"Are you an apple, a pear, or fat all over?"
-- Dr. Oz in a preview for an upcoming episode
While walking through the isles of my local grocery store, collecting my usual foodstuffs, I overheard an interesting conversation between a mother and her small child. This kid must have been about five years old, if that. As I was reaching for my wife's soy milk (and my almond milk), I saw him look up at his mom and ask a simple question, "Why do we have to be on the South Beach diet again? . . . I don't like it." I'm not sure if his mom caught a smile flash across my face, but she quickly said, "Oh you aren't on it, just me!" She hurried away, seemingly embarrassed, and I kept on shopping, quite a bit more amused than I previously was.
Two things struck me as funny during this exchange: First, how does a five-year old even have dieting on his radar? The kid was a skinny little thing who looked like a normal, healthy, active little guy. Teaching good nutritional habits early is great, and I think it should be an essential part of the education system from a very early age, but knowing what the South Beach diet is? I mean, come on. Second, and I am not sure if it was just how he said it, but he used the word again . . . insinuating that he has been through the yo-yo dieting routine before. Isn't five years old a little early to have already been on and off (and able to remember) a diet plan? Assuming that the mother's comment holds true and that she was the only one in the house following the diet and there wouldn't be any spill over to anyone else's food choices, which I somehow find unlikely, she must be a miserable complainer during the first two weeks where there are zero carbs allowed. There must be enough disturbance to the norm that the kid associated South Beach with something negative and not fun. Maybe I am just wildly speculating . . . but either way, I find it amusing and enlightening.
Interactions like this make me wonder about potential long-term effects on the eating habits of children who are impacted by parental perennial yo-yo dieting. Do they grow up and emulate their parents, bouncing around from one diet fad to the next, struggling to find a healthy equilibrium as they experiment with all-protein diets and no-carb diets and everything in between? Or do they grow up with a rebellious disregard for healthy foods, opting for the comfortable, unhealthy things that are convenient? That would be an interesting albeit nearly impossible study to conduct I suppose, but the results would be fascinating.
Now imagine removing the concept of dieting from our social consciousness. Instead it would be assumed that people ate healthy, well-balanced meals that are both nutritiously sound and tasty. The hours of television between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. would get pretty boring without that endless stream of "doctor" shows giving health advice most often related to weight loss and weight-related disease information. Their constant promotion of the diet industrial complex isn't healthy on the psyche of any impressionable person. Perhaps I am illustrating an extreme scenario here, but hey, if it saves one little guy the pain and suffering that is the yo-yo diet cycle, I'm all for it. Lets move away from the negative reductionist methodology of dieting, and instead try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Anyways, perhaps a little bit of a rant going on here, but what it comes down to is getting kids set up with a positive relationship with food, one that isn't going to give them challenges for the rest of their life. If you are interested in this topic, read this article. I found it pretty interesting.Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kheelcenter/