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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

A Personal Reflection on Parenting, Obesity and HEAL

Last week, The Denver Post published this article about how 1950s mothers (or rather the practices prescribed by their doctors) may have unwittingly contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States.  As Jeff Bontrager mentioned in a recent post, Colorado has seen increasing rates of obesity despite being the leanest state in the nation.  And Emily King just blogged about the incredible number of dollars Colorado spent on obesity in 2009.  All this talk about obesity got me thinking about what my parents did to keep me lean and healthy and how those practices carried over into my adulthood.

I was born in 1976.  There was no Whole Foods, no Tofurky, and no Watercourse restaurant.  The health food craze was just beginning to sweep the nation.  However, my father started his career in this then-nascent industry, so things were different in our home.  My sister and I got one soda pop per week (Hansen’s) and always went to school with a healthy brown bag lunch.   I was jealous of friends whose parents gave them unlimited access to Pepsi and Coke and who ate Tater Tots every day at school while I was munching on carrots.  We hardly ever ate out.  My mother worked 25-30 hours per week but still managed to have a sit-down family breakfast every morning and a sit-down family dinner every evening,  always including fresh fruit and vegetables.

Physical activity was a must.  There were no video games in the house.  During summer breaks, I watched The Price is Right in the morning and was then shooed outside.  My friends and I rode bikes and skateboards and played endless pick-up games of basketball, baseball and football.  Sedentary time meant reading a book from the library or doing homework.  Again, I remember being jealous of other kids who had Atari and Nintendo systems or whose parents let them watch hours of cable TV.

Though the label didn’t exist at the time, my parents were proponents of Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL).  For me, HEAL was not a program, it was simply a normal way of life.  My mother told me that she was overweight as a young girl and basically tried to raise me with the opposite practices her parents applied to her.   I slightly resented this as a kid, but now I am immensely grateful for the good habits that were formed.   I still don’t drink soda pop, do eat lots of fresh, home-cooked meals, and spend plenty of time outdoors.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

How did your upbringing influence your own relationship with obesity, healthy eating, and active living?