Twilight of the Idles

“We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork.”  ~Milton Friedman

Where am I, and why am I surrounded by corpulence?


ARGH! You mean they're on Earth, too?

Unfortunately this post is not about sparkly metrosexual Mormon-ish Nosferati, nor is it about a certain member of Monty Python. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong blog. (It’s not even about Nietzsche, or Gotterdaemmerung, which translates to ‘Twilight of the Idols.’)

Yesterday was another example of a random commercial causing me to really stop and think. I don’t watch much television, but I have to make an exception for the NFL playoffs. I have my guilty pleasures like everyone else. What I’ve been noticing is the NFL’s push as a league to promote the “Play 60” program. I was curious enough to visit their site, Pretty self-explanatory based on the name: it’s a campaign to get kids to play or engage in physical activity for 60 minutes each day. What’s wrong with that?

The real trouble is, we may already have reached a point of no return. Estimates range from 20 to 30 percent of children are overweight or obese. The trouble is, as many or more of their parents or other caregivers are overweight or obese too.

There is no one root cause for this troubling epidemic. Much of it has to do with the fact that most of us now live predominantly indoor and sedentary lives. We might walk our dog once a day, or to and from the parking lot at our workplace, or to pick up the mail. Unless we specifically set out to do so, we don’t really walk around the neighborhood anymore. Most post-1970s planned neighborhoods are simply not set up that way. No sidewalks, bike trails or greenways means risking getting hit by a car.

Others like to point fingers at the food industry. It’s true that more and more of what people eat is processed beyond recognition and spiked with preservatives, artificial substances, and fats. Still, do we really have to eat it? Worse, do our kids? The food industry has set it up so many people can’t afford the “good” stuff. And I’ve driven through enough poor and working-class neighborhoods to know that there is such a thing as nutritional deserts. Barren stretches where most people don’t own a car, and the only edible stuff in sight is at a convenience store or fast food chain. This is by design.

I guess I was lucky. I grew up with parents who valued, and still value, an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise. They are both great cooks who like to fix everything from home cooking to Thai food, most of it with fresh ingredients. They didn’t let me gorge myself on Cheetos and Cocoa Puffs, and they taught me that anything in moderation is usually okay. Not everyone has that luxury. I thank God that I did.

So, getting back to the Play 60 program. The thing that bothers me most about these well-meaning programs, as well as the First Lady’s push against childhood obesity, is not the intention behind them. I’m all for raising a generation of strong, healthy kids. (They will be paying for us in our old age, remember.) What bothers me is that many parents really don’t seem to care what their kids eat or whether they’re out playing and getting sweaty. They’re so tied up in their own lives, and they’re just grateful the kids are leaving them alone for a little while. Not all parents, of course. But I worked enough years in retail to see this trend in action: parents grabbing a Venti Macchiato and letting their little tykes tear through my store like miniature Hurricane Katrinas just so they could chill out for fifteen minutes.

Like any hot-button issue, I think this one deserves careful thought and introspection from both sides of the argument. The main problem with the obesity epidemic is the real possibility of the first generation in years who will not outlive their parents. With an aging population and the coming mass retirements of the Baby Boom generation, the implications are staggering. This is not even taking into consideration the potential burden on Medicare and Medicaid for this obese generation.

The one thing I hope to share from my personal experience is that living an active lifestyle does not have to mean you are the next Olympic athlete or NFL running back. Study after study has shown that a 20 minute walk each day will do more to improve your health than any “miracle” pill or extreme diet. God designed human beings to walk and be active, not to mention breathe fresh air. As my grandmother once said, we have two legs and one posterior for a reason. Just getting up and off the couch is a healthy step, for adults or children.

Children learn best from adult role models. As I’ve gotten older, I’m so profoundly thankful for all the life lessons my parents taught me without even realizing it. If you’re stuffing your pie-hole with KFC and soda, your kids probably will be too. You are the adult. Show some restraint and good habits. Nobody should be forced to become a tofu-only vegan if they don’t want to. Eat to live; do not live to eat. Cook together once in a while and explore the delicious and varied tastes of fresh ingredients. Make it fun!

Moderation is the key to everything. On the flip side of parents who teach indolence and poor nutritional habits are those parents who push their children to excel in sports, often ruining the kids’ bodies in the process. Physical activity should be fun. Kids like to have fun. They’re naturally competitive enough…trust me. I think letting them play kickball in a recess setting will do more for them than six months on a high-pressure travel team.

I’ll be the first to admit I myself am not in Jillian Michaels or Billy Blanks shape. Never have been, and probably never will be. I do, however, greatly enjoy my workouts. There’s no substitute for a good, old-fashioned endorphin rush (even if I played Call of Duty: Black Ops for six hours, I couldn’t hope to duplicate it.) I stay in good enough shape and that’s fine with me.

I think the obesity epidemic can be turned around before it’s too late. If you are a parent, why not spend some time tossing a ball around with your son or daughter instead of parking in front of the TV? Whether you know it or not, they take most of their cues from you. If you’re modeling healthy habits, they’re probably going to as well.

“Live long and prosper” shouldn’t just be the tagline from Star Trek. Maybe it should be a goal for all of us…and it doesn’t mean we have to give up chocolate entirely. If that were the case I’d have thrown in the towel already.

We don't remember days; we remember moments.


~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on January 20, 2011.

4 Responses to “Twilight of the Idles”

  1. Yes you are exaclty right, here in dubai it’s the other way round. All the kids are pretty thin, even the teenagers. Proberly lack of exercise, they need to get kids more active during their time in school.

  2. Cool post. You reminded me of a story I wrote a good while back that I had completely forgotten. I told you we had some things in common, but check this out. I wrote this story (, similar in content to this one, after seeing a commercial for NFL Play 60. Weird huh?

  3. […] […]

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abandonen toda esperanza aquellos que entren aqui


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