Scaling down may have turned tide in obesity
OK, so maybe we’ve turned the corner. Maybe the epidemic is over and better days are ahead.
I picked up USA Today while on a trip recently and one of the inside headlines read “School Meals Combat Obesity.” This is a topic that I’ve had some rather heated discussions about recently.
You probably know that I spend a pretty good amount of time these days around high school athletes and their coaches. Along about the start of the school year, new cafeteria restrictions were being blamed for hungry football players.
It seems the portions were perceived as being inadequate to supply the nutritional needs of young men most of whom were trying to get bigger for their sport.
Let me take you back a lot of years. During my early school days, my mom worked part-time in the high school cafeteria. Before I got to the high school, she had taken a full-time job at the local grammar school.
But she left a lot of friends in that high school cafeteria. Friends who knew well who Jretta Black’s son was. And they took real good care of Jretta’s boy.
You want a little more chicken? How about an extra roll? Want more dessert? At one time, they even kept a pack of hot dogs in the refrigerator for me.
You see, I was a 185-pound offensive lineman/linebacker who couldn’t gain weight no matter how much I ate. It probably didn’t help that I was always doing something outside of school and football. Bagging groceries at the White Store (No. 32, by the way, for those of you remember that venerable local chain), “hauling” hay, mowing yards.
That I was treated differently by my mother’s friends is undeniable. That it might have been unfair to other kids who needed extra food because they were hungry is likely.
I can appreciate what football players are going through who are subjected to healthy eating initiatives that were put into place to help curb our obesity epidemic. Let me state for the record that portion sizes for a 270-pound football lineman should be drastically different from the 120-pound chess club member.
But when I read that childhood obesity rates had ebbed in several areas around the country that had been dealing proactively with the issue, it helped me understand.
Said Dr. James Marks, a pediatrician and senior vice president for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (an immensely respected organization dedicated to improving our world): “We’ve had 30 years of increasing rates of obesity, but we might be seeing the turning point for this epidemic.”
In Mississippi, obesity in children in grades K-5 dropped from 43 percent in 2007 to 37.3 percent in 2011.
No pun intended but that’s huge in our most obese state.
I preach the sermon all the time about how our kids need to be more active. That’s an essential part of the culture change that is necessary to see real improvement. But kids have also got to learn to eat smarter, making better food choices.
And if they’re not going to get it at home, I think it’s OK that they get that portion of their education at school as well.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (email@example.com)