Posts Tagged ‘food choices’

America is in trouble because its [sic] perpetuated this idea of “enjoying food” and food that make(s) you “feel good”. People need to understand that food is fuel. Its not there to entertain you.
-a commenter on Go Kaleo’s Facebook Page

To which I say, well then what is the friggin’ point, man?  If you take that approach to life, you are really going to to lead a dull, boring life, aren’t you?

Is food fuel?  Yes, of course it is.  Should we eating whatever we want, whenever we want?  Absolutely not.  But why the heck would you NOT want to enjoy your food when you do have it?  For Lord’s sake, taste is one of our five major senses, and arguably the most intimate.  I wonder if the people who preach the “Food is only fuel” mantra feel the same way about sex?  It’s only for procreation!  or music? sound is only for communication! or the smell of a rose? smell is only for warning us of danger!

As a person of Japanese decent, I have been exposed to food in a very different way – a meal is not just fuel;  a meal is something that pleases as many senses as possible – from the subtle flavors (emphasis on subtle), to the simple visual presentation, to the smells and sounds (say from a sizzling dish) and of course texture of the dish.  A meal is to be enjoyed by all five senses, not just downed in an attempt to fuel the body.

But most importantly, a meal is something you take time to enjoy.  Eat it slowly, take your time, let your senses revel in the process of consuming.

Whether you are a believer in God or a higher power or, like me, the Universe, we were given a gift when we emerged from the primordial ooze – the ability to sense and enjoy what we sensed.  Beauty comes in all kinds of forms – there is beauty in touch, in sight, in sound, in scent and in taste.  Why would we obsessively deny ourselves the ability to experience the beauty that is all around us.

Food, or more importantly a meal, invites us to do just that.

Does our American society have a problem with food?  There’s no arguing that.  Everything is super-sized, extemely salted, heavily sugared and overly processed; the foods that much of the Nation consumes are addictive, calorically dense and nutritionally empty.  But Americans aren’t addicted to the enjoyment of food…they are addicted to the food choices they have made – there is a difference.

Does that mean we need to stop enjoying our food?  I don’t think so.  Maybe we need to take a clue from my ancestors and take a moment to slow down, observe, inhale, listen, touch and taste.

m&t_zilia_0003_4and remember the Okinawan phrase: Hara hachi bu.

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Own It

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I’m sitting in the audience of a stage production Katie’s camp is doing. For the past two summers, Katie has attended a 3 week drama camp and simply loved it. The productions have been what you would expect from a 3 week summer camp, attended by kids ranging in age from 7 – 18. It is NOT Broadway, but the joy on Katie’s face when she is performing is simply priceless and makes it all worthwhile. As I sit in the audience before the show, I overhear a conversation between two mothers. Normally I am not the eavesdropping type, but these two ladies are sitting right next to and directly in front of me, so it is hard not to listen to their droning. From what I can tell, their girls are probably in the 11 – 13 age range, and have been attending the camp long enough to have “graduated” from the chorus roles. These two are complaining about how there are too many little kids at this camp, that there shouldn’t be so many, how in last year’s production it seemed that too many little one missed a step here or there.

I’m thinking to myself, what do they think this is, Summerstock? They go on and on complaining that it’s about time their daughters got roles that were bigger and more important (I wonder if they had ever heard the phrase “there are no small roles, only small actors”). But it isn’t this incessant droning that gets my hackles up. No, up to this point, I am simple amused by their silliness. But then one of them says this:

“You know what else I’m going to complain about? Too many snacks. They let these kids eat too much candy. It’s ridiculous. She comes home having eaten 5 packs of M&M’s. I’m going to have to make Jenny* run around the block a dozen times just to drop her weight back to normal!

Now, I agree that running is a great way to drop weight. I also agree that candy during snack time is not a great idea. But did I mention that these snacks that the camp “gave” to the kids had to be purchased BY the kids? Let that one digest for a second.

Right, candy was available for purchase. It was not given to them freely. So, although I think that maybe the camp could have provided better choices for purchase, I don’t think the blame for Jenny’s extra few pounds falls anywhere near the camp. In order for these kids to be able to purchase their snacks, guess where they had to get their money? Oh, I don’t know, maybe from you Mom? I wonder if the mom ever considered having a serious discussion about making healthy choices with her daughter before she handed over some spending cash.

Each snack cost $1.50. I would hand Katie $2 and tell her to pick something relatively healthy, but I also told her that every once in a while feel free to pick something junky. Most of the time, she chose pretzels. I would also pack both fresh and dried fruit in her lunch, which she ate 90% of the time.

My point is this. As the parent, you need to “own” the choices you give your children. There is a great commercial that aired a while back where a mom was with her daughter, making sure she did the right thing every time a choice came up. At the end of the commercial, you realize that the mom isn’t really there, it’s her presence that is there, helping the child make the proper decisions. The commercial ends saying, if you don’t talk to your children about drugs, how will they know what to do?

Well, the same goes with nutrition and food choices. If you’re gonna hand your daughter $10 everyday (a whole other topic in and of itself) and let her loose in a candy store, don’t expect the candy sellers to give sound advice to your child. That’s the parent’s job. Preventative care (talking to the child beforehand) is a lot easier than treating the results of poor choices. Some of you may say, well, how do you know your kid is making the right choices? Well, you don’t know for sure. In part you have to have faith that you if you believe you have done all you can, then your child will make the right choice. A few years back, when Katie was 7, she was at a friend’s house for a playdate, the mother called me about 30 minutes before I was supposed to pick her up. She reassured me that everything was fine, but that Katie had asked the parent to call to make sure it was okay for her to have ice cream. It’s not that we don’t eat ice cream in our house. We just generally don’t eat it shortly before dinner. Point is, she was thinking about her choices. She was 7.

We need to own the choices we make when it comes to taking care of ourselves. These two moms in the audience obviously expected their kids to simply know what was okay to do. Without talking to their children, how could they? In addition, I seriously have to wonder why they continued to line their girls’ pockets with cash when they refused to make healthier choices. Or why they simply didn’t send healthy snack with their children in the morning. I’m pretty sure the various snacks I sent Katie to camp with (including vacuum baked bananas, greek olives, a variety of fruit, even some all-natural beef jerky) cost less per day than the $10 these ladies were each spending daily.

There’s nothing wrong with indulgence. This past week, while on vacation, I’ve had more ice cream I think that I’ve had in all of 2010! Indulgence is a good thing. But what is the point of indulgence if we do it everyday? Can you even call it that if you’re doing it everyday?

I guess my point in the end is you can’t blame anybody else if you don’t give your child the tools to make the right decision when it comes to nutrition and fitness. With those tools, they will in all likelihood, make the right decision more times than not. Without those tools, you can bet, the wrong choice will be made every time.

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