A Pressing Need For The Family Unit To Get Back To Basics

Submitted by Charles Knighton

Regarding the Barbados Advocate  Editorial of July 17th, Health equals wealth I offer the following observations.

Once upon a time, mothers would say:”Sit up and eat your vegetables.” Fathers would say : “Don’t talk with your mouth full.” Other common utterances included: ” Go outside and play.” And, “After you finish your chores.” Families may not have been happier—and family dinners may have been daily rituals of tiny tortures (the ennui that passeth all understanding)—but neither were the words “childhood obesity” part of the vernacular.

At the risk of being politically incorrect, fat kids have always been among us, but obesity was not the plague it is today. Nor was it necessary for government to instruct families about how and what to eat. We all knew the pyramid scheme of nutrition. This isn’t nostalgia speaking, nor is there any mystery why kids are fatter these days or what is required to fix the problem. Eat less; move more; listen to your parents—if you can find them.

Hold the Nobel. Really.

Good for Michelle Obama and Mara Thompson for trying to get the word out that eating vegetables and playing are good things. I’m as willing as anyone to be cynical about such “insights”, and hated nanny statism before it was cool. Yet the message is important and somebody has to say it. But maternal advice is one thing and government-enforced nutritional mandates quite another. In the absence of willpower, should certain foods and spices be forbidden to all? Where exactly does one stop drawing that little line?

The questions of when and whether government should intervene in matters of personal taste are not harmless. As government becomes more involved in health decisions, government necessarily will become more involved in personal nutrition issues. The same strategy that created pariahs out of smokers now is being aimed at people who eat unattractively. It isn’t only that you’re hurting yourself by eating too much of the wrong foods; you’re hurting the rest of us by willfully contributing to your own poor health, and therefore to the cost of public health. Fat is the new nicotine.

Once the numbers crunchers start quantifying the cost to society by people who eat too much, or eat too much of the wrong things, ($250 million a year according to your Editorial) you can be sure that not-such-good-things are coming your way soon. Think Idi Amin in an apron.

The statistics ARE alarming to be sure, especially regarding children. The issue isn’t only about school lunches, though over-consumption of high glycemic carbohydrates has to be factored into any calculation about obesity. At least as significant, if not utterly crucial, are poverty and shattered families, which often go hand-in-hand. Also significant are the high cost of healthy food versus cheaper, fast food. Our drive-thru culture, which applies to relationships as well as mealtimes, is the real enemy of fitness and health.

Thus, it seems clear that the real solution to obesity, as it is with so many issues, isn’t more government regulation but more personal responsibility. Essentially, families will become healthier by spending more time exercising and eating together. I know, sheer genius.
Once upon a time we called this “life,” but we post-modernists apparently need a little help with the basics. Fuddyduddily speaking, more chores and fewer gadgets—and committed parents who torture their kids with rules—would probably do the trick as well. As with most problems, the solution is family.

0 thoughts on “A Pressing Need For The Family Unit To Get Back To Basics


  1. I drive by Luther Thorne Primary every morning and am shocked to see two vendors set up as early as 6:30am selling candy to kids. The tables are so clearly stocked with brightly colored, sugary snacks that one doesn’t even need to get out of the car to confirm; and unless they keep the bananas behind the counter I would say that there is nothing of any nutritional value available for sale.

    Now the blame can be attributed to a number of parties – I prefer to spread it around:
    – these unconscionable vendors shouold be ashamed of selling candy to school kids at 7am.
    – the parents should be ashamed of themselves for providing their children with money for such things
    – the ministry of education should be ashamed for enabling this by allowing the vendors to set up outside of schools, especially primary schools.


  2. I agree. I mean everyone has to make a livelihood but these same vendors are old enough to know better and are certainly of age to know that the junk they are selling they would not eat themselves. Besides I strongly feel they grew up on the eddoes, sweet potatos and yams and those goodies. Everyone trying to get a quick buck at the expense of our young people’s health. I mean children obviously have the money ( provided by parents ofcourse) to purchase these commodities. When I was that age my mother packed my lunch and gave me healthy snacks and advised me what where some other choices I could buy and I followed her instructions since I knew mother knows best. I guess parents are advising there children in different ways.


  3. We have to keep trumpeting the message and hope for ‘stickability’ but be aware it will be an uphill battle at a time where lifestyle trumps all. We have become impervious to what is right.

    Take for example the popular comic Superman read by children the world over since Adam was a laddiie. The new version portrays the Superman as single. Where the hell is the lovable Lois who has always been the model partner?n uphill battle at a time where lifestyle trumps all. We have become impervious to what is right.

    Take for example the popular comic Superman read by children the world over since Adam was a laddiie. The new version portrays the Superman as single. Where the hell is the lovable Lois who has always been the model partner?


  4. The solution is family. Nay a truer statement has been made. The question now is How do we adjust to the (sad) realities of our current family/community situations? Trying to “get back” to days and values of old will be futile. Worth the effort depending on who you speak to, but futile.


  5. David, which Superman comic did you read that had Lois Lane as his partner? She was friends with Clark Kent her workmate, but she did not live with nor was she married to Superman. He has always been single, as have Batman, Green Lantern, Daredevil, the Submariner, the Thing, the Silver Surfer….


  6. It is the liquid sugar, the sweet drinks, the soda, the pop.

    And not enough exercise.

    See the parents dropping the children right at the gate.

    In the good old days we walked 2 miles to school.

    Now people (even children) talk about getting sweaty.

    We live in the tropics.

    There is nothing wrong with sweaty.

    Eat less.

    Drink more water.

    Drink no soft drinks or sweetened juices.

    Exercise more.

    Walk, run, swim, ride a bike, (how about some bike paths instead of more highways) hit the gym. work the garden, play cricket, football, basketball, netball.


  7. Some are blaming the vendors outside the school gates, these vendors have always sold sweets., whether it was sugar cakes, black bitch, toffees, popsicles, they are all sweets. Some who had fruit trees sold mangoes, ackees until some schools banned them, nuts, dunks and fat porks.

    As a child growing up in Trinidad, poulouri, peewah (a boiled palm), chenet,(ackees) chana (chick peas), mango chow, sweet and pepper mango and tippi tambo another boiled root vegetable were available along with toolum (something like black bitch), sugar cakes, paradise plums, and nuts were sold by school vendors. Many of the snack were nutritious. We played at break, lunch time and after school. We got sweaty and no one minded.

    Perhaps we need to stop giving our children pocket money every day and let them earn it by doing chores. Then again many of us have concreted all around the yard so there will be no mowing of grass, a great form of exercise I might add. Chores like cleaning windows but we have made them so afraid of falling that that is out of the question. Well how about going out to play? Uhmmm there are undesirables in the neighbourhood so that is out of the question. How about swimming classes, dancing, tennis, football, cricket, athletics? When my daughter was small, I was exhausted from taking her to swimming, dancing, netball and athletics until I told her that she can’t do all and must choose two. She became a Barbados athlete and went on to college in the USA where she still holds records in track and field. Yes driving to pick her up from the stadium every evening and taking her there wasn’t easy BUT that is what parents must do to assist and support their children. Parents need to get involved in the lives and activities of their children.

    Computers, cable TV have become the parents with lots of fast foods. Parents are no longer parenting and therein lies the problem.


  8. In this affluent world we now live too many of us want to fool our children to believe we were brought up with a “goldspoon” in our mouths. Just because we can now afford or pretend we can, we gift our sixteen year old child with a car, or some expensive gift. these children haven’t yet started to work and therefore can only put a cost on these gifts but not a value, therefore they are educated into a paricular lifestyle that if or when things gets rough when they are grown, many end up stealing and putting their family name into problems.


  9. @the Scout: “In this affluent world we now live too many of us want to fool our children to believe we were brought up with a “goldspoon” in our mouths.

    I resonate with that.

    @islandgal246: “Perhaps we need to stop giving our children pocket money every day and let them earn it by doing chores. Then again many of us have concreted all around the yard so there will be no mowing of grass, a great form of exercise I might add. Chores like cleaning windows but we have made them so afraid of falling that that is out of the question. Well how about going out to play? Uhmmm there are undesirables in the neighbourhood so that is out of the question.

    I resonate with that as well.

    And perhaps (just perhaps) a child doesn’t need nor deserve a cell phone until such time as they can pay for it themselves.

    And, further, perhaps (just perhaps) we don’t need to be as afraid of the neighbours as we all seem to be.

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