By Dr. Ed Leshin
For years we as a society have heard about the “war” on drugs, but how about the “war” on negative marketing to our children? Recently, the news has been filled with articles about childhood obesity and the negative health effects on our nations youth. We are told that 25 percent of school age kids are overweight, 15% are obese and 50% of obese kids become obese adults. We are told how every four minutes, three americans die from preventable diseases relating to obesity. That 7,692 per week represents almost 2,500 more than were lost at Pearl Harbor and in the attack of 9/11 combined. If you are fed-up with the negative focus on the problem then join the club. That’s why I decided to do something about it.
I am a chiropractor. I dedicate my life to helping people live balanced, healthy lives. So when many of my patients said that it is so difficult to get their kids to eat right I started listening and looking around. The first place I started was with my own children. My middle child Thomas has had low insulin production since he was little. Despite conventional medical views, we did not opt for insulin. Instead, he is cared for holistically and taught about proper food choices and practical food choices. This means that he has had to learn to look at kids across from him at the lunch table eating cookies, chips and candy while at the same time realizing that he could get very sick if he made that choice (and initially he did while he was learning). It also means turning down rewards from teachers and others if they are offered in a candy form.
As I have been watching him grow through his challenges I realized as a parent that the marketing of junk food is so incredible that I even began to feel bad as a parent for his inability to have “junk food.” Imagine that, it was almost as if I were saying, “universe, please allow my son to be healthy so he can fit in and eat junk like all the other kids!” Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s power. If a parent can be persuaded that eating junk food will help him/her fit into society better than that’s as powerful as a drug! I started realizing that maybe the “war on drugs” would be better served as a “war” on negative marketing to kids and parents in regards to food.
Let me give some examples on what we’re up against and some strategies I’ve developed. First, walk into any grocery store with your 2-5 year old. Pay attention to what they ask for. Do they scream for broccoli or carrots? How about eggs or whole grain bread? Since I have a three year old, I know the answer. But listen more closely, do they have a favorite cartoon character? Is it Shrek, or Spiderman?
My son’s is spiderman. In fact, he is fixated/obsessed with his imaginary friend and it’s kind of neat to him that everywhere he goes, spiderman is also there. He loves shopping because he knows that his friend will always show up for him. Here’s how the marketing gets us. We go to our favorite grocery store and our son or daughter sees their favorite character/friend. They are so excited! Too bad for us and for them that it happens to be on the cover of a sugary cereal box, a box full of sugary chewy things, or the candy at the check-out counter.
Here’s where I get to tell you about my plan that I have tested time and time again. I have had my clients try it with their children as well and it works!
I started this as an experiment and the results are so overwhelming I am going to approach packaging plants for produce items. I took my 3 year-old to the store one day and said, ” Hey, would you like to get some spiderman carrots?” He replied, “fiderman carrots” (misspelled on purpose). I said, “yes, spiderman carrots!” He said, “okay.” So, off we went. When I got to the store and went directly to the produce section. I distracted my son by telling him to look at the pretty balloons. As he looked, I pulled a sleeve of spiderman stickers out of my pocket and placed one right on the organic carrots! You should’ve seen his face as I called to him to see the spiderman carrots.
He looked back over to me and said wonderfully, “fiderman carrots?” I said, “yes, aren’t these wonderful?” He said, “umhum!” It was a match made in heaven and a spiritual delight. He didn’t care if he got cookies or carrots, he wanted his friend spiderman and by golly I delivered it to him! For the next week, he wanted to hold those carrots and bring them with him whereever we went. He loves carrots now. Before, we couldn’t get him to barely touch them. The funny thing was the check-out clerk never even noticed the huge spiderman sticker as she scanned that bag of carrots.
Recently, I have developed newer strategies. For example, when he would see his friend spiderman on the cereal boxes or chewy thing boxes, I would buy one, bring it home and then dump the contents (without him seeing) and fill it up with vegetables. Now he eats spiderman broccoli, carrots and even spiderman chicken(that’s another story). I’m fighting back the food giants and using their own weapons! Only, it’s teaching my child to fall in love with good foods rather than junk. Now that’s spiritual eating for kids!
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Dr. Ed Leshin is a chiropractor, acupuncturist and energy therapist. He is part of National organization of physicians (NAK) using fun ideas and educational cd rom games specifically designed with the intent of educating children and adults about healthy eating. He is currently accepting similar stories about healthy eating tips for his upcoming book about Kids Eating In Good Spirit! Dr. Ed wants to make Good food fun again!
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