Oh Jamie, Jamie, Jamie.
I do love you. I love your passion. I love your drive and enthusiasm to educate the world on food. (Read about his goals here; http://www.channel4.com/news/jamie-oliver-food-revolution-day-tv-chef-guinness)
The thing is Jamie, much as I do love your enthusiasm, and believe schools can do more in inspiring children to cook wonderful things from scratch, I’m in a quandary about the language you are using and the way schools are already dealing with the need for healthy eating. My youngest son returned home from a day during a Healthy Eating Week telling me he could eat pasta “because it’s healthy”. The quantity was irrelevant. The message was that pasta was healthy and that’s all that stuck. Oh, and “I’ll get fat if I eat other stuff”. My youngest is a little bean. Nay an ounce of extra fat upon him, but I’m a large lady. With food and body issues as far back as I can remember. I have worked hard to give my children a healthy attitude to food, and importantly alongside that, a healthy body image and balanced self esteem. Their diet is fairly balanced, admittedly sometimes more heavy with chocolate and sweets than other times, but they see an apple and a chocolate bar equally, and will choose a piece of fruit over a chocolate biscuit when they want to. They are active children. Yes the XBOX sometimes takes up too much of the day, but it’s balanced with days out scooting, cycling, walking and so on. Importantly they are assured that they are fine as they are. Their bodies are good and functional, they’re at a healthy weight. Food is a fuel predominantly but also to be enjoyed. I made a conscious effort when they were babies and toddlers to not hush them with food when we were out and about. From their birth, I have been conscious of helping them create a healthy relationship with food. I carried toys and crayons and paper, and as many distractions as I could so that they and I did not establish a pattern of comforting with food. We have children of similar ages, you and I, and I know this because I remember following Jools throughout her pregnancies and post birth. You know, one thing that sticks with me, and it was probably a throw away comment for lovely Jools, but she said that she was having to fold her post baby tummy into her jeans in the months after giving birth. And she looked so confident. I thought here’s a sensible woman, not rushing back on to the treadmill, not living on the maple syrup diet to achieve her pre-pregnancy size and weight. A “normal” mum that we can relate to. Someone with a healthy relationship with food, and importantly a healthy body image. So take it in all honesty when I say I really do admire you and yours.
Your idea is honourable. Many families do struggle to give their children balanced meals. BUT where will you be when the taunting starts in those food education classes? When Jack starts to comment on Rae’s family and eating style and general body image? Because it will happen. That competition between the kids that eat better than the others. The kids that know a carrot from a cucumber and more crucially (to you) from a chocolate cookie. Where will you be when the child goes home and relays to the parent that the parents are responsible for them being fat, and need to change their cooking habits? Have you assumed every outcome to that will be a happy one?
I honestly do admire your drive. But my worry is that you are sending a very top heavy message. A message that kids are getting fatter and they need to learn to cook, because their parents can’t do it, because on their own they cannot be trusted, because they cannot rely on their parents to look after and nurture them, because it is important to be thinner. Because you are driving this forward for health, and I appreciate that, but unfortunately the message is there that fat is unacceptable and thin is desirable and achievable. And that children need to educate their parents, because their parents are ignorant of what their children need. I accept that you alone can only do so much, and you’re a man with life experiences that are your own. You can’t place yourself in every child’s frame of reference. You can’t possibly visit every family you’re trying to help. I know that. But you surely know that the issue of obesity isn’t purely based on food and whether people can cook or not? You do know that, don’t you? You do understand that children develop complex relationships with food through their experiences with those close to them? That those patterns are established early on? You do understand that positive body image and self esteem can actually play a huge part in whether a child reaches for the chocolate bar or two? And if you do understand this, then does it not worry you, even a little, that all your work will be in vain if the curriculum you’re helping to change doesn’t put forward a more balanced message to children?
In it’s simplest form;
LOVE YOURSELF, EAT WELL
I know your intentions are wonderful, but I worry this lopsided learning will do very little, and not even hit your 5% target of reduced obesity if you don’t address the healthy self esteem issues that need addressing
So I am thinking. You want food health. Didn’t Gok Wan wants self image health? The two need to go together. They’re two halves of a missing whole. Can’t you start to work together? Or at least start to meet with people that deal with food and body issues every single day, and come from a new place of understanding?
You’re so very nearly there. You really are so close to impacting such a positive change.
Little Miss Cackle.