Fit vs. Fiction's Blog

Video games don’t make kids fat. Shame and guilt do.

This morning I woke up early, VERY early…5am kinda early to make it to the gym for a spinning class before starting the rest of my day. I decided to log on to my computer for a few minutes before I went, and was NOT thrilled to see a short (but not so sweet) article in The National Post titled, “Canadian Kids are fat and it’s OUR fault.” By “Our” the writer meant Parents.

Great. Another reason for parents to feel guilty where our kids are concerned.

Here’s my problem with his article. It’s not true. Are some kids in Canada overweight? Of course. Is it the epidemic he’s suggesting it is? No, no it’s not. More importantly, is a child’s weight problem always connected to inactivity and food choices? nope. There are MANY factors that contribute to someone’s weight and while overeating and underexercising has an impact, you cannot look at someone who does not fit into society’s idea of “Fit” and ASSUME that they sit on the couch all day eating candy.

Back to our role as parents: RESEARCH has shown that parents who focus too much attention on food in an attempt to guide their kids to a healthy lifestyle can actually send them in the complete opposite direction of where they need to be. Parents who label foods as “Bad” or “Junk ” and attempt to restrict or ban these foods only bring more attention to them and either make them seem much more exciting than they should be OR end up creating enormous FEAR around them that can result in their child developing serious eating disorders as they grow up.

By incorporating these foods INTO a healthy, balanced diet, the child will learn to enjoy food without Glorifying or Demonizing it. Kids have natural instincts when it comes to food, it’s the adults that need help. We should stop trying to tell THEM how to eat and start learning from what they do.

Think about babies for a second, babies want food when they’re hungry and wil stop eating when full. Kids try to do the same thing, but we mess them up by trying to alter that natural instinct. “Finish your dinner or there’s no dessert”, or “You had a healthy lunch an hour ago, you can’t be hungry again so soon!”

We need to stop trying to micromanage their digestive systems and let them learn how to listen to the cues their bodies are trying to tell them. Let them know when they are hungry, when they are satisfied AND what they are hungry for.

As for exercise, YES our kids need to be active! But that also shouldn’t become a stressful situation.Find out what your kid likes to do and find a way to do it regularly. If there isn’t anything that particularly interests them, get creative! Go to a park and set up obstacle courses with the jungle gyms. I’ve done that for years with my kids and they love it! There are plenty of ways to exercise without feeling like you’re exercising.

But you do not have to unplug video games and TV to do so. Unlike the fellow who wrote the article, I am a parent. I have 2 boys who are 9 and 12 and who are very active; they play soccer and do Martial Arts and any other sport that comes their way, but ask them about video games and they will brag endlessly about the number of Zombies they’ve killed or aliens they’ve destroyed via Playstation!

It’s all about BALANCE and MODERATION; I say it all the time, because it’s true. If I banned video games, they would want to play any chance they friends’ houses or maybe even at home when I wasn’t looking. By allowing it, while also emphasizing benefits of being physically active, the aren’t obsessed with it; it’s just one of many things to do.

So am I a bad parent because my kids are allowed to eat cookies and ice cream and play video games? Nope. It just might be that my kids are learning to trust their instincts when it comes to their bodies and be confident with WHO they are, which will make them less likely to fall for the media and society’s obsession with telling us WHO we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to look like.

As parents we tend to worry about EVERYTHING when it comes to our children, but let’s not create a new problem in an effort to fix one that doesn’t exist.

By the way, along with 5am spinning classes, I also enjoy fresh baked cookies and watching sue me!


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