Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Obese weans

Just been listening to radio comment about the obesity "epidemic" among children. I was eating breakfast at the time (All Bran, Muesli, linseeds in minute proportions with soya milk & a dollop of yogurt), brown seeded toast & Vegemite, delicious oatcake- made in Dunoon - and home-made marmalade, tea, orange juice). I never used to enjoy breakfast until I realised that it was dehydration which made me feel sick in the morning! I don't intend to go on about the delights of my own diet (though the soup I made yesterday will be great for lunch...) and I know that not having to go out to work means I can make soup midweek and be around to eat it. But that's not the point.
It seems to me that it's an education thing. If your own children grow up eating food which tastes and looks good, which they know was prepared so that they and you can sit down to give it due attention, they will not be so attracted by instant food. The few microwave meals I've eaten remind me of aeroplane food - or maybe hospital food - and frankly I'd rather eat my fingernails than one of these. Is it the fact that on the packaging they look like "real" meals such as Granny might have made? Granny would birl in her grave.
It's also a matter of perception. "I haven't the time to cook. I work too hard. I come home late and can't be bothered." Presumably these worker bees eat *something*? Will and prioritising come in here. If such a person were to consider the cumulative effect of the additives and the salt they are about to consume, would they still persist in thinking that it was a waste of their precious time to assemble 30 minutes' worth of real food? Nigel Slater is my great guru when it comes to real fast food, and at least one of his recipes has become what might coyly be called "my signature dish".(OK - the spicy lentils, if you must know)
I feel I'm ranting. But having never been one of life's Marthas, and having worked full time while bringing up a family (who are still relatively slender ...and have all their own teeth ...) and having observed the misery of fat children lumbering round the games field in the wake of their skinny pals (and yes, there are still some around) I become incensed when I see parents indulging in this kind of ...what? Abuse? Neglect? Choose how you would define it. Bring a child into the world, stick a bottle in its face because "it involves its father" (bah!), teach it to prefer highly salted/sugared food - and in what seems like the twinkle of an eye you have a couch potato who lives on fizzies and those wildly moreish round crisps. Or the wee square ones.
Last thing: it makes a huge difference to eating habits if you sit at a table and give the act of eating some importance. As Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth said : "The sauce to meat is ceremony." Right enough, her old man was briefing a blood-smeared murderer at the time when he should have been sitting down to his dinner. But you get my drift.


  1. Hmm. Reading Glasgow University's News Review I find two interestingly related articles on research. One analysed info from more than 2,000 11- year-olds and their parents and found that, on balance, working mothers gave their children more fruit, veg and cereals and fewer high-fat foods than mothers who did not work.
    Another piece of research found that one contributory factor leading to adult obesity - along with a high birth weight and parental obsesity - was sleeping for less than 10.5 hours a night at age three. (Study results published in BMA journal)

  2. Anonymous5:20 PM

    Sitting here drinking cup of fruit tea after your phone call today and decided to look at your site. Agree wholeheartedly (or wholemealedly?) with your assessment and would add in the suggestion that perhaps all the Political Correctness of recent years is a contributory factor to obesity too. It became improper to comment on size and so fatness just became an accepted factor with consequent epidemic now. Stand back and await eruption of righteous responses...

  3. Anonymous7:31 AM

    John - I think if you ask overweight children if their fellow pupils are reticent about commenting on their size you'd find political correctness hasn't hit home too hard in the playground yet. The richest form of abuse among kids around where I live still appears to be reserved for the fat kids.

    Chris – will and perception? You'll be telling the unemployed to get on their bike soon. Research consistently points to obesity being heavily influenced by socio-economic factors; poverty, housing conditions and work among them. To suggest it’s down to laziness is like suggesting single parent families caused by loose mums - and even the Tories gave up on that line a while ago.

    We live in a society where processed foods and ready meals are frequently cheaper – not just easier to fix – than “real” food, and are also easier to buy. Local corner shops often don’t stock fresh veg and, if they do, it’s hugely expensive. If you’re working 12 hour shifts and/or odd hours, balancing work with childcare, it’s not necessarily cooking the food that’s the problem – it’s getting hold of it fresh.

    Other environmental problems explaining some adult obesity: more desk-bound, rather than manual, work, means fewer calories burned. As does, even, higher ambient temperature in workplaces. It’s all on Google.

    So: I'd suggest, between bites of bacon roll, that this is a complex problem that can’t be solved with a stiff upper lip and spicy lentils. Let's stop pretending things are otherwise.

  4. Mmmm. Interesting info, Neil - though I did start off thinking about obese kids. And yes, there are more sedentary pursuits for them too - no more running barefoot through the streets till it's dark and going home for bread and dripping, eh?
    I'd still rather eat my fingernails.

  5. Anonymous9:29 AM

    I think it's partly to do with our affluent times. Not so much affluence of money, although that plays a part, but the fact that there is so much of everything available. People are overwhemed with choices.

    Let's take crisps as an example. In days of yore when we were kids, crisps appeared and we were excited by the new snack with its little blue twist of salt. We didn't buy it ourselves because our mothers dealt with feeding the family, but we got them as a treat, maybe with a picnic. Now, there are a huge number of choices of flavour and what's more the crisps are cheap. Instead of the mothers being in charge of providing the food, the kids have the money given to them to buy their meals, so naturally they might want to buy several of the myriad flavours and then eat them all at one sitting. And that's lunch. Not very nourishing and not very filling but quick and easy and available.

  6. Anonymous8:12 PM

    Todays Banquet Tomorrows Excrement

    meeting a very fat Christian couple
    in Fort William (many years ago)who were welcoming and kind to me
    left me a bit sceptical about lentils Matt 15:10-11

  7. Jimmy, you have *no* idea how long it took me to puzzle out what you were responidng to!

  8. Anonymous10:49 PM

    Sorry, I think I was rude there
    and I apologize