During high school I had a bad habit of eating awful food for breakfast. I donít remember how long this particular spell lasted, but for a while I would cook Ramen Noodles in the microwave, drain off the water, add a few slices of deli turkey, and top it all off with a generous glaze of Three Cheese Ranch Dressing ó a staple condiment in our household. Like clockwork, my dad would come through the kitchen on his way to work and say, with one hand on my shoulder, ďBreakfast of champions.Ē
Knowing my parents better now, it was clear that my chosen breakfast was one battle that was not worth picking.
At the time, my mom bought what I categorized as ďbird seedĒ products. The bread in our house was always loaded with seeds, oats, and chopped nuts. Our cereals were always bland: Cheerios, Grape Nuts, Shredded Wheat, Corn FlakesÖ you get the idea. On the days we would have a sit down breakfast, mom would make a vat of oatmeal, spoon it into three bowls, and wait for me to join her and dad at the table. I never have and still donít like oatmeal. The consistency is strange and when left sitting for too long, sayÖ 10 minutes, it has the tendency to develop this weird film that gets stuck on your teeth. As we were and still are at get-togethers a family that cleans our plates and bowls, I had no way to not eat my oatmeal.
Ramen seemed to be the best revolt I could come up with against momís ďbird seedĒ products.
Ironically, those are my favorite cereals now. I also havenít bought Ramen Noodles since high school and canít imagine drizzling Three Cheese Ranch on anything, let alone slightly warmed deli turkey. Iím sure I wasnít the only kid then that ate junk for breakfast. I definitely wouldnít be the only kid now. Only now, itís even easier for parents to buy prepackaged junk. Although the pre-packaged version probably doesnít have the same flair and aroma that my homemade concoction had (not that thatís a good thing) ó it has the same results. Kids better plan on running extra hard at recess and during whatever practice they have after school.
There is universal agreement (95 percent) among American parents that itís important for their kids to eat and exercise in a way that maintains healthy weight. Yet, while 32 percent of American children are overweight and an additional 17 percent are obese, the vast majority (73 percent) of parents felt that their child was ďabout the right weight,Ē according to a recent study by NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard School of Public Health.
Just because a child is overweight or obese doesnít necessarily mean that they will suffer any negative health effects when they are older. But, itís clear that extra weight puts individuals at a higher rate for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke.
What kind of problem do we have though, if parents donít see it in their own children?
The problem is that for most of us, our hearts and our heads donít get activated in support of or against something until it becomes personal. For parents, itís impossible to tell exactly what kind of adult their kiddo will become. So Tommy has a little extra weight. Does that mean heíll have a weight problem forever?
In the end, it does no good to dwell on hypotheticals. I believe it comes down to limiting choices and setting an example. While I was on my Ramen bend, my mom found out she had high cholesterol. Considering it was difficult to even find an Ibuprofen in our house, my mom wasnít about to opt for a pill. She started exercising every day, up to five miles on her treadmill, and dramatically changed her diet. Over the course of several months, she lost more than 30 pounds and significantly lowered her cholesterol. Though her transformation had no apparent effect on me at the time, I remember it well and can easily see now how difficult those changes were to make.
To me, food is personal. Itís what I put in my body. Itís what determines, in part, how healthy I am. Itís how I spend my money. I am not who I was in high school. Sure, my parents could have banned Ramen Noodles from our home, but in the end, their example was a stronger lesson. Everyone needs a guide and friend to help them navigate through this world filled with choices. Call it an accountability partner. Call it a parent. Call it a husband. We can each serve as a healthy example for someone in our life. What kind of example are you?
Gena Akers can be contacted at