Rest as needed between efforts.
Pictured: Miranda's scores from Fight Gone Bad, yesterday's noon (downtown) Crossfit group. Two essentials – chalk, and a wastebasket nearby – are shown. Are you signed up yet for our April 10 "Fight On Friday" challenge? 9am at the Park location. 6 flights: two using half the prescribed weight, three using full weight (as prescribed,) and one Trainer/Coach. Reserve your spot!
Just after Christmas, Chris was hammered with interview requetss. In this one, for an exercise science student at LSSU, he addresses a very dangerous trend: childhood obesity. Read on below.
What do you think contributes to child obesity?
I pin child obesity primarily on two factors. The first: a largely grain-based diet. Kids are crammed full of carbohydrates without lean proteins and healthy fats to dull the insulin response. What's a kid's typical breakfast? Cereal with milk. Consider that Corn Flakes were invented by W.K. Kellogg's brother to sedate inmates in a mental institution, and then add a long break before lunch, and is it any wonder that kids are unfocused during math? Then add another overdue meal comprised of largely carbohydrate sources (the best-case scenario is a sandwich, but it's usually even worse) and they're ready for a nap from the insulin spike. That same insulin spike is training their lean muscle tissue for a lifetime of insulin resistance – type II diabetes. The second: lack of movement. Energy expenditure is way down. The definition of 'play' has changed. "Guitar Hero" is the new 'exercise,' believe it or not. People – young and old – are playing Wii Fit and actually believing that it's helping them. If you're in very, very bad shape, Wii Fit may bring you up to the bare minimum standard, but that's it.
Do you think schools are doing there part in this issue? If not what do you think the schools can do?
Schools have a polarizing effect on kids. On the one hand, they're great for introducing sports skills. On the other, the same kids tend to play all the sports. If you're on the basketball team, you're probably on the soccer team and volleyball team. Especially at a young age, you're unlikely to find a kid who plays only one sport: either you play everything, or nothing. So if you're a kid who's already active, or born early in the year and more developed than a kid born in December, you're more likely to be picked, and then the cycle perpetuates itself.One great thing schools are doing: the split day. My daughter gets two 'nutrition breaks' in her kindergarten glass instead of one 'lunch hour. That's brilliant. That's how you control insulin and keep kids sharp. I'd like to see a bit more all-inclusive, challenging, varied exercise in gym class, but not an aerobics class. More like challenges that level the playing field: maybe you're on top today, but I'm going to win tomorrow's challenge. If you want a terrific model, look at the CASS Intramural program: every kid is drafted to a team before they even show up. Every day, they play 1 or 2 sports or games and accumulate points for themselves and their 'house.' They have house reps come to their homeroom every morning to sign them up for new sports and give them their playing schedule for the day. It's fantastic, and it puts the peer pressure on kids to participate. Now they're doing Crossfit on Fridays, and they're getting 70 kids every week just for those challenges.
At what age do you think diet and exercise should be introduced?
I don't think exercise and healthy eating can be introduced, in an ideal world. I think the kids have to be immersed from the start, just like a language. Unfortunately, we've tried this tactic, and it's not working. Parents aren't themselves sure about what to do, and it shows. Kids are showing up with Lunchables, which have more saturated fat and sodium than a Big Mac, are cranked full of high-glycemic carbohydrates, and even the meat is from the poorest cuts of meat available (fatty, full of arachadonic acid.) So the onus is put back on the schools, unfortunately. Well, since you're paying lunchtime monitors, why not give them a little education? They don't have to become The Soup Nazi, but they can encourage kids to eat their sandwich and yogurt and apple before they eat their cookie. They can give some short little talks to the older kids. They're already in the classroom. They're there to react to trouble, to prevent food fights. Why not have them be proactive, contribute to the education, and at the same time lessen the potential for the kids to act up?I really think it's up to the parent to get the kids doing a variety of activities from as early an age as possible. Backpack with your infant. Get them thinking, 'this is what life is supposed to be like. I'm supposed to move around and do stuff.' School can provide variety, but they're got enough on their plates without taking responsibility for all the kids' exercise needs; they can't be a clearinghouse for everything with kids. And kids need to be active outside that 6-hour window anyway.When in doubt, kick your kids outside. Or get a dog and kick them ALL outside.
Do you think that poverty is a factor with child obesity?
"Poverty is a factor, but it's a correlate, not a cause. Often, the same things that are causing the family's misfortune also contribute to the kid's poor health. If mom and dad would rather stay home than work, then the kid sees that and mimics that behaviour. If Dad's struggling to meet the mortgage but working 15-hour days to pay the bills, and mom's home and working hard at raising the kids and household labour, then there's usually not an obesity problem. But take people out of work and there's a big depression tie-in: their sense of self-worth plummets. They don't want to do anything, and that means the kids don't get to do anything. It's more than not being able to afford karate lessons for Joey. It's the desire to achieve. If that's absent, you've got unhappy, underemployed parents, and overweight kids. I think that the 'carbohydrates are cheaper' argument is a red herring. It's still cheaper to buy meat and bread and prepare a meal than to go to the Golden Arches. But there's effort attached."
What are some simple steps you think could help prevent it?
Preventing childhood obesity is simple, but not easy. First, give them access to stuff. Put money into after-school activities at the school instead of a refundable tax credit. Encourage participation at the peer-to-peer level, and use sports to draw kids in rather than separate the 'jocks' from the rest. We're currently funding at least 5 different programs in town to encourage youth 'participation' – unfortunately, they're all underfunded, and they all pull resources away from one another. Participation is also an unmeasurable metric. Coordinate one program that measures success based on adherence (count the kids who show up.) Then expand from there. Don't take a shotgun approach; that wastes money, resources, and time.Second, evaluate kids. This is going to get me into trouble, because we're not supposed to be comparing anyone to anyone else anymore. Give them something to live up to. Give them a challenge. If you're a parent: sorry, but this one's on you. It's your problem. If your kids are fat, it's your fault. It's a reflection on your parenting skills, and at the extreme end, it's abusive. Think kids who undergo emotional abuse at home are the only ones who can't become functional members of society? Look at a kid who's overweight in school: they're less likely to make fri
ends, because they can't interact the same way. They're far more likely to self-abuse. They're more likely to get poor grades. You've got to provide parents, first, with the means to do stuff. You've got to remove taxes on produce. You've got to add support for activity programming at the ground level, not on a reimbursement basis. You've got to have community facilities that are easy to access. We rented the SSMGC for two hours yesterday and let clients and members bring their kids and just bounce around for 2 hours. 70 kids showed up. And we had parents trying all kinds of stuff on trampolines and rings. People will do stuff; you just have to give them access. That's key.