If I were to ask you what you wanted for your children’s future, you’d probably say something like, ‘I would just want them to be happy and healthy.’ That’s the answer I would give, too, but our systems and actions do not support that parental desire.
Children are becoming less and less active. Children play fewer sports, spend less time outside, and most school systems see physical activity as a luxury to be minimized, not a necessity to be maximized.
We also understand the tight connection between movement and mental health. Yet how much effort is put into the structure (both familial and social) of daily activity for our kids?
The story of the sea squirt (a sea animal who eats its brain once it plants roots in the seabed) is a cautionary tale of the tight junction between movement and the mind. Without the need to move, the brain becomes less relevant.
I’m getting into the weeds a bit here, but you get the point. There is an incongruency between what we say we want for our kids and what we are providing for our children. We buy ‘baby Einstein’ toys and iPad games that are supposed to sharpen the minds of our little ones without recognizing the fact that play is an essential tool for learning in early years.
If you want a healthy and happy child, get her outside. Put him in Gymnastics. Roughhouse. Play hide and seek. Get off of your ass and be the example and the playground for your children. The inability to move is the inability to think (unless, of course, you are Stephen Hawking), so fight for your child’s right to movement.
The other day I was frying eggs and pork belly for a late breakfast. Upon transferring the food from the pan to my plate, my hand slipped. I dropped half of the food, resulting in a greasy mess on the kitchen floor and me yelling ‘FUCK’ at the top of my lungs. It may be hard to believe that there was a lesson to be learned, but there was.
As I crouched on all fours, still cursing in my head and scrubbing grease off of the floor, I had a moment of clarity. I dropped the food, I screamed ‘FUCK’, yet here I am with the same result. Whether I screamed out in anger and frustration or not, I would still be here scrubbing grease off of my floor.
This sounds like a silly, average thought, but it leaves space for an important question. When has your unhelpful reaction every contributed to a solution or changed the circumstances of what has already happened? If you’re like me, the answer is ‘never.’
When it comes to the act of self-judgment (as it pertains to food and exercise), there is a level of nuance that we must address. While checking out my Instagram feed this morning, I came across this post, and while I understand the author’s intentions, I must say that I disagree with the message. Most of it anyway.
I understand the importance of self-acceptance, empathy, and detaching your character from actions that you have difficulty controlling. I literally wrote the book on it when it comes to fitness. More times than I can count, I have expressed that the actions that lead to unhealthy outcomes- like overeating, late-night snacking, technological distraction, and laziness- are human issues rather than issues of personal character. You should not see yourself as a person of lesser value because of your physical shape or the behaviours that got you there, but you do need to take 100% responsibility for your health and stop being full of shit.
I wholeheartedly disagree with the line, ‘you don’t need to earn your food.’ The fact that human beings no longer need to earn the foods we eat is the underlying mechanism of the obesity epidemic. We have access to millions of calories, and we can have them delivered to our door, ready to consume. We don’t have to hunt. We don’t have to prepare or refine our own meals. WE DON’T HAVE TO EARN OUR FOOD. This is a problem with obvious consequences.
So let’s separate the two messages instead of pretending that they are the same. If you are overweight and you are struggling, it does not mean that you are not a person of value. It does not mean that you should feel bad about who you are or feel as though weight problems are issues of character. But to act as though being unhealthy is O.K. and there is nothing that needs to be done about it is absurd. There is no other self-destructive behavior that we would give that level of leniency.
Your should earn your food. Every comfort in your life should be earned. That is the true meaning of balance. You do your job when you’re at work so you can come home and focus on your family. You show up to social and familial events that are inconvenient for you so that you can tighten the bonds of your relationships. You move your body in a significant way so you can enjoy your abundant access to food without a massive health consequence.
If everyone earned their food, the world would be a healthier place.
I’m not trying to preach or sound judgmental when I write this, but ‘picky eaters’ are not a thing. Not inherently, anyhow. There are some things that some kids won’t eat- but when you claim that your child doesn’t have a palate for an entire food group, you may be pointing the finger in the wrong place.
Right now, on this planet, from Bangkok to Brazil, children eat bugs. Ya. Fucking insects. Some kids in some countries drink blood. And you think your child’s distaste for vegetables or red meat is due to a built-in gag reflex? Forgive me for sounding high and mighty, but two nights ago, my son ate octopus. He’s three and a half. Do you know why he ate octopus? Because he saw me eating octopus. Do you know why I eat octopus? Because I didn’t have parents who told me that octopus was gross. My parents fed me liver, heart, and a varietal menu of many other foods that most parents find appalling. I was never forced to eat any of it, but if I saw my parents eat it, I became interested.
If you have a picky eater at home, it’s because your general attitude toward food is picky, and you probably don’t cook very much or eat a lot of whole foods. I’m sure there are exceptions to this hypothesis, but the word ‘exception’ means what it does for a reason.
Your child is not a picky eater. Either s/he has never gone long enough without food to experience hunger or you’re the picky one.
Every time you seek out external sources of validation, you are outsourcing your most valuable tool — the ability to decide when you are a person of value, and why.
When you take twenty different versions of the same picture of yourself before putting it out into the world, or when the opinions of others determine the quality of your work, you are outsourcing your value system. You look to others for validation rather than deciding your success.
You need to decide what healthy is, what hard work is. What is your value? Make that decision and then let your actions dictate your worth- not the perceptions of others- or worse, your opinion of the judgment of others. Do the hard work and reap the internal reward.