I just watched my husband scarf down three slices of gloriously
cheesy sausage pepperoni pizza while I ate, pretending more enthusiasm than I
felt, my green salad topped with thinly sliced, skinless, grilled chicken
breast. My spinach leaf and
cucumber-stuffed mouth watered for just one bite of that pizza. But I’m working very hard on eating healthy
these days, so I just glowered at him and attacked my salad with grim
I wasn’t always this virtuous. Back when I was Lizzie’s age, my friend Paula
and I would walk home from school, stopping along the way for our usual
afternoon snack of cans of root beer and bags of Fritos. My home was almost, but not quite, a
junk food-free environment. My father
loved ice cream, so there was always a half gallon in the freezer. (For years, until I was caught, my weekday
breakfast was half a glass of orange juice and three spoonfuls of ice cream,
straight from the carton.) In high school, I ditched the nutritious sack
lunches my mother so lovingly packed for me and either ate nothing (preferring
to gorge on root beer and Fritos later) or made a meal of cafeteria fries and chocolate
milk. And, when they served it, that god-awful lunch-lady pizza.
So, yeah, I know junk food up close and personal. I understand the teen/junk food thing. I lived the teen/junk food thing. But as a
woman attempting to live a long and healthy life, and as a mother attempting to
raise kids who are neither diabetes nor obesity statistics, I’ve banned junk food
from the house (with the exception of, every once in a while, a box of Peanut
Putter Cap’n Crunch ... because, gee, I’m not a saint). And I can say, smugly, that as a family, we
don’t eat at fast food establishments. (I refuse to honor them with the word
But junk food/fast food is not just a personal issue, and
not just a family issue. It’s a societal
issue, a global concern. I recently read
that every day more than 65 million people eat a McDonalds meal somewhere on the planet. And that, as a nation, we
spend more on junk food than we spend on higher ed, computers and cars
Do you want to spend what mommy capital you have on label reading, nutrition “teaching moments,” dinnertime lectures and Biggie Fry rants?
So when I make rules about junk food in the house, when I
rag on Lizzie for eating at McD’s with her new boyfriend, when I make a comment
about the occasional Big Gulp vessel (the thing can hardly be called a “cup”) I
see on top of the trash, I am swimming against the tide. The ads, the celeb endorsements, the cultural
integration of fast food—in movies, songs, casual conversation, sports events—plus our own dastardly evolutionary biology which makes us lust for sweet and
fat is against me. Against all of us
mothers who want to raise healthy, energetic kids.
For a while I thought, OK, you have to pick your fights
here. Do you want to spend what mommy
capital you have on label reading, nutrition “teaching moments,” dinnertime
lectures and Biggie Fry rants? Isn’t it
more important to focus on school and healthy relationships, on mature
behavior, on no drugs?
My decision? I’m
working on borrowed capital here. I’m
remaining focused on school, relationships and behavior ... but I’m not giving up
on healthy body talk! It is just too
And now, a word from the teenage daughter:
I knew I was going to write about fast food and junk food for
the blog, so I forced myself to consume mass quantities this weekend.
Ha ha. Not too difficult. McDoubles and McChickens from
you-know-where. Along with large fries
and a large root beer. Spicy chicken sandwiches from elsewhere. Little Debbie’s
snack cakes for dessert. Just throwing
out adjectives here: Juicy, tender,
succulent, gooey, crunchy, sweet, delectable.
And yes, I know—really bad for you.
I know all of this food is high in sodium, sugar, fat and
calories. I’ve learned this in school
and at camps and from my doctor and ... from my mother. But I, and all of my friends (and millions of
teenagers) still eat the stuff. Why?
Well, it tastes good! Also, it’s really
cheap. The other day I was scrambling
around under the seats of my car to find loose change. I found enough for a large soda AND a double
cheeseburger. And it’s convenient. Where else can you get hot food fast at 11 at
night? There’s also a social aspect to
it. My boyfriend and I go together. Groups of kids go together. And, here’s a shocker: I don’t feel guilty about this at all.
I know this can’t go on forever. But you’re only young once. I look at what my mom eats, and mostly I
think: I’m glad I don’t have to eat like that (I mean, really, Brussels
sprouts?) now while my body is forgiving me for all the crap I’m putting in
it. But I do see that I’ll have to make
changes in the future. I’m going to have
to moderate, eat fast food once in a while but not every day. Drink less soda (and fewer Starbuck’s iced
mochas) and more water. And I might even
eat a carrot or two. So moms who are reading this ... don’t give up hope!