Food Porn and How to Rescue Your Child from It Now

Jan 5, 2009 by

Overweight_kids_03 If you want to start the New Year out right with one thing that can have a major impact on your child’s overall well-being, turn off the TV.  TV’s effect on eating habits is reason enough, though only the beginning.

“Food on television makes one think about eating and gets one’s gastric juices flowing, triggering the release of insulin, lowering one’s blood sugar, and stimulating food cravings,” writes Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat. “It’s gastronomic pornography.”

Americans, unlike the French, have a conditioned impulse to snack while watching TV anyway, and food ads whip that urge to a frenzy.  For the French, food is always the main event, never background accompaniment to another activity.  I have never seen a French family eating snacks or meals while watching TV. The French appreciate more both food and entertainment by limiting each to its proper place and giving each their full attention.

So it’s perfectly reasonable, no matter what your kids say, to limit TV time to one movie per week, or one half hour program per day, or some other defined amount. If your kids are currently in front of screens for the national average of six hours per day, even limiting it to five hours per day is a move in the right direction.

A couple of concepts to remember that may strengthen your resolve:

TV is not quality time.

There’s no shame in saving your kids’ limited TV for times you need it as a babysitter.  That is probably the best use of TV. Watching TV or videos together is not “family time” or “quality time.” I have rarely watched kid movies with my kids. I save my time for better things with them—playing, reading, talking, going places, eating together. TV-watching is a poor excuse for a social activity. The French would be insulted to go to someone’s home and have the TV on at the same time.  Again, we are trying to do too much at once.

TV is not real rest.

Entertainment has its place in life—a small place. A change is as good as a rest, according to educational reformer Charlotte Mason.  When kids come home from sitting in school, they need to play, get outside, make something, talk. Shifting gears to another, equally worthwhile activity is more refreshing and satisfying than blobbing out on the couch, for us all. More than a little TV only weakens the mind and body.

Occasional escape from real life shouldn’t replace real living, any more than occasional junk food or sweets should replace Real Food. Reducing TV time is one the most effective ways to improve not only your child’s health but your quality of life in many ways.

So in 2009, let’s get back to learning, creating, thinking, reading, writing, playing, going, moving, working, talking, listening, praying, planning, dreaming, getting in contact with real things and with each other—real living.

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