I used to be a huge Jamie Oliver fan, absolutely pukka bloke. He probably still is but I also think he lives in a tiny perfect bubble where he can only see the problems of others from his rose tinted balcony.
I am fat. I am morbidly obese. I don’t want to be. I know that it is going to lead to an early death and I am loathe to admit that I desperately dislike what I see in the mirror today. It sucks.
I don’t need Jamie Oliver or any other ignorant passerby to tell me that I’m fat and that I should step away from Gregg’s. Seriously, just stop already.
So, when I look at my children and how their physical appearance is being constantly judged by doctors, teachers, other parents, and passers-by I get quite defensive.
Our children eat a balanced diet with a little bit of (almost) anything in moderation. They eat chocolate, and cake, and sweets. They drink fizz, and squash, and (eebygum) alcohol. Not everyday, not even every week, sometimes just once a year. Why not? Why would I want to teach my children my poor eating habits? Because I have so little control over my own. I over eat almost to the point that I’m sick. I hide food, wrappers, boxes, cartons. I am an addict. Sugar is in everything, hidden in places we wouldn’t expect, and it’s not going anywhere.
So my chocolate fix has dropped in size and upped in price?! That won’t stop me. I could buy a bag of lovely sweet apples but I want that fix now now now.
I can’t have my children feeling the same way. I don’t want them associating sugar as the high feelings in life.
With all my poor habits, with all my work on not encouraging food to be a crutch, I might have got something wrong. Some of my children are overweight. They eat a little too much and it shows on their waists. They don’t seem to be doing the exercise they need to shift those extra spoonfuls of pasta or the extra scoop of baked beans and I think part of the problem is not enough exercise. Guess what? That lack can’t be filled by us. They walk, they cycle, they run around at parks every spare second they have. They don’t have many spare moments. They cycle to school, spend 6 hours stuck in a building (because only football is allowed to be played) before cycling home, pretending to do chores and then they sit and do hours and hours of homework pretty much all of which has to be done online. They do PE at school but I don’t think a 50 minute lesson, with 10mins for changing, is anywhere near enough exercise. I know they do plenty of steps going from class to class but it doesn’t compare to really exerting yourself doing an all round activity. They do participate in after school dance, football, netball but again. It’s only about 30 mins of blood pumping.
Children need to be taught PE in a way that gets them excited. Once you’ve shown them how and why it is important to look after themselves physically, we can put in place classes to help with their emotional, mental health.
It’s proving hard work to break 35 years of poor self worth. It’s proving equally difficult to break the cycle of poor exercise. There are only so many hours in a child’s day and having raised them with a big sparkly **education is power**, how do I push back? Where do I put my foot down and say “no”, that my child’s health comes before your PowerPoint presentation?
Olympic Goddess, Tanni Grey-Thompson, has it right. We need a multi pronged attack to address the nation’s obesity sinkhole. Stop making food the enemy (stick, stick, stick) and offer up your allies mental and physical health (carrot!). Exercise doesn’t have to be ‘boring’ but that means offering up alternatives to football, netball, and rounders. Perhaps trampolining, fencing, and rock climbing. PHSE or the preparation for adulthood of my youth doesn’t have to be all about periods and condoms but could include mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
If we want to reverse the trend of obesity we should start by looking at its causes and not by pulling the emotional sticky plaster off our knees.