Ten Pounds of Tomatoes and an Ounce of Potato Chips
  Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

 As you read this title you might wonder why am I thinking of such lackluster and tasteless things as tomattoes or carrots for that matter.  After all, it is the season of festivities and a time to give in to the power of candies, cakes and pastries, and other rich, gooey, delicious stuff.  I will get to it later but first let me tell you about a seventh grade class I recently attended to learn some more about nutrition.  

Undoubtedly, the home is the most conducive place to learn about nutritious food, but schools can be the close second for the purpose of such learning.  I saw evidence for it when I got myself invited to a seventh grade class on health and nutrition.  Mr. Lebron Montgomery was the invited speaker in Ms. Goodwin's health class.  This was the class right after lunch. These children were putting to use what they were learning.  

I felt like I was personally witnessing the history being made right in that classroom.  When asked has anyone made a good health choice that day, a 12 or 13 year old says, "I ate my first salad today."  On one hand, it is shocking to realize that some children may wait that long to eat the first salad of their lives, but as they say "better late than never."  

The competitive spirit of a classroom surely works.  One child drank his first glass of skimmed milk. Another child made a resolution that he would drink grape juice instead of grape soda.  I glanced at a banner on the wall that read, "Junk food weighs you down."  I thought to myself that the children who start making good health choices at this age, there is a chance that they may not let the junk food weigh them down.  

Classic coke has nine tea spoons of sugar in it.  Parents will not even dream of pouring nine tea spoons of sugar in a cup of milk and giving it to their children but they So, here are some the nuggets I got from the classroom.  some more  nowwas at work that day.  it also gives me hope.  shows that education works.  ere is gives me some hope.  makes!  There wbeingtheir recently acquired learning.  what making first Children had just finished their lunch ve just come out of the is .  saw an some instant come n and I reallymy experience of attending a seventh grade class I tellfingerof tomThis is holidays At this time of the year, we give in We as a nation are surely cooking a recipe for self-misery.  More Americans are becoming obese We are also doing so and at the same time becoming obsessed with tall and thin bodies.  Models on the cover page of magazines and newspapers illustrate this point.  Models who we covet with hungry and greedy eyes walk a thin line between thinness and self-starvation.  Models present us with unnatural standards.  They are impossible to attain unless we go on a drastic diet or resort to some other drastic weight-reduction means, such as diet pills, excessive fasting, overexercise, abuse of laxatives, or self-induced vomiting.  A very large number of people, perhaps, ten percent of the population, are using unpalatable and often harmful means.   

 If tomorrow there was an outbreak of a mysterious illness in our country and that illness affected not ten percent, as in the case of weight-obsession, but half of that number, you bet it would be a major story in the nation.  All the newspapers and magazines would carry it on the first page.  The television and radio stations would break with newsflashes and hourly news bulletins.  Media reporters and photographers would no doubt be milling around the "afflicted areas."  The Surgeon General would declare it as a national emergency.  The areas that are more severely affected would be quarantined.  The nation would in fact panic at the outbreak of such an illness that affected so many.  

 Anorexia Nervosa, the disease of self-starvation, Bulimia Nervosa, the disease of bingeing-purging and fasting-purging, and overeating is afflicting twenty-percent of women between 13 to 40 years of age and nobody is panicking.  The age-group in which the eating disorders are most rampant cover almost the whole span of women's child-bearing age.  The threat to physical, mental, and occupational health is serious but we do not yet perceive it as ominous.  Weight control passes as a "fashion fad" or a craze for vanity.

 In the 80s, thousands of teenage girls were sucked into the obsession for thinness.  In the 90s, obsession regarding body weight and body shape has been striking even earlier.  Now more and more pre-teen girls are making a serious effort to become thinner and lose weight.  The peak age in females for eating disorders is between 11 and 15.  For males, the peak age is 15 to 18.  It is true that severe forms of Anorexia and Bulimia kill.  If any other disease had affected our children of school age and no high-powered commissions were set up, or no funds were released to manage the crisis, we would have raided the nation's capital.  

 If you must be obsessed about something, be obsessed with total health, instead of just one aspect of health.  Instead of asking ourselves, "how can I be slim and what do I do about this fat on my body?," let's ask ourselves, "how can I be healthy, bodily, emotionally, and spiritually?"  Ask yourself, "How can I achieve total fitness?"  If we ask the right questions, we will get the right answers.  Wrong questions will direct us to incomplete or even incorrect answers such as, "deadly dieting," exercising to the point of exhaustion, or swallowing deadly toxins and chemicals in our drive for weight loss. 

 People who have an eating disorder tend to know everything about total calories and fat calories of the food they eat but have little idea of the nutrients such as, the proteins, vitamins, and minerals or of the potentially harmful substances such as, the sodium content, preservatives, celluloid, free radicals, etc.  Had they focused on the nutritious value rather than on the fat content of the food, they would have been more careful of what they put in their bodies.     

 Healthy wholesome food and moderate exercise have been paid only a lip service.  Dieting has been the apple of every body's eye.  Unfortunately, dieting is that blue-eyed prince who gives the gifts of glittering diamonds and promises the world during the courtship, but decamps with the prized possessions as the honeymoon is over.  In 95% of the cases, dieters gain back the lost weight within a year after they quit dieting.  People who are solely focused on weight diet over and over again and fail to see this self-evident fact.  
 It is better to be a "health nut" than to be a weight nut.  Instead of being content with watching your weight, examine for yourself, "How good of care am I taking of myself?"  Every morning when you wake up, stand in front of a mirror.  Don't find any faults with yourself.  Criticize nothing that belongs to you.  Then ask yourself, " How can I nourish you today?"   

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