July 2, 2011

Is Feeding Kids Fast “Food” Child Abuse?

Nope, no foam here!

I was recently blessed by a friend who shared with me an article on the ingredients found in the very popular McDonald’s chicken nugget. Now I am not one who desires to stop anyone from doing anything to themselves that is not my intention at all. I love freedom, and believe in my heart that we should all have the right to do to ourselves as we wish. It’s the “do unto others” thing that has me drawing the line.

You can read the article titled Anti-foaming agent found in Chicken McNuggets here. It’s informative and sheds some light on the hidden chemicals that we are calling “food” nowadays. As an Indian guru just told us at a seminar, “your body is not a trash can, so stop putting garbage in it!”

An Important Disclaimer

The intention I had for writing this was not for us to label each other as “abusers” or to pass judgment of any kind.  Rather, I want the reader to understand this as distinctly personal and to have an “inner dialog” that leads to an outer dialog.  If we can agree with the premise that what we feed our kids is an outward show of the love we have for them, then perhaps we can have the discussion on how we feed them.

This is not a cause to enact laws that label, but hopefully make the need for such laws unnecessary.  By shining light on what may be some darkness, perhaps we can find an awareness that changes the effects of our behavior to date.

There is evidence that our dietary behaviors are harmful.  There is evidence that our children are suffering under our current dietary behaviors and that we, as parents, are not identifying that evidence and changing those behaviors.  As you read this, resist the urge to label yourself or others, and just take a look at the evidence and what it may mean in your life and in the lives of those you love.

America, the Land of Dichotomy

If you look at our society it is one of fat. This is odd because we seem to also have a fear of fat. We also have a fear of dying, which is odd because we also live in the unhealthy extreme that seems to suggest we can’t wait to die. We are a chemically dependent culture that also has a war being waged on chemical dependence; we support a drug culture while waging war on drug use. We complain loudly about the soaring costs of health care while doing very little to prevent needing it. So, as I read this article the dilemma I had was not of shutting down fast food made like these Chicken Nuggets, but on shutting down the effects this food has on our children. Individual adults have the freedom (in my mind) to eat, smoke, drink or do whatever they want as long as it does not directly effect anyone else including their children. It is a moral imperative of mine to ensure you can do what you want when you want it as long as it meets those parameters. So, stock up on fast food if you want. Eat three meals a day of sodium aluminum phosphate if you want. You will not only hear silence from me while doing it, you will get my support if someone else tries to stop you.

Yet when I look at the children of this nation suffering under the weight of fast food and its effects I wonder when to draw the line. If parents aren’t willing to stop feeding their children this poison, is it society’s responsibility to stop them? Or have we, the society that fears fat while contemplating which Value Meal to order, simply unwilling to be hypocrites here? Are we unwilling to show our particular weakness to our children; the one that says, “do as I say, not as I do because I am too weak to stop myself?” Or are we a society that is just incapable of giving the love to our children that we are unwilling to show to ourselves?

Remember, fast food is just not found at a local fast food restaurant. Look in the pantry…you may find a ton of fast food that escapes your awareness because YOU put it in the microwave and not some cook in a back room somewhere. Look at the ingredients on the package…is this something YOU would add to your child’s meal if YOU were making it from scratch? That answer will tell you plenty, and it will help you begin the dialog necessary to discover what our true values are.

Time to Talk

I am not bright enough to answer these questions, but I am bright enough to ask them. These are individual values at work here people, with the strength and morality of the individual shining through either on line at your local fast food joint on in the act of driving right past it. Yet it does seem the time is upon us to at least start to talk about these things. It’s time to discover what actually gets us to walk through the door knowing what we know. Is it arrogance? Is it ignorance? Is it a collective “addictive personality”? Is it laziness? Or is it just that we don’t really understand what we truly value?

Could we be just stating what we think others want to hear? That we want health? That we dislike being fat? Perhaps we are just saying those things because it sounds good and we think our neighbor, spouse, parent or child wants to hear them? Has a society that has a long held belief that peace is achievable through war simply just that good at fooling itself?

Regardless of your individual answer, the real question that we must pose to the collective is “what do we do about it?” It is time we all sit down in whatever configuration that works and have a respectful and dynamic dialog. Yes, I know, I may be dreaming that we could even begin on those simple terms, but we have to at least try to get things rolling, don’t we? We seem to have much more at stake here than just some quick meal that gives us the runs for a few days.

It’s OK to the FDA!

I, for one, can tell you that I do care about not only my children, but also our children. I also can tell you that FDA approval of the junk in this “food” is meaningless to me. I trust the Taliban as much as I trust the FDA or USDA at this point. Their stamp of approval simply means, “buyer beware” in my mind. Now, I don’t want to get all down on the FDA and USDA, but let’s just say that, in my opinion, if we had Kim Jung-Il administering our food protection programs I would feel equally at ease.

Yet, I am not sure we should need these acronomized (my word) affronts to common sense in order to make the right choices. Do we really need processed meat to satisfy us? Do we really need deep fried vegetables to fill us up? Or are FDA and USDA approvals nothing more than the “rubber stamp” we need to make bad decisions? What motivates us, as individuals, to purchase and eat something we know is not good for us?

I suggest to you that our actions speak much louder about our intentions than do our words. I would also suggest to you that the arguments of “freedom” are invalid here. Again, I believe you should be able to put rat poison on a sandwich if you want ONLY if you are the only one going to eat it. The issue is not of choice for me it is of protection. Our children honor us often by following our example, but if the Pied Piper would lead them into the sea, who should be there to stop them? If it is society’s responsibility to save children from harm when does that responsibility end? What defines abuse? Let’s leave that to part of the discussion, shall we?

Is Obesity Abusive?

Statistics from the Center for Disease Control seem to tell a horror story in the making. The most recent statistics available suggest that nearly 1 in 5 children and adolescents who live in the United States are obese. Even more startling, that is triple the rate only a generation ago! Today, for every 20 kids in a classroom, 4 of them are considered obese under federal guidelines. This doesn’t even address those that would be considered overweight by those guidelines. That’s a tremendous figure considering that human beings are rarely more active than they are when they are children, and these developmental years are vitally important for the adult they will become. If they are overweight and obese at this young age, what does that suggest for the majority of these children and their health as they head into adulthood?

Also, a recent report released by the Institute of Medicine on June 21 provides some horrifying statistics. The report states that rates of excess weight and obesity among U.S. children ages 2 to 5 have doubled since the 1980s, and that about 10 percent of children from infancy up to age 2 years and a little more than 20 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or obese! If those number don’t jump out at you, I don’t know what will.

The CDC also lists a variety of health risks for obese children. The website gives an overview that is pretty intense when you look at our limited understanding of what is to come.

Health risks now

Childhood obesity can have a harmful effect on the body in a variety of ways. Obese children are more likely to have:

  1. High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). In one study, 70% of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor, and 39% had two or more.2
  2. Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.3
  3. Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, and asthma.4,5
  4. Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.4,6
  5. Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (i.e., heartburn).3,4
  6. Obese children and adolescents have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood.3,7,8

Health risks later

Obese children are more likely to become obese adults.9, 10, 11 Adult obesity is associated with a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.12 If children are overweight, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.13

Seeing this, I am left to wonder what we as a society find permissible when it comes to the health of our children. Are behaviors that cause high blood pressure in children that are not only permitted by parents but are also encouraged a form of child abuse? Is a dietary regimen created by parents that foster cardiovascular disease in children and major health complications later in life tantamount to a destructive parent/child relationship? Essentially, the question that keeps coming to my mind is whether or not we, as a society, have a responsibility to those children who are apparently unprotected in regards to their health. How do we, as a collective, look at ourselves in our twilight years as children begin to die before their parents because we neglected the importance of a healthy diet today?

Frankly, I simply am not sure what the answer is. I just know the answer we have now, which seems to be silence, is not working. Is it coincidence that our health and fitness are declining as our dependence on fast food seems to increase? I can’t say for sure at this point, but I can say for sure that we owe it to our children as a collective society to do much better by them.

A Time to Change?

The Tao te Ching says “First realize that you are sick; then you can move toward health.” It seems as if we are beginning to realize that we are sick, but I am often left to wonder if we are understanding why we are sick. If we set a table devoid of store-bought scientists and big-business nutritional “experts”, could we as a people develop an understanding as to why we are the sickest and most drug-dependent society on the planet? Could we look at data that suggests that nations that are beginning to adopt our dietary habits are becoming sicker as well and see a correlation?

I hope so. I hope we can look at evidence ourselves without the bias of pre-paid science and big business propaganda and come to a conclusion that best suits us in relation to our discovered values. In the meantime, let’s see what we can do to protect our children from our fast food addiction, and stem the tide of poor health moving into younger generations. It is our responsibility, isn’t it? I sure hope so.

One final thing. The opinions here, unless stated otherwise, are mine and mine alone based on a certain amount of knowledge and a vast amount of experience. They are opinions only unless otherwise stated, and certainly are not meant to do anything but stimulate the common sense of those who find the time, energy and desire to read them. PEACE!

List of references here.

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