’t active. Participating in sports, playing outside or even playing board games does more to build healthy bodies than watching tv. While plopped in front of the tv, kids burn fewer calories and are also more likely to snack (fast- and junk-food commercials don’t help). The result is weight gain.

But what if kids watch so much tv because they have low energy to begin with? What if the food they eat leaves them without the energy they need for other activities?

Is screen time the chicken or the egg?

Why do kids watch so much tv nowadays? It’s often suggested that parents use the tv as a babysitter. Parents are either busy with other things or off at work, and the kids are left in front of the tv. While this may be the case in some families, most of the parents I know are far more involved in their children’s lives (and concerned about their children’s health) than parents of my generation. Not that my parents weren’t concerned, they just weren’t as consumed with childrearing as we seem to be today. Someone coined the phrase helicopter parents to describe the way we hover around our children. Whether or not the term describes you, chances are you are more involved in your child’s schedule, school work, and other activities than your parents were involved in yours.

So, what’s going on? Could it be that we are all watching more tv because we’re eating a bunch of crap that leaves us with little energy?

Consider this: Americans eat more processed food than anyone in the world at any time in the world. The average American eats 31% more processed food than fresh food. A 2005 study found that 90% of the money Americans spend on food is spent on processed foods.

While most of us ate processed foods growing up, there wasn’t the plethora of processed food options there is today (and there was no such thing as high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified crops, etc). (The processed food industry really took off after World War II as our culture became more consumer-based and has been growing ever since.) Eating this much processed food is a relatively new phenomenon.

Processed foods provide less nutrition than whole foods, tend to be high in salt and sugar, and also contain preservatives and other chemical additives. Because they contain a lot of simple sugars, processed foods cause a quick increase in blood sugar followed by a crash. The crash leaves us feeling depleted and tired. Combined with the lack of nutrition, it’s no wonder we’re all feeling rather sluggish.

And there’s not a lot I want to do when I’m feeling depleted, tired and sluggish. Except, of course, watch tv.

What do you think? Is screen time the chicken or the egg?

 

One of the simplest ways to reduce your calories and improve your health is to snack only on fruits and vegetables. It’s a trick I often share with my clients and one I use myself when I feel my eating has gotten a little off track.

Limiting snacks to raw fruits and vegetables can go a long way toward getting you to your recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies. Most of us fall short. If you’re unsure how much you should be eating, check out www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov. The site will tell you how many servings you should be eating based on your gender, age, and activity level. You’ll likely be surprised at how many servings you should be eating. (It’ll also tell you what counts as a serving.)

Limiting snacks to fruits and veggies also will probably reduce your overall calorie consumption as well, since most fresh produce is lower in calories than other typical snack foods.

Although fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t typical vending machine fare, they can be quite portable. Apples, bananas, grapes, celery, carrots, pea pods, and more can easily be brought to school or work.

The bonus of this trick is that it will help you determine whether you are truly hungry or reaching for a snack out of boredom, temptation, etc. If you aren’t hungry enough to eat fresh fruit or veggies, chances are you aren’t hungry.

Be well!

This past Friday, Grace accompanied me to observe a local youth program at which I will soon be teaching yoga. The program serves low income youth, many of whom are new to the U.S. After our visit, I asked Grace what she thought of the visit.

“Those kids were wild. I think it’s going to be hard to teach them yoga,” she said.

She’s right. The kids were pretty wild–probably at least in part due to the excitement of unfamiliar faces (Grace and me). Still, despite their “wildness,” I’m willing to bet it won’t be hard to teach yoga to them.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve taught yoga to a pretty wide range of kids–from girls who are competitive figure skaters to teenagers with EBD to 4 year-olds with no previous exposure to yoga–and what I’ve found is that almost universally they have actively participated in and enjoyed yoga. Although their practice often looks different from adults’, they gain many of the same benefits.

Despite that, I often hear parents and/or teachers comment that their kids don’t have the attention span or concentration that yoga requires. I say, that’s exactly why they should do yoga. One practices yoga to develop attention span and concentration, not because s/he has already achieved those things. It’s just like when adults tell me they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible. I say, that’s why you should consider yoga.

Although we often tell our children to calm down or focus, we rarely teach them how to do that. Nor do we actively provide them with ways to cope with and reduce stress. Yoga provides kids (and adults) with tools to help them learn those skills. The blend of breath, movement and body awareness helps kids learn to look within for calm and peace rather than always being influenced by external stimuli.

Yoga obviously has physical benefits as well. It improves flexibility, strength and coordination, and can help children maintain a healthy weight. Research supports the many benefits yoga provides.

Studies have shown that yoga:

  • Improves symptoms of many illnesses and ailments including ADHD and Autism;
  • Increases muscle tone and control in children with Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy;
  • Increases academic achievement;
  • Improves self-esteem and decreases behavioral issues;
  • Reduces aggression; and
  • Increases attention span.

Another huge benefit of yoga is that it is accessible to children (and adults) at all levels of physical fitness. Thus it’s a great activity for entire families.

Sharing yoga with youth was one of my main motivations to teach yoga. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to share something that has made such a positive difference in my life with others–especially young people. I hope you and your family can join me for Family Yoga sometime soon.

Be well and namaste!

Family Yoga: 1st Sundays 12-1pm Moe Bodyworks, 3541 Lyndale Avenue S

Through a fun and challenging 60-minute class, families will be introduced to yoga through postures (asanas), breath (pranayama) and mental focus (dharana). Yoga’s unique accessibility and ability to challenge individuals at all levels of fitness builds strength, flexibility, concentration, balance and stamina. Individual and partner poses. Adults pay regular class price, kids are free!

Hi. My name is Faith and I am a Diet Coke addict.

Although I stopped drinking it almost two years ago, I was totally hooked for over 25 years. During that time, my habit  fluctuated from 1-2 cans a day to several–sometimes all day long and often well into the evening, but always, always first thing in the morning.

Interestingly enough, my parents played a big role in getting my sister and me hooked on the stuff that became my crack. My sister was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes the same year Diet Coke was introduced. I was 13. In an attempt to compensate us for the elimination of sweets from our household, Diet Coke became a staple. Quite honestly, as a teen and young adult, I rarely recall drinking anything but Diet Coke.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the only kids drinking soda pop nonstop. And, the problem has only gotten worse. Today, the typical American consumes 1.6 cans of soda each day and soda pop accounts for 7% of the calories we consume.

To help motivate you and your family to give up soda pop, here are my Top 8 Reasons to give up Soda Pop (Why 8? Because I have more than 5, but couldn’t come up with 10 without really stretching.):

1. Obesity–Empty calories pack on the pounds. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center, drinking one to two cans of soda a day increases a person’s risk of being overweight by 32.8 percent. Diet soda is worse. Researchers found that those who drank one to two cans of diet soda per day had a 54.5 percent increased risk of being overweight or obese.

2. Your Bones–In the 1950s, children drank 3 cups of milk for every cup of sweet drink. Today that statistic is flipped: children drink 3 cups of sweet drink for every cup of milk. Less milk means less calcium which translates into lower bone density and higher occurrence of osteoporosis. Additionally, a recent study showed that women who drink cola daily have lower bone mineral density–likely because most colas contain phosphoric acid and caffeine which leach calcium from bones.

3. Your Teeth–Acid erodes tooth enamel. Soda pop is acidic. For context, battery acid has a pH value of 1.0 and water a pH value of 7.0. Most soda comes in at about 2.7. According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) journal General Dentistry, the erosive potential of colas is 10 times that of fruit juices in just the first three minutes of drinking.

4. Diabetes–Consuming lots of high sugar foods and beverages like soda pop may increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes. According to research from Children’s Hospital Boston, “when sugar enters the bloodstream quickly, the pancreas has to secrete large amounts of insulin for the body to process it. Some scientists believe that the unceasing demands that a soda habit places on the pancreas may ultimately leave it unable to keep up with the body’s need for insulin.”

5. Environment – Soda pop is bad for the environment. Despite recycling programs, most people don’t recycle their bottles and cans. Approximately 50 billion aluminum cans and plastic bottles from soft drinks end up in landfills every year. The containers are also energy-intensive to mine, produce, and recycle.

6. Cancer–According to findings from a 2006 study conducted by Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, people who drank high quantities of fizzy or syrup-based soft drinks two or more times a day had a 90 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those who never drank them.

7. Your Wallet–Based on the average American’s consumption of soda pop, the average American spends almost $500 annually on soda pop (based on $.75/can). Thus a family of 4 could save about $2,000 a year by eliminating soda pop. That’s a nice addition to a vacation or college fund.

8. Your NailsDisclosure: This one is based on my own experience, not any scientific evidence. When I cut out Diet Coke, my fingernails became strong for the first time I can remember. I always had weak fingernails that often broke or peeled. Although I tried lots of remedies, nothing strengthened them. Since giving up pop my nails are incredibly strong and rarely break. I can’t say for sure it’s due to eliminating Diet Coke, but that was the only significant change I made.

It’s been almost two years since I kicked the can and I can honestly say I don’t miss it. In fact, on the few occasions I’ve tried it since then, I haven’t even enjoyed the taste. Quite honestly, it tastes kind of like what I would expect battery acid to taste like! Hopefully at least one of these reasons will resonate with you and you too can kick the can!

Be well!