I was wondering about the increasing percentages of childhood obesity and overweigh in America, and it made me think about Spain, my country of origin. I go twice a year to Spain to visit my family, and I return home every time with the idea that overweight and obesity is increasing in Spain. What shocks me more is that where I see a major increase is in childhood. I have been thinking that maybe it is just my perception and the increase isn’t really true. I couldn’t understand how in one of the Mediterranean Diet Countries per excellence the number of overweight and obese kids is increasing in such a manner that I can see the difference just by watching them pass through “Las Ramblas” in Barcelona.
I decided to look for some data to make it more real, and my big surprise was that not only my suspicious were real, but that the percentage of overweight and obese kids in Spain is about the same than in the US (the kingdom of fast food, sodas and manufactured food)!. Wow! So, what happened with the Mediterranean Diet? Isn’t it anymore the healthier and most recommended Diet anymore? Has it disappeared? Only Italy, another major Mediterranean Diet country, has worse numbers than Spain from all the European countries! Scary!
If you dig a bit in how the Spanish society has changed lately, especially in large cities like Barcelona, you can find the answers to those percentages very easily. The moms of the nowadays overweight and obese kids are not staying at home anymore. Some of them have just chosen to take the career pathway women have fought during years almost everywhere. Many other moms just can’t afford to stay at home. Salaries are low, prices are high and it is very difficult to maintain a family with just one salary. And let’s face it, we like it or not, moms are still the adult responsible for feeding and taking kids to after school activities in the majority of families.
Cities, towns and suburbs in Spain like in many other countries are not that safe anymore. Many kids stay at home after school rather than play and run in the streets. Moms and dads are working until 6, 7 or even 8 pm. Who can take the kids to the park or to do some physical activity? Most families can’t afford a Nanny after school so many kids stay at home as soon as they can be left alone. By the time mom gets home, what’s for dinner mom?
Over the weekend, families have to get the groceries, clean the house and other family chores. Who has time to exercise or extra cooking for the week?
Well, nothing of the above is new for the American population, but for Spaniards it is a HUGE change in the way they nourish and their lifestyle.
The Mediterranean Diet is nothing extravagant, new, radical, innovative not even peculiar. It is just a healthy way of eating based in fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, meat, nuts, olive oil, milk and some healthy sweets. That’s how we used to eat for decades and how you can eat in most restaurants, homes where mom has more time or where mom is a SUPERWOMEN, or where there is enough money to mom stay at home or mom hiring somebody to buy the right groceries and cook them.
In most Spanish families there is no time any more to buy fresh fruits and vegetables daily and homes are small for storage. There is no time to cook some lentils or soup and there is still not enough culture and knowledge of fast cooking with pre-packed vegies and other fast coking accessories and tips. Not only that, but MOM gets home really tired, so the last thing she wants to do is to fight with the kids to eat the fruit, veggies and fish (sound familiar?) Decades ago that was just the usual family dinner. Today, Spanish supermarkets are full of precooked meals, and fast food is becoming more available every day.
Well we shouldn’t think we lost the battle, not in Spain, not anywhere. As you know my Weight Loss Management philosophy is based on education. My 32 Mondays Method is just that, an educational program to learn how to manage our weight for life. And although it is focused on adults, it is absolutely applicable to kids.
I did some more research and I was totally encouraged to keep pursuing my method when I heard about PAIDO in Spain. It is a specific program to take care of childhood obesity from a general perspective, considering nutrition, exercise and psychology. The program is being very successful with kids, by teaching basics about nutrition, some cooking lessons, exercise requirements and routines, facilitating information to the parents and even asking the kids to switch from static internet games to those where some physical activity is required. And the program works!
And guess what, the way the program is teaching the kids to eat is no more and no less than “the Mediterranean Diet!: fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, nuts, fish, dairy, meat and eggs, and healthy sweets. Well, just a healthy diet.
So, the results are encouraging me and my method, and I am more confident than ever in the fact that proper education is the way to go to manage our weight loss.