A new expression has entered the language, as people are urged to “drop the Covid 19.” This is of course a play on the venerable adage that every new college student engages in comfort eating, and consequently gains a certain number of pounds, the “freshman 15.” In combination with COVID-19, named for the year when the virus showed up, the expression encourages people to lose the extra weight they have gained during the pandemic. Sometimes, all we have left is our sense of humor.
We are looking at some basic, timeless ideas about the prevention of childhood obesity, how they might be implemented, and how the all-pervading influence of the coronavirus can intensify or change already-existing problems in this area.
The family that eats together
One of the most cherished tenets of healthy living, recommended by many experts, is that a family should eat together, and on a fixed schedule. There might not be an obvious, direct route to weight loss or obesity prevention in this habit, but the theory is that shared family time ought to strengthen bonds and reduce the number of reasons that children might have for feeling the negative emotions that could lead to comfort eating and other counterproductive responses.
Corollary to this is the advice to reduce distractions, such as TV watching, during meals. But it might be a matter of individual circumstances. Some parents might prefer that kids are absorbed in a show during dinner, rather than kicking each other under the table or whatever. Phones and other devices can be a problem, but it begins to seem as if we will have to make peace with them, because they are not going anywhere soon.
As we have seen, however, togetherness does not work miracles. In normal times, everyone was always dashing off in different directions to pursue their own goals, and the eating-together concept was more valuable. But sadly, it might not be very beneficial during a pandemic, especially in households that are very strict about COVID-19 avoidance. In many homes, family members have been seeing far too much of each other, for months. Letting people eat according to preference rather than the schedule is a small price to pay for some peace.
Ordering out and staying in
When a family has groceries delivered, there is an upside for parents, if they choose to avail themselves of it. They are spared the ordeal of traversing aisle after aisle of the grocery store, to the tune of constant nagging from kids to buy this or that. Now, all they need to do is remain strong and resolute during the ordering process.
And remember, using food as a reward is a dicey proposition at best, but if it is done at all, sweets and fried stuff are not good choices. It is also a good idea to keep tempting treats stashed away, but that is hard to do when kids are around all the time, and some kids tend to catch a real attitude in reaction to such (what they perceive as) dictatorial practices.
In families that stay in all the time, it is very hard to limit the hours that kids spend staring at screens. It may be that the best a parent can hope for is to somehow gently steer the young’uns away from nonsense that merely fills time, and toward online resources that might help them discover and pursue their life goals. Maybe now is not the ideal time to start a neighborhood lawn-mowing service, but a smart kid will see the advantage of checking out some videos and articles, aiming to get back out into the world prepared.