A nutritional blast from the past

Lethia Lee EFNEP Program Assistant

October 6, 2013

Think back baby boomers to the time when you were your grandchildren’s age what life on the farm was really like. Getting up early, going to bed early, and working your hands to the bone. Can any of you recognize these sayings? My back hurts: oh you don’t have a back, it’s gristle. I need to rest a minute: we got to finish this last row. We would not even consider our grandchildren being subjected to this harsh treatment. But can we honestly say any of these words killed us. Made us better right? Can you ever remember telling your parents you were not going to eat your vegetables? I can’t because they really had a good answer for that one, “You want to stop growing.” None of us wanted that, we wanted to get as large as we could because back then we were all so thin.

I often ask myself the question, “What are parents doing so different now than when we were children?” It’s hard to capture just what the difference is. I believe we can all take a lesson from our parents. Healthy is as healthy does. What are you doing to keep your family healthy? A lot of information is available just for the asking. But it’s not enough to get the information we have to put it into practice. Rise early and get moving, which makes your day go smoother. Get your exercise out of the way early so you will not have to worry about not doing it all day. The first thing we have to do is submit to and make it part of our daily plans. If you really want to be healthy there are some things you have to do about it. The doctor can’t do it all, we have to commit to something to help them out. What we see happening now has been years in the making, overweight children and adults. We often ask the question, “How did this happen?”

The answer is simple. We are consuming more calories. To address the overweight crisis, we must look at our environment and our policies to understand why it is so easy for any American, regardless of age, race, gender or socioeconomic status, to be overweight. What happened to our society and our culture over the past 20, 30, 40, even 50 years? Has our environment contributed to adults and children having unhealthy weight? There are many factors we can say made this possible, fast food outlets have changed. We are choosing fast foods more often and the amount we consume has increased from 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. We are consuming more sugar-sweetened beverages. In years past an occasional treat served in small quantities is now an everyday, every meal norm, often with free refills. Physical activity patterns of Americans have also changed. In an attempt to make our lives easier, we have removed many of the daily opportunities to move our bodies. In 1980 there was just over 161 million vehicles on the road in the US. Today there are well over 225 million. We build our neighbors and communities so that walking and biking are not safe alternatives.

No one could have predicted the impact that TV would have on our society. Today, virtually all US households have at least one TV, some have three or four. Also there are a lot more shows to watch than the three shows we had; cable pay per view, movie channels and the beat goes on. That means hours of inactivity and watching advertising for high-fat, high calorie foods mostly aimed for children. Empowering individuals, families and communities with knowledge and skills to change their eating and physical activity patterns is where my job comes in, Eat Smart Move More Weigh Less. These are just a few of the topics that I work with families to accomplish. However, knowledge is only the beginning. We must live in environments that support healthy eating and physical activity. Truth is it will take all of us working together in schools, worksites, faith communities, healthcare and other community organizations to create and support environments that make healthy eating and physical activity possible for all of North Carolina.

So baby boomers let’s take the lead and get started today teaching our families and loved ones the importance of healthy eating along with physical activity. Maybe we can increase the life expectancy of someone we love.

For more information contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.