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Counting Calories Should Be Taught in Schools
Obese Teen
Profile of an Obese Teenager
Credit:  Wikipedia Commons

By Karen Land

How many calories do you consume in a day?

How many calories do you burn in a day?

These are two simple and straightforward questions, right?

Not for everyone.

For the last three months I have been traveling the country giving talks in schools and libraries about the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. At one point in my presentation, I explain that Iditarod sled dogs burn approximately 10,000 calories a day during the race.

I use to expect this astonishing statistic to wow the crowd of students and adults, but not anymore - amazement is rarely the response.

 Most often, I am faced with blank stares, the students waiting for me to move on to some of the more exciting trail stories. Thankfully, there are always a few in the group that “get it” and want to know more about what the dogs eat to replace the massive calories lost, but the majority of people seem to have no idea what burning 10,000 calories really means.

Over my 10 years as a school presenter, I have watched our kids become heavier and heavier. The obesity epidemic among children, even toddlers and preschoolers, is horrifying.

According to Dr. Judith S. Palfrey, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Today, most physicians are dealing with overweight and obesity in about 30 percent of the children we treat.” Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama, began a nationwide campaign called “Let’s Move” (www.letsmove.gov) to help tackle the problem of childhood obesity.

It’s important to recognize the problem, provide information for parents and schools, promote exercise, and provide access to healthier foods.

The first step is often the biggest, toughest step, but we need to do more. We can’t wait until the family and friends of obese children decide to become good role models and start exercising, eating better, and stocking the home refrigerators with good, healthy grub. Children need to be taught the facts directly - facts about calories, nutrition, exercise, and the health risks of obesity.

Nutrition 101 shouldn’t just be taught once a year in health class. Educators need to pound this empowering information into kids’ brains; we need to inspire children to take control of their own bodies now.

The straightforward facts will allow some children to make their own good choices even when their older role-models still continue to “Super-Size” fast food meals right in front of them.

Anti-smoking campaigns have educated generations of students about the risks of smoking, and inspired countless kids to make the healthy choice not to smoke. And, as a result, many children have taken this information a step further, badgering their own parents until they eventually quit smoking. Children - armed with good, solid facts - save their parents’ lives every day.

Anti-METH ads bluntly show young and old the terrifying results of drug use.

Empowering information works. And it has a ripple effect.

No kid wants to be fat. All children want to be healthy, feel good, live long lives, and have friends; it’s our job as parents and mentors to show the youth how to live right. And if we can’t be a good role model ourselves, we should at least give them the right tools so they can do what needs to be done themselves.

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Added: April 10, 2010. 02:40 PM CDT
Land should stop lying to kids about Iditarod
Bravo to Karen Land for caring if kids are overweight. Now she should go a step further and stop lying to them about the Iditarod. The race has a long, well-documented history of dog deaths, illnesses and injuries. But she doesn't tell children that. The truth is that for the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. Six dogs died in the 2009 Iditarod, including two dogs on Dr. Lou Packer's team who froze to death in the brutally cold winds. What happens to the dogs during the race includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 142 dogs have died in the race.

During training runs, Iditarod dogs have been killed by moose, snowmachines, and various motor vehicles, including a semi tractor and an ATV. They have died from drowning, heart attacks and being strangled in harnesses. Dogs have also been injured while training. They have been gashed, quilled by porcupines, bitten in dog fights, and had broken bones, and torn muscles and tendons. Most dog deaths and injuries during training aren't even reported. FOR MORE FACTS, VISIT THE WEBSITE: helpsleddogs.org
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