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Time to get physical, y'all

There is breaking news from Washington this week. Lucky for all of you that I am eternally vigilant or you might have missed this.

No, I'm not talking about Jimmy Carter disagreeing with George Bush's handling of foreign affairs. That is not news. Carter hasn't agreed with anything anyone has done since January 1981.

No, this week's news has to do with the children of America. According to the American Institute of Medicine, American youth are fat and getting fatter.

Imagine that, y'all. Raise your hand if you are surprised to learn that up to one-third of American students are overweight. Raise both hands if you are surprised to learn that within the next couple of years, up to 20 percent of American students are expected to be considered obese.

Now while you have both hands in the air, look down and see if you can see your shoes. Just kidding on that one. Don't take offense. I haven't been able to see mine since January 1981.

But seriously, how could our kids help but be getting fatter. Quick review now, of what you learned in ninth-grade health class. You do remember the ninth grade, don't you? It was when you quit chewing Bazooka bubble gum and started main-lining Clearasil if you are like most of us.

If you burn off more calories during exercise than you take in by eating you - all together now - "Lose weight!"

Splendid!

Now for the second question. If you take in more calories than you burn off you - again, all together - "Gain weight!"

Man, y'all are good! And Yankees claim that we Georgians are slow learners.

Is it any surprise that more and more kids are filling up on calories and getting less exercise? Well, it shouldn't be.

The next time you venture out of the house, take a look around at how many fast food joints you pass as you drive from point A to point B.

They are there for a reason, folks. They make money. They make money because people shop at them. People shop at them because they are quick, easy, and, for the most part, tasty.

I don't care what anybody says, a Quarter Pounder with cheese tastes way better than brussels sprouts. That stuff tastes good because it is full of sugar and fat and all sorts of things that are high in calories.

Kids are eating a ton of that stuff. Grownups, too, for that matter.

Even when we feed them at home, we are feeding them processed foods that are high in fat and calories and - well, you get the picture.

And let's look at the other side of the coin. The exercise part. I wonder how often the parents of today tell their kids to get up off that couch and go outside and play.

I bet it ain't often, but the good Lord knows that my mama used to tell me that anytime she caught me in front of the television set if there was still good daylight outside.

The fact of the matter is, unless Annette Funicello, in her tight Mouseketeer sweater, was on the air, there was nothing much I wanted to look at on daytime television when I was a kid.

But now young people have MTV and a hundred other stations, not to mention Game Boys, Xbox, MySpace and iPods and all manner of electronic mayhem that can keep them sedentary for hours, if not days, on end.

Even if we could get them outside, they can't just go out and find somebody to play with unless parents arrange a "play date" or some adult, who thinks he is Casey Stengel, Vince Lombardi and Red Auerbach rolled into one, organizes a practice session or creates a league schedule. Whatever happened to choosing up sides?

So too many kids sit, eat junk food and get lazier and lazier - and fatter and fatter.

Schools, which are expected to be everything to everybody, don't do a whole lot to help. We have all but removed physical education from the curriculum, especially in high school. I started every morning of my ninth- and 10th-grade years in Ronald Bradley's P.E. class.

The first six weeks were always devoted to physical training and he led us through jumping jacks - which he called side-straddle hops - and windmills, deep knee bends, push-ups and sit-ups - you name it, and if it would make you sweat and cause your muscles to ache, we did it.

I suppose those sessions would be considered child abuse today. But not many of us were obese.

They say they are taking Cokes out of the schools, and in many places they have, but they are replacing canned Cokes - 150 calories per serving - with bottles of "fruit" drink that contain 300 calories per serving.

I could go on, of course, but it's time for me to waddle to the kitchen for another Twinkie.

But, hey, I'm not a kid anymore, so it's OK.

Yeah, right.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.