The following is a Q & A between myself and an interviewer who was kind enough to discuss my new book, Fat Families Thin Families with me:
Q: Why call the book such an "in your face" critical name?
My response: I am a pretty empathic person but I'm also someone who deals in reality. You cannot dispute that there is an ongoing epidemic of adult and childhood obesity; you cannot dispute that this generation is the first group of children who will not live longer than their parents. So I wanted to use a book title that would force parents and other adults to wake up and realize that WE HAVE A TERRIBLY SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUE AFFECTING OUR KIDS and though we are laying blame to many sectors, the reality is that healthy food and exercise habits begin in the home. Once parents are willing to accept that really bad health habits are being created and handed off to children at home - the finger pointing stops. I'm a "let's find an answer that can work for you" kind of mother and health practitioner. So I just want parents to acknowledge reality and then to move forward.
Q: What do you think is so bad on the homefront?
My response: We budget for cars and new homes and X-mas presents - but we don't begin to really think about budgeting calories and working on home nutrition. We "wing it" for the most part, shopping without lists, without menu planning. We don't eat together and we feed our children anything, sometimes, just to get them to eat. We buy too many processed foods; we tell our kids to move - but we don't move ourselves, as models of behaviors. We prioritize the wrong things and we simply don't get help or education if we ourselves don't know a whole lot about good nutrition.
Q: So what behaviors do you think make for a "healthy family?"
My response: First, let's realize that when parents diet in front of kids - and serve them entirely different foods - they are sending a powerful message. Let's realize that when parents don't engage in exercise - that's what kids learn. So modeling behavior is a huge cornerstone to teaching your child good health messages.
Some attributes of a healthy family include:
- Planning menus and creating a solid food shopping list
- Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time
- Eat meals together quite often
- Plate food before it comes to the table
- Believe exercise is important and do activities together
- Care and talk about health
- Have breakfast every morning
- Do not use food rewards
- Do not make social and holiday gatherings ONLY about food
- Eat slowly
Q: But isn't genetics a huge part of the problem?? Aren't many of us just destined to be overweight?
My response: There is no doubt that some of us come from "big boned people" or "curvy people" or "people who seem to gain weight just looking at food." Frankly, many researchers have shown that that is but a small part of the complex problem of obesity. What is a HUGE part of it? The habits you hand off to your kids, whether or not you as a parent understand the calorie needs and activity needs of each phase of childhood/teens. If you corrupt your two year old's palate with sugary cereals, juice all day, chicken nuggets and French Fries, and soda - that's what they will begin to exclusively want. So parents have a huge role in what they introduce kids too, when they introduce it, how much of it is introduced, and how they themselves use food - as tasty fuel or as an emotional bandage.
Q: If you had to describe your book plan - what would it's core elements be?
My response: I have a 4P program - Plan - Prepare - Portion - Play - those four elements can get a family well on its way to healthier habits, and weight loss if necessary. But fundementally we need to join up as a family team to all share the same habits - regardless of whether individual goals are better health, weight loss or both. A mom can eat smaller portions of the same healthy, nutrient dense food that she feeds her kids - if weight loss is necessary. But the shopping and preparing and menu planning has to happen together so everyone feels like they are part of a team working owards better and healthier goals.
I also share a "red, green, yellow" food plan - green foods need little portion control, yellow foods are foods we eat daily which require portion control and "best choices" and red foods are the treats, which need not only strict portion control but also some consideration of frequency.
Q: Why buy your book as opposed to another "hot seller diet book?"
My response: I've always said - any diet book is great if it helps you get healthier , helps you target safe weight loss AND if it helps you to keep those habits in place, long term. Most diet books fail miserably because they are gimmicks, trends, unsafe approaches or quick fixes that don't last. My book teaches nutrition in a simple easy-to-do way and it forces FAMILIES not individuals to shift habits. It's a book that requires families to understand how important nutrition and exercise is, but it respects the reality that day-to-day life is harried and rushed and tough. So the approach is a simple approach that family members of all ages can understand and do - together. It offers an organizational plan, recipes, quick tips, menu plans, shopping lists and it also acknowledges that food is a powerful emotional crutch in many people's lives - so I have numerous self-help and family tips to work on those issues as well.
Q: Any final words?
My response: I would just say - don't let the title of the book put you off from buying it and experiencing a program that is perfect for any family. And don't let the mountain of trying to change even generational behaviors seem to big to tackle. You can always take the book jacket off and put a sticker on it that just says - The Healthy Family for Life Plan. Realize that the health and longevity of your kids is at stake. So let's NOT play a blame game - let's just agree there is a crisis and we need to fix it for our kids - one habit at a time.
Fat Families Thin Families (BenBella Books 2008) is available at amazon.com, at local bookstores and also at www.fatfamiliesthinfamilies.com.
Published On: October 02, 2008