Today I saw a huge group of kids, maybe 5th graders, I’m not sure, come to Starbucks. I was sitting there working on some chemistry stuff, and a man with a little girl came up, evidently waiting for some people. They had two big boxes of donuts. Little did I know…
A few minutes later, the huge group of kids arrived. They were loud and obnoxious, but that’s not the point. They pushed and shoved over the donuts, and lined up at the Starbucks order counter.
It bugs me. I’m not that informed about caffeine, although I can’t imagine letting Junior have an afternoon latte does much to help with getting him to go to bed at a reasonable hour. What bugs me is the sugar. Most Starbucks drinks are loaded with sugar, and most of their food is too. Loaded. Simply loaded. Candy covered nuts. Scones. Muffins. Donuts. Sugarmilkcoffee with creamsugarair on top. — And these kids were already eating donuts!
It’s not my business (although I could argue that in some indirect way in the long term that it is), but it bothers me when I see kids just hogging out on sugar or fast food. I don’t blame them. They’re kids. They want what tastes good. That’s what we all want, right? The thing is, most kids are not equipped to make good choices about food. They don’t know and they don’t think about an apple being healthier than a cookie. Even if they did know and did think about it and did desire to make a healthy choice, they don’t do the grocery shopping. They can’t say, “Hey Mom, I think we shouldn’t buy Bisquick because it has trans fat.”
I know a lot of adults aren’t very informed about healthy eating either. That’s why fad diets exist. That’s why all kinds of gimmicky packaged foods exist. That’s why all kinds of books exist… That’s why I don’t blame people for being overweight, and I don’t necessarily assume when I see people eating McDonald’s multiple times a week that they really know that’s not a great idea. I guess ignorance is an okay excuse when it’s just you. But when you ignorantly feed your kids food and drinks that will likely ultimately harm them? Even that I can understand. I think that is what my parents did.
What gets me is the people I see with smartphones who feed their kids donuts and Starbucks drinks and Burger King. If you have a smartphone, I’m going to assume you have the Internet. I’m going to assume if you have the Internet, you have access to all the information in the world on the fact that eating a bunch of junk is harmful. So if you still choose to eat it yourself, fine. You’re a grown up. But does your child have the information to make that choice too?
It’s such a shame. I had to go through so much, and I consider it something like a miracle that I somehow learned enough about nutrition and exercise that finally, at age 25, I’m physically fit. But why at age 25? Why was I an overweight kid? Why was I overweight even in the military? Well of course it’s because I ate fast food and drank soda and things like that. But why did I do that? I just didn’t know. It’s how I was raised, and that’s something really powerful. After I got the information, and figured out, hey, I need to change this… it’s not easy changing decades of habits and tastes! It’s not easy learning how to cook totally differently, go to the gym for the first time, or buy proper running shoes. And sugar? I’m not a scientist, but I insist it’s at least somewhat addictive…
So I just hate to see kids being set up to be overweight and sick and addicted, and not even know it. I just hate to see how people fetishize foods like chocolate, bacon, and cheesecake. I enjoy food as much as anyone, but is it really a good idea to put it on a level in our minds with sex? Is it really a good idea to eat differently based on emotions? Is it really a good idea to celebrate every birthday, every life event, every social gathering, every holiday, with pies, cakes, cookies?
There’s so much more I think about this. There are social dimensions to obesity just like there are to alcoholism… but we try not to encourage kids to drink, while we think nothing of feeding them extremely sugary foods and drinks! We don’t tell them it’s okay to drink lots of cocktails “because it’s a holiday,” but we do tell them they can have buckets of candy because it’s Halloween, or slices of pie because it’s Christmas. Even children’s school fundraisers are selling candy and cookies half the time. Why?
I’m not trying to critique people’s parenting. I’m not. I’m not mad at parents. That’s not the emotion that’s got me writing. What’s got me writing is really feeling for the kids. I feel for all the ones who are overweight and don’t know why. I feel for all the ones who are going to have health problems because of what they’re eating when they don’t even know they should be eating differently. I feel for the ones who know they need to lose weight, but can’t really do anything to do so. Parents don’t seem to be doing that great a job teaching kids about healthy eating. Schools damn sure aren’t (at least I never learned anything about it in school). The government can’t help. What are kids supposed to do as they grow up and realize maybe they wish they had more energy or felt comfortable trying a new sport or just wished they weren’t shopping in the plus sizes? I’m glad the Internet is there to help those who have access to it… but even then, there is so much bad information on the Internet, as well as tons and tons of products, books, programs, and other complete shams that take advantage of people who want to get healthy without actually getting them healthier. What can you do? What can I do?