Bullying, childhood obesity, teaching kids to prepare and eat healthy food, technology and learning: This story touches on all of these. Two years ago, Marshall Reid of Sanford, North Carolina, was ten years old and in the fourth grade. His BMI was 32.3 (for adults, a BMI over 30 means one is obese; BMI numbers differ for children depending on their age). After another child told him simply “you’re fat,” Marshall decided to take action.
As the New York Times recounts, Marshall told his mother, Alex Reid, that he wanted to do “the opposite of ‘Super Size Me’ ” and attempt what he called “Portion Size Me“: In contrast to Morgan Spurlock’s documentary about the detrimental effects of a month of eating only McDonald’s, Marshall and his mother hatched on a plan of make YouTube videos of Marshall cooking new meals. These videos were meant to help share Marshall’s efforts with his father, Army Lt. Col. Dan Reid, who was then stationed in Iraq.
Marshall made some 140 videos and soon had a “modest fan club.” Then CNN and “The Nate Berkus Show” and a literary agent came calling. Marshall and his mother are now the authors of “Portion Size Me: A Kid-Driven Plan to a Healthy Family” which, says the New York Times, is as much about the “support of a loving family as it is about low-fat alternatives.” Marshall’s soccer-playing older sister, Jordan, stopped eating some of the junk food she was able to consume without gaining weight and his father started jogging in Iraq. Now back in the states, Dan Reid and Marshall go to the gym together three times at week at 5:30am. The family is planning to drive across U.S. during a seven-week vacation this summer, traveling in a used Airstream.
The stresses of family life in the 21st century — compounded by Dan Reid’s overseas deployments — contributed to Marshall’s struggles with his weight and food, which (until that remark by another fourth-grader) was a source of comfort in the form of roast beef hash, biscuits and gravy:
While Alex sniffs spices, she lists the excuses that closed her eyes to her son’s weight problems. Her husband was overweight as a child, but he grew out of it; she wanted to believe that Marshall would, too. During her husband’s deployments (Egypt, Qatar, Afghanistan), she was driving Jordan an hour to practice or games, waiting nearly two hours, and driving home, at least four times a week, six months a year, always with Marshall in the car, often munching on caramel corn. “God forgive me,” she said. “I should have gotten off my rear end to make a picnic.”
For Marshall, family dinners meant something out of box (Hamburger Helper, pizza) for years. Indeed, how often is what Alex Reid calls “boxed something” a typical dinner for kids today, in harried families with working parents (or a working single parent) and hectic after-school schedules of sports practice and other activities?
I suppose it sounds sappy, but loving support and a willingness among family members to change their eating habits even just a little can go a long way. Marshall’s story shows, fat doesn’t have to be our fate and not the fate for children growing up in a world where fast food, processed foods and “boxed everything” beckons at every corner.
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