Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Reflection

I was fortunate to be able to spend New Years with my extended family in the St Louis area.  Conversation led to my mother remembering old family videos in the basement. After a little digging around, my brother found the never before seen footage!

We had a blast watching videos of past holidays and vacations.

Some things were fun to compare. My daughter is better at ballet than I was at her age.

Other things were simply laughable.  Although I was impressed at my grandmother looking fit and trim in short shorts, most clothing choices of the 70s should never be repeated.  What will they think of our current clothes in 30 years?

One thing that struck me sadly was the average weight of people at all ages in the 70s seemed to be less than the average weight of people the same age today.  I'm not saying my friends and family have gained weight ~ I would get into trouble for that!  It was simply noticeable that people of today are heavier when comparing large groups.

I've read the statistics before...

Self Reported Weight up Nearly 20 Pounds Since 1990
Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index, US 1960-2002

... but it was interesting to see large groups of people from my past vacations and comparing to what I see daily when out and about.  It made it real.

If the US is such a great nation, how have our individuals as a group gained weight in this unhealthy manner?
Is it the convenience of pre-packaged foods, many of which are processed and/or high in fat?   More women work now than previously. Does this contribute to less home-cooking and more fast foods?
Is it that the meal size increasing?  Large sodas of my childhood are now the smallest size available.  Who needs 64 ounces of acidic bubbly sugar?  We eat larger servings both at home and at restaurants. 
Are we less active than we used to be?  I can easily see how today's kids are tempted with tv, video games, and other sedentary activities.  As a child, I only had one tv channel, and most often it had adult programming. (There were no recordings available!) I had many other things to do both in the house and outside.  We didn't have many structured activities, so we just made it up as we went along.  And we had a blast!   What about adults? Are they less active? Do we work more hours than our parents?  Do we spend more free time in front of the tv/computer than our parent's generation? What did they do for fun?  Was it out of a chair?
Do we sleep enough? With many tasks to do and distractions, such as tv programming and internet available all night, do people stay up too late to get a good night's rest?  More and more research supports that sleep is needed for concentration, endurance, immune functions, as well as weight control and more.  How often do we feel tired?
I suspect that there are many reasons for our generalized weight gain, which means that there are many potential fixes, and not one alone will help.  I have tried to limit processed foods at home, but they are convenient and easy, so I sometimes splurge.  We try to eat as a family at home most nights, though activities sometimes interfere.  Portion control is relatively easy for my kids: they eat minimally by nature.  My husband and I need to check ourselves.  My kids are much better at exercise than I am, mostly because they have time and they love to move!  I don't want to forego sleep to fit in exercise. No one gave me time for Christmas... but I'm working on finding some free time!

What do you find helps keep your family healthy?