Banning Sugar In Schools Doesn’t Teach Healthy Habits

cake-pops-684163__180Not that long ago there was some discussion at the neighbourhood school my boys attend, how to greatly reduce the amount of sugar the students were consuming while on the premises.

A naturopathic doctor, also a parent to two young boys, gave a compelling presentation about the health and behaviour benefits to cutting back the white stuff, and successfully riled up the parent population with suggested action items.

I don’t know much, but I do know this: one sure-fire way to ignite controversy and polarize a group is to change-up the status quo.

Back when I was a kid, we’d walk the ten minutes to school in the pouring rain toting our umbrellas and like a growing snowball collect kids along the way and after school we’d knock on doors, ride bikes and play a good old fashioned game of kick the can. Not really, but you get the picture. We weren’t developing carpel tunnel syndrome by age 12 and taking selfies to document every minute of teenage angst.

When I was growing up sugar wasn’t the evil, it was fat and cholesterol. A few spandex clad mothers could be heard espousing the benefits of the 20-minute work-out, Jane Fonda and the AB Roller while pouring a healthy dollop of Lite salad dressing over iceberg lettuce. Butter, eggs, oils, red meat, all of it was eschewed until the mid 90s when Barry Spears revolutionize the diet world with The Zone and all of a sudden steak and eggs reclaimed their clout in the grocery cart.

As a kid I enjoyed donuts, candies and cupcakes.   Mrs. Dickson used to make the best cupcakes, with lots of icing and sprinkles so when it was her son’s birthday and she came into the classroom, I made sure to not be the last in the line-up. When a French teacher would toss out mini-sized chocolate bars for correct answers, we’d know that she was in a good mood and Mr. MacDonald used to let us pop balloons for prizes: a weekend with the class budgie, an afternoon in his chair, giant, over-sized chocolate bars our parents would never buy.

I used to peddle my bike to the corner store (about 15 minutes away and across a busy intersection) with my friends. We’d return our books to the library and then go the Village Market, to see how many Hot Lips and sour keys our change could buy us. A lot more than today’s pennies, that’s for sure.

But now I am a grown-up and I am the one making the decisions.

Do you want to know something? My shoulders are sore from the burden of expectations.

I have come a long way with not caring what people think about my parenting. The proof is in the pudding, I like to say, and I am playing the long game. I don’t always choose the healthiest or freshest or more local foods for my kids. In fact, last night they ate an entire party-sized pizza while they watched TV, and I basically ignored them to read the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

We have a treat bucket overflowing with candy and there it stays. My boys choose something from it once a day, but they could take it or leave it.   Sunday afternoons I bake something – cookies, brownies, macaroons, Hello Dollies – whatever the request but after the initial fanfare that accompanies the trays being pulled from the oven, the cookies will remain in the jar. Nibbled on, but never gorged. The piano teacher, friends popping by and play date guests are usually the ones to grab at the goods. For my kids, it’s part of the landscape, like the wallpaper. It’s just there.

Have you heard of Snowplow Parenting? If Helicopter parent was the term of yesteryear, then Snowplow parent is the term for now.

Snowplow parents: defined by some of the extremes they take in their children’s lives. When you take the snowplow route, you are teaching your child that someone will always step in to make things right, and therefore no initiative is required on the kid’s end.

That’s how I feel about removing sugar from schools. It doesn’t teach children how to make good choices it simply removes the obstacle for them. I am a believer that diets need to be balanced and healthy, and that includes sugar. It doesn’t mean scarfing down an entire box of Krispy Kremes (guilty!) on a regular basis but having a lollipop while watching a movie, is ok in my books.

It does get tricky in schools when parties and birthdays are celebrated with food, but that’s a learning opportunity in itself. Instead of banning sugary treats empower children with decision-making.  With parents and schools being more aware of and considerate of allergies, replacing birthday cupcakes for an non-edible treat (pencils, erasers, etc) is an obvious option.  There is also the option of a paper crown and singing Happy Birthday.  Simple.  But it’s about learning when and how to celebrate with treats.

It saddens me to see so many grown women (and some men) with unhealthy relationships with food, swinging from fad diet to fad diet, depriving themselves of food groups, binge eating; all of these behaviours leading to body image issues.

Here’s my question: With as much emphasis we’re placing on reducing sugar and getting our children active, why isn’t there more of an uproar over cut PE classes and revoked recesses (as punishment or to pack in more instructional time for core subjects)? Why do high school students only need one PE credit to graduate?

If I had things my way, we’d focus on healthy living where exercise is valued for more than just fitting into skinny jeans, where real food was consumed more than “fake food” and we would all chill out!

Tried it: Barre3 By Guest Blogger Leigh from Me & Meg

Our guests this week are Leigh and Meg from the popular motherhood blog, Me and Meg. Leigh and Meg blog about ups and downs of motherhood with just the right amount of snark. They are witty, humble and kick-ass at Cross Fit. Think you’ve heard of them? I wouldn’t be surprised because they are contributors to Global Morning Show, Parentdish.ca and “What She Said” Canada Talks on SiriusXM Radio.

Thank you ladies for sharing your experience at Barre3.

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Meg and I have always loved exercising; that’s not to say that there hasn’t been times when we have totally lacked motivation or taken time off, we have. Our philosophy has always been simple: we were designed to move and we owe it to ourselves to do just that. It’s hard not get out of bed and workout when you think about what Rick Hansen and Terry Fox accomplished. Find someone who is doing a lot more with a lot less and suddenly your excuses melt away.

Meg and I both agree the key to keeping motivated is changing it up-and we don’t mean swapping the elliptical for the bike. We mean really shaking it up. We are both Crossfit and Olympic lifting coaches and that is something we consistently do. We love the variety of movements, and contrary to popular belief, it really is for everybody; our sixty year old mother does it!

We decided to start 2015 off by adding some new exercise disciplines into our repertoire. Enter Barre3. We are totally addicted. It’s like Yoga started dating a ballet dancer who also does Pilates. What do love most about it? First, the variety of workouts; by both the amount of time you have, and the part of the body you want to focus on. Meg and I love the Ballet Body Blast-who doesn’t want the long lines of a dancer? Second? You can do the workouts ANYWHERE. Between the mobile app and the on-line workouts you just can’t find an excuse not to do it.

imgres-1We also appreciate the instructor’s pace and focus on integrity of movement, often times with at-home dvd’s there is not real instruction and you feel sort of lost, that’s not the case with the Barre3 on-line and mobile app workouts. If you live in the Toronto area, we recommend checking out the new Barre3 studio that opened. Aimee the owner, is a delight.

Our advice, cut some old t-shirts off, knot’em and rock some leg warmers. That’s what ballet dancers do right?

A Mother’s Body

A Mother’s Body

The skin is pulled tautly over my rounded belly and my full breasts sit high on my chest.  The photo of my pregnant body in its ninth month is displayed on the bookshelf above my bathtub.  I look at that picture almost nightly.  Not only do I find the curves and silhouette of my maternal frame captivating, I am drawn to the expression on my face.   There are no lines indicating worry or discomfort, my lips rest lightly together, and slightly curl at the ends but it is the eyes that speak to me.  There is a peaceful calm exuding from my stare, owning my nakedness with a confidence that I had never felt before, or for that matter, since.

Many women feel at their most beautiful when they are pregnant.  Sarah, a mother of three from Ottawa, loved being pregnant and describes her first pregnancy as though it felt like an experience she was waiting her entire life for.  “My wide hips helped make my first birth a relatively easy process (as far as births go).  I just loved never having to suck in my belly – I could let it all hang out!  I really do feel like I never felt better than when I was pregnant the first time.”  Sarah is not alone in admiring how awesome a woman’s body truly is.  Mirielle, a Toronto mother of two, says of her pregnant body, “I was in awe of its incredible capacity every passing week… it was truly one of the best experiences of my life where I could focus on myself and the needs of my unborn baby without feeling guilty for neglecting something else.”

Some nights, when my self-confidence is wavering, I look at those pictures and long for that unbridled self-love.  Soaking in the bath water, I admire the toll three pregnancies have taken on my body.  Like battles scars the silvery stretch marks tell a story.  The long spindly looking one running up the left side of my abdomen is from the first time my belly stretched to cradle an unborn child.  The series of red claw-like indentations along my pubic bone are the newest markings to my canvas.  My breasts and stomach sag, the skin like a deflated balloon and a thickness has settled around my waist.

I knew that pregnancy would forever alter my body and most days I wear these changes with pride but living in a culture where celebrity baby bumps has become a spectator sport and images of lithe post-baby bodies are plastered across virtually every glossy tabloid magazine, I would be liar to say my body image hasn’t taken a hit.

I remember being shocked at how my body looked in the days following the birth of my eldest son.  I wasn’t prepared that I would still look pregnant.  The experts at Just The Facts Baby say that when a woman leaves the hospital after giving birth her uterus is still as large as when she was twenty weeks pregnant and Baby Centre reports that post-baby a woman’s body can appear rounder in the hips, thicker in the waist and softer in the tummy after she has bore a child.

Sarah’s first pregnancy was a singleton and she found that she was able to bounce back into shape pretty quickly but after the C-section she experienced with her twins her post-baby body image wasn’t as positive.  “Between carrying two babies to term and having a c-section my stomach is a mess of yucky, saggy skin and stretch marks.  I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder whose belly that is!”  While Mirielle was forewarned, by her mommy-friends that she wouldn’t be slipping back into her skinny jeans a few weeks post-partum she remembers being surprised by the length of time it took for her to fit back into her shirts due to breastfeeding.

A Mother’s Energy

Since having my third child a few months ago, in addition to the changes in my body, I have noticed a change in my energy.  Exercise and alone time used to re-charge me but now I find that the demands of having three young children under the age of four take up most of day and energy, leaving little left over for myself.  Sarah, Mirielle and many other mothers report the same thing.

This post is the first in a series.  Next week will explore how to incorporate exercise into busy lives, the benefits of exercise for a healthy body image, and how parents can use exercise to provide the ultimate self-care.

How has your body image changed since having children?  Or has it?

photo credit: http://www.blogcdn.com/www.parentdish.com/media/2009/08/naked-pregnant-woman-240js080509.jpg