Commentary

Dads getting blame/credit for children’s eating habits

“P ass the Twinkies there, sweet thang.”

“ L et me show you how to hide stuff for a midnight snack...”

“No reason to ever go hungry...”

Such remarks, which I frequently hear men (including me) gurgle, might help us understand why a study by Texas A&M University points the finger at the male species for their children’s eating habits.

A&M researchers have determined that men, not women, are the greatest influence on their children’s eating choices, both what to eat and when.

Many times I have, somewhat justifiably and always lovingly, pointed the finger at my mother for my own bout with obesity. The rationale for that feeling was that, from birth, Mother poked food almost non-stop at her four sons. It was, I determined, a way for my mom’s generation to say “I love you,” a message they had a hard time verbalizing but suffered no compunction about stuffing us with all manner of food to underscore their affection.

Additionally, the generations of my mother and maternal grandmother believed being “heavier” equated with being “healthier.” After all, a big person would have all sorts of “store” for the physically taxing work one expected on 1930s and 40s Texas farms and ranches. You’d better have plenty of energy and no mean heft in order to do field work such as guiding a plow behind a team of horses or mules. Or, crawling on your knees to pick cotton as you dragged a ballooning sack.

My forebears belief in eating healthy and “plenty,” was undergirded by the conviction that lots of hard labor quite naturally brought on a robust appetite and that was certainly okay. In addition, they maintained that “heavy folks” with a large “store” could lose a lot of the extra weight during any lingering illness and, thus, quickly return to some normalcy in health and weight.

Asateen,Iweighed150 pounds and maintained something close to that in young adulthood because I also kept up a level of physical activity that burned sufficient calories to control weight.

Aging and a slowing of exercise through a profession with few physical demands plus a propensity to eat more and richer foods changed the skinny guy mode to a “more mature body.” Sitting behind a desk at a typewriter then computer for all those years had a sedentary effect. Ultimately that tendency drove the weight from the “mature 175” to a blubbery 272 pounds before common sense and a desire to become at least an octogenarian took hold.

A father emerging from the v icinit y of the fridge w ith a between-meals, “Dagwood” style sandw ich, is consistent w ith the current vision of dads. Plus, the aforementioned study says modern fathers trend toward fast foods. Pizza may be the greatest single contributor to our growing girth.

My own dad remained a very slim 135-140 pounds at 5’ 9” until middle age, then he began to balloon to a hefty 230-240. Less physical activity coupled with a healthy appetite, sated only when his day ended somewhere near the 10 o’clock news, drove his weight up quickly and somewhat unnaturally. When you switch from wrangling cows on a ranch to buying them from a comfortable seat in an auction arena coupled with those unusual meal times, it has a tendency to affect your physique.

Dad’s unusual dining schedule was never allowed to affect the family’s — our focused mother saw to regular meal times and a balanced diet although always heavy on the supply side. Plus, there were always admonitions to eat a lot of food.

So far, I’ve managed not to raise any grossly overweight children despite my own flirtation with heftiness.

Sticking to skinless-boneless chicken a majority of the time plus plenty of salads and vegetables contributes greatly to a healthier lifestyle.

That and I am no longer able to keep my hand stuck in my mother’s homemade fudge jar. wwebb@wildblue.net


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2011-11-03 digital edition



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