a peek inside the fishbowl

16 Sep, 2008

overeating and all its glory

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

As you know, what with my posts about granola bars and fruit smoothies with flax and spinach, I spend a considerable amount of time dwelling on what we eat.

We went to Dairy Queen one night during the last week of summer. We’re not regulars at Dairy Queen by any stretch, but Mark thought it would be a nice way to cap off our evening. (In fact, I think we were there after Rock n’Bowl.) Anyway, as we waited in line I decided I didn’t like Dairy Queen very much and I didn’t order anything. I decided that if I was going to eat ice cream, it was going to be something I really enjoyed, like, say, Haagen-Dazs. Mark and the girls each got a small dipped cone, the volume of which took me by surprise. When they get ice cream at home they get one scoop, but these were huge. Portion control just went out the window. How could little kids be expected to eat so much ice cream? Why should little kids be allowed to eat so much ice cream in one sitting? Why does a treat have to be such a big treat? Isn’t a small treat nice enough?

(Calories aside, have you ever thought about what’s actually in soft serve ice cream? It’s basically corn syrup and chemicals, mixed with air. Here’s an article with more details. Perhaps I’ll start making my own ice cream. I have an ice cream maker. I should be using it more.)

It seems like the majority of people out there really don’t think, or care, about what kids are eating. How can that be?

Dr. Freedhoff’s post the other day (accompanied by a photo that make my stomach turn) about school cafeteria lunches didn’t just make me ill, it made me feel sad. How can a SCHOOL get away with serving this to their students? But it’s not just the schools. It’s the parents. We let the schools get away with it. And so much of what we feed our own kids is crap. Much of it sold to us in the name of convenience … a concept largely invented by marketers and public relations departments hired by Big Food.

WHAT kids are eating is one issue, HOW MUCH is the other. Portion sizes are big, and getting bigger. Kids are growing up in an environment in which supersize is the norm. Large is the new small.

When the girls and I talk about body sizes we talk about how everyone is the same on the inside, and not to judge people based on what they look like. We talk about how the Most Important Thing is to eat well and be healthy and strong. You can be petite, or large, (or still have an, AHEM, SHAPELY backside like myself) and still be healthy. Sure you can! But, but, but, I am seeing more and more young kids with major weight issues. And that’s not healthy. I wonder about those kids and what the story is behind their weight. I am just waiting for the day that one of the girls points to a fat kid and asks me what I think about their body shape.

Should I tell them that some kids are fat because of what they’re eating? And they lead sedentary lives? Not everyone has a thyroid/or other health issue that is causing weight gain. You know what really shocked me, seeing overweight kids in the change room at our local pool. I never really understood what they carried with them… until I saw the folds, FOLDS of skin and their soft jiggly midsections. I’m sorry, but anyone under the age of 20 should probably not have a “beer gut.”

We had dinner at The Works not too long ago. We like The Works because it’s walking distance from where we live, and Mark and I like the food. (They have great veggie burgers!) As we sat at our table I noticed a twenty-something guy sitting alone at a table for two right next to us. He was just sitting there, staring down at the table. It was kind of awkward, because we were so close and I wondered whether our chatter was bothering him. Before long it became clear that he was there for what The Works calls “triple overtime.”

Here’s the description (as printed on the menu):

“3 of our thunderbichin’ one pound Monster Burgers piled with bold bbq sauce & cheddar eat em all in 20 minutes & you get the burgs for FREE, a dinner for 2 on your next visit FREE & a WORKS baseball cap FREE – chill out burgs take 30 minutes to cook !!”

Woo hoo! All this heartstopping glory can be yours for only $36.50! You pay only if you can’t finish it under 20 minutes.

Wait staff were coming over to explain the rules, and other wait staff were coming over to see what was going on etc etc. It was a circus. My heart was sinking, my stomach turning at the thought. There was no way I could hope to enjoy my own meal if this guy was going to be shovelling food into his maw at the table right next to ours. What made it even more sad was that the guy appeared to be by himself! A few minutes later he was joined by some friends and THANKFULLY someone decided to move the whole bunch of them over to another table at the other end of the room.

The eating began. Each of the three burgers had two patties on it. He ate it all under the time limit. He just plodded through it, and amazingly, didn’t throw up. After he was done he was congratulated by the server … people were high-fiving him, there was lots of praise and cheering and gushing “you did it!” etc. He got his Works hat and (another) free dinner.

So tell me, since when is it cool to eat like a pig?

With portion sizes and waistlines getting bigger, one can’t help but wonder where we’re all going to end up. What are people going to look like in twenty years? Fifty? Will we even be around to see it? Are we going to eat ourselves to death?


12 Responses to "overeating and all its glory"

2 | porter

September 16th, 2008 at 12:53 pm

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For the most part I agree with you that many ‘treats’ are totally unhealthy (more so now than in years past when there was less to choose from, less chemicals added to everything, and less convience food everywhere) and that portions are massive nowadays. I also agree that kids seem to be heavier than they were when we were younger (adults too).

That said, I don’t get too concerned about the treats my kids have. They are ‘treats’ and we don’t have them all the time. Generally, my kids eat well, we as a family tend to eat home cooked food, we eat alot of fruits and veggies, and we discuss nutrition in our home. My kids don’t like McDonalds and their fav restaurant is a sushi place we are regulars at…tempura isn’t their first choice off the menu either! They know that hotdogs and Kraft dinner aren’t healthy options but they also know that once in a while we have them for lunch…same goes for the sugary junky cereal…they get to pick out a box of it once every couple of months.

I am more concerned with the fact that kids don’t get as much time to be free to explore and play! Children today don’t know what it’s like to go outside and play freely, to come home when the street lights go on!!!! I believe that is the bigger problem. Schools are farther apart and therefore more and more kids need to be bused or driven to school, our laws are so loose that people don’t feel safe letting our children play outdoors without the watchful eye of parents. Children’s schedules are insane these days, rush, rush, rush. They are expected to be involved in everything, have something to do all the time. Schools are so quick to cut music and gym but often have large computer labs. I could go on and on.

Your kids are healthy kids who are fortunate enough to live in a healthy family who eats well, tries to find balance, and is active. I’m betting if given the choice between carrot sticks and hickory sticks they would choose the carrots!

Very interesting post.

PS-I was always told DQ was ‘ice milk’ that it was one of the healthier options!!!! Not true?

3 | porter

September 16th, 2008 at 12:53 pm

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sorry for the ‘post’!!!!

4 | andrea

September 16th, 2008 at 1:17 pm

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I don’t want to give the impression that we’re good n’saintly as it related to what we serve at the table. I have been known to eat (and enjoy) processed cheese spread. We eat KD, and hot dogs, and candy. We have also been known to eat at McDonalds. Moderation is key, yes, but some people think moderation is defined as going through the drive-through once a week instead of once a month – or less.

I still think we (and by we, I mostly mean ME) should look at the junkier foods we eat and try to eat a little less of it and notch up the good stuff.

I’m not a doctor and I haven’t made a study of childhood obesity, but I personally believe that the main reason kids are getting fatter is a result of poor eating habits … overeating AND eating a steady diet of highly processed foods with larger-than-ever amounts of high fructose corn syrup, sugar, transfats and sodium.

The lack of excerise is part of it, but perhaps it is secondary. When I use the elliptical trainer at the gym I use it for 25 minutes in one go. I sweat my face off and only end up burning between 250-280 calories. That’s almost the equivalent of a small vanilla cone…. and 54% of my recommended maximum daily intake of sugar. It comes down to this: the amount of exercise you need to do in order to burn off supersized meals is almost impossible to achieve. If you’re watching your weight, the first thing you need to do cut back on the amount of calories you’re taking in.

5 | LO

September 16th, 2008 at 1:31 pm

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I don’t think that as a general rule that people don’t care what their kid eat..I think often it is ignorance. Not really an excuse but the way it is. It takes work and research to eat the way we should or the way we want to and I think some people are stuck in the ‘my parents fed me this way and I’m okay’ to ‘everyone is so paranoid. I struggle with finding the right balance myself but I am more aware than ever and that is half the battle right:)
Okay, going back to finish reading your post:)
Lo

6 | LO

September 16th, 2008 at 1:37 pm

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p.s. a lot of those kids with folds might be overeating to feel a ‘hole’ in their lives…you could share that with the girls….
also, another challenge to the healthy stuff or special diet stuff is that much of it cannot be taken to school. When I decided to put my daughter on a short term gluten and wheat free diet it was difficult for school and snacks due to other ingredients that were on the banned list for allergies:):)
Loved this post btw
Lo

7 | Lindsay

September 16th, 2008 at 1:43 pm

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Huh. I don’t know how I feel about this. I do think an important part of my job as a parent is to put healthy choices in front of my daughter and to make sure she’s active and healthy. But I also think it’s my job to make sure she doesn’t judge others for their choices or their bodies.

I can’t know why a child has a “beer gut”. For example, children living in low income neighbourhoods gain more weight than those living in middle class neighbourhoods. But I do know that I have a lot of advantages that make it easier to make the “right” choices: time, money, education, like minded friends/family, pyshological well-being.

As for eating like pigs, I’m pretty that has always been cool for boys. LOL. Who can eat the most pancakes/hot dogs/ice cream/cereal? And those boys I knew have grown up to be triathletes, white water canoers, long distance cyclers, gym rats, and health food nuts. :)

P.S.-I shudder to think of what people must think of me when they see what I order and eat in restaurants! ;-)

8 | DaniGirl

September 17th, 2008 at 11:44 am

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I keep coming back to this post. I found it — at least, the part about fat children — painfully judgmental. You start out by saying that you wouldn’t judge someone by their body type, but you had me cringing under implied judgment for the folds of fat I’m currently fighting and I’m just barely overweight. Yes, I know that’s not the point you were making, but more to your point: as a parent of two children who are 50th percentile or less for weight and one who will likely tend to weight issues later on, I can testify that it’s the skinnier one who makes the poorer food choices. And I’m well aware of what they should and shouldn’t be eating and what is an appropriate portion size. I only hope that at the pool one day, someone isn’t judging his body shape simply at a glance. Sometimes kids who lead sedentary lives and eat crap are skinny, and sometimes kids are overweight through little fault of their own. I’m sure none of them would choose being fat, and equally sure that no parent sets out to make a fat child.

9 | andrea

September 17th, 2008 at 12:16 pm

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A reader forwarded this article to me: 6 food mistakes parents make. It is a worthwhile read. Personally, I’m guilty the old “just one more bite” line. Gah. It’s tough.

And Dani – you make a good point about the skinny kids making bad food choices too. There’s no doubt about it.

Regardless of my musings about overweight children (I was not referring to adults) and their folds (it sounds awful but they’re really there … the truth is a painful one) am I not supposed to wonder what’s going on there? Of course there are children whose weight is “little fault of their own.” But the question remains, why are there more overweight kids now than ever before? And most importantly, what can we do, as a society – and as parents who make the decisions about what our families eat and how much – to change that?

I’m rambing because I’m rushing, but there it is.

10 | andrea

September 17th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

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And I’m sure no parent “sets out to make a fat child,” but some parents do pass down poor habits to their children. It sounds terrible but we can’t deny that it’s true.

11 | porter

September 17th, 2008 at 7:28 pm

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I’m back because I wanted to comment on the link you provided here in your comments ‘6 Food Mistakes Parents Make’. It was really interesting to read. Gee, twice in one week I’m patting myself on the back as a Mother! I wasn’t guilty of one of those mistakes, in fact I happen to hold the same beliefs as were written in the article. I am a firm believer in not forcing kids to eat the food on their plate or for that matter even the food they take (within reason)…I feel it’s better for my kids to try new things than to say no thanks because they are afraid they will have to eat it even if they don’t like it. My kids help in the kitchen all the time. If the kids want to try something new we never say ‘you won’t like it’ we always do our best to describe the food to the kids and encourage them to try even a small taste if they are inclined. BUT The two best things I have done regarding food in our home are 1) everyone has a little bit of everything I prepare on their plate (even Mom and Dad). The rule is, you don’t have to eat it but you aren’t allowed to complain about it either…and we don’t mention it, it’s up to them if they want to try it or not. I’ve scraped many pieces of asparagus and brussel sprouts into the garbage and you know what? Both of my kids eat them now! Also, we always have a platter of fresh fruits and veggies (raw) on our table during dinner (just a plate of mixed veggies and pieces of fruit) which sits in the middle of the table and everyone can help themselves as they wish. The kids seem to enjoy being able to select what they want and I even surprise myself by how many fruits and veggies I end up eating along with our meal (which also consists of the cooked veggies and salad). Both have worked out really well in our family.

12 | DaniGirl

September 18th, 2008 at 5:39 pm

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Hey Andrea — yes, I do agree that we have more overweight people than ever before, and that “societally” we do have some responsibility. It just makes me cringe when it comes down to a personal “that fat kid” level. The answer to “why are they like that” should be the same, IMHO, as to “why is her skin that colour” or “why is she short” or “why is he in a wheelchair”. Because they are.

And, well, I only scored 50% on the six things parents do wrong, so maybe I should just keep my mouth shut altogether on this one…

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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