In the movie, The Upside, a very wealthy man is in a wheelchair. This movie is based, partly, on the true story of quadriplegic millionaire Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his former aide, Abdel Sellou. Phillip, the wealthy quadripalegic in this American version of the movie, showed bad judgement and went paragliding in a storm. The accident and the death of his wife from cancer has left him with no will to live. He has a mansion and ten incredible cars parked in his garage. Would any of us trade his place? All the comfort and money in the world but no use of our limbs?
Health is our greatest wealth.
Without it, we can’t live to our full capacity. Sometimes, to borrow from songwriter and singer Joanie Mitchell, “We don’t know what we have ‘til its gone.”1
I am focusing for the most part on food and food practices in these next few posts on this Health learning packet. I believe as parents we can have such an influence on our children’s well-being by the way we teach them about food and what food we serve them daily. Food is only one aspect of a vibrant Health learning packet– there are sub groups like exercise, mental health, protecting ourselves from addictive, harmful substances and practices and learning sexual boundaries. All of this information is a lifetime of learning. I wish I had known all of this when I was a young mother.
Jamie Oliver, a British chef and “restaurateur” is passionate about educating children about food. In his Ted Talk you can see him in an American classroom of first graders. These first graders stare at different vegetables like tomatoes, cauliflower and beets and don’t know the names, or give the wrong ones. He talks to the audience about the sugar added to milk and chocolate milk being a choice at school meals. He ends up dumping a wheelbarrow of sugar cubes on the stage to show what five years of sugar added in American elementary school breakfasts and lunches looks like for one student. One wheelbarrow of sugar for each student. He said, “Here I am a Brit, you are at the top of your game, but this is one of the most unhealthy countries in the world!”2
We Know We Are In Trouble
Our health is another learning packet where we have to create order out of chaos. There has never been more information about our health and we have never been more unhealthy as a country. We know money is the driver for these major food corporations and so we need to educate ourselves and know what we are eating.
- In the history of the world it has never been harder to say no to products designed to get us addicted.
- Food and soft drink companies operate on the baseline of addictive products.
- Food companies hire scientists to engineer most of their products. Sugar is often their first choice of ingredient.
- One out of four teenagers is pre-diabetic or diabetic.
- “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease” is a new disease that was labeled in the 1980”s.
- Forty-eight percent of Americans drink a sugary drink a day.
- Our children are destined to live ten years younger than us because of the toxic food environment of America.
- We are worried about high crime in our cities and feel the world is not safe but diet-related diseases from heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes, is the biggest killer.
How do we navigate through all of the toxic food that is designed to get us addicted? One son got us turned on to the movie called, Fed Up! He made me promise that everyone would watch it. He actually hounded each one of us until we had seen it. It was actually gratifying to feel pressure from a former food junkie to watch a movie about eating healthy. We finally gathered and were amazed at the science and data that has been collected about how we are eating as Americans. One of the big take-aways for my teenagers was, if you are going to drink a 20 oz. soda you will need to exercise for an hour and 15 minutes in order to burn off those calories. One of my sons said, “Wow, I would rather have a piece of cake than a soda!” Watching this movie together helped my children understand why I was trying to have us make healthier choices.
Another good one to watch together is Supersize Me! about a man’s experiment in eating only McDonald’s food for a month. One of the conditions of his experiment was that if the person waiting on him asked if he wanted to “supersize” his order, meaning adding a large fry and a large drink, he had to say “Yes.” You can watch his physical and mental health deteriorate during this documentary.
Educating us and our children will help us figure out the healthiest way to eat. When we watch these documentaries with them they can start developing mental models on why it’s important to eat better. Then if we can couple those mental models with real experiences like going through a grocery store and see if they can name all the vegetables, and make a goal to try all the vegetables in the next few months, they will begin to understand how to eat better.