Chemicals, Kids and what we as parents butt-up against as we try to raise healthy children in a toxic world.
This article was published in the November 2010 ‘Addiction’ edition of Holistic Bliss Magazine ‘Your Magazine with Soul’. This is a monthly magazine distributed throughout Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast in QLD.
By Dr Sarah Lantz
What’s your food compulsion, obsession, addiction? Brownies? Bread? Beer? What comforts you? And what calls to you in the late afternoon such that you need to steal away from your desk in search of it? Surely you were not born with this compulsion? Or were you?
Consider that our food compulsions are built (mostly unconsciously) into the fabric of current parenting practices – as a tool for reward and punishment, inclusion and exclusion. Think about it…food is a reward (‘You can have a brownie when you finish your homework’); a form of punishment (‘No desert tonight because you didn’t clean up your bedroom’); a method of control (‘No, you can’t just eat the icing off the cupcake’ or ‘Finish what’s on your plate, kids are starving in other countries’). And then these unconscious food patterns follow us into adulthood (‘I’ll have a brownie when I finish the dishes’ or ‘Let’s celebrate with a piece of cheesecake’ or ’(S)he doesn’t find me attractive, let’s eat icecream and watch a movie’). Then we wonder why we are concurrently confused and obsessed with food – hoard food, hide food, scoff food, binge, purge, and diet. We have a national eating disorder!
Consider also that the foods we now choose from are more processed, preservative and additive-packed, and low-nutrient than any other time in history—and we have access to more food in general. The average Australian household spends more on fast food than fruit and vegetables. Alcohol and tobacco combined account for nearly twice the spending on fruit and vegetables, and we spend five times more on recreation than healthy foods. The consequences of these choices is that we spend nearly twice as much on medical expenses as we do on fruit and vegetables, with obesity almost doubling over the last two decades. Sixty percent of adults currently exceed their optimal weight and 25 percent of children are overweight or obese. Australia also has the fastest growing obesity rates in the world, and is the only country where childhood obesity is increasing faster than that of adults, a trend which suggests that half of all young Australians will be overweight by the year 2025. And with obesity comes increased rates of diabetes, respiratory illnesses, infertility, heart disease, and cancer. What an achievement for our civilization – to have developed a diet that consistently makes its people sick!
The central contradiction here though, is that while research reveals that people are increasingly ‘confused’ about what they need to eat to stay healthy, advice about nutritional benefits of diets based largely on plants—fruits, vegetables, and grains—has not changed in hundreds of years and is consistently supported by research. Michael Pollan sums up the solution to this ‘national eating disorder’ succinctly when he says, ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants… and don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food’. It’s as simple as that!. The bigger task I see possible for our generation and for those to come, is to eat with a fuller and deeper consciousness. To ask, ‘What am I eating? Where in the world did it come from? How much life is still in this food.’ And if one does not know the answers immediately, seeking out the answers can bring such liberation from food obsessions.
Dr Sarah Lantz (PhD) is a research fellow in public and environmental health at the University of Queensland, mother, and author of the bestselling book Chemical Free Kids: Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World. Visit her blog for more information on this topic www.nontoxsoapbox.com or go to www.chemicalfreeparenting.com for a copy of her book.
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