Living with children while practicing calorie restriction

“The only thing that retards aging is calorie restriction. As genetic studies go forward, we’ll find out why.” Roy Walford

Our society in America currently as of 2008 has more overweight people than average-weight people.  ‘Healthy weight’ Americans consist of only around 40% of the population, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the ‘CDC’.  The amount of children considered overweight has grown alarmingly in the past decade, to the point now where 1 out of every 3 children in the US is considered overweight the Academy of Pediatrics and Adolescent Health said in 2006.  One Gallup Poll survey from 2003 showed that out of 215 million US adults 20% felt they had been discriminated against in their workplace for their weight.  This figure was only slightly less than the 25% percent of smokers that felt discriminated against in their workplace for their smoking and due to anti-smoking laws being passed in society.  Interestingly only 25% of the US population at the time of the poll were smokers, and 43% were considered overweight—demonstrating that smokers are generally scorned by the American public more than overweight people.  Today in ’08, smokers are still treated with more open hostility than are overweight people.  A smoker in a public place is harming other people’s lungs with their smoke, an overweight person is only harming himself or herself and this is generally seen, as it should be, as free will.

I agree that overweight people have the right to be overweight, if they are happy with it—but what about the children?  Many doctors pressure parents to help their children lose weight, for the sake of the child’s health and since overweight children have a much higher chance of being overweight adults. Excessive weight has been shown in countless studies to cause many health problems from diabetes, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure, gout, cancer, heart disease and stroke to name just a few.  I myself spent 6 years being 185, to 245 pounds on my five foot ten inch frame, very overweight.  Six months after the last of my three pregnancies, when I was 26 years old—I was two hundred and five pounds and sick of being so big, my eyesight was worse than when I was in my teens, my left knee constantly sore, I was tired and felt unattractive so I started to look at diets.  I’d signed up for cryonics when I was 21 years old and in a high risk pregnancy so I’d read some of the life extension sites and had seen calorie restriction mentioned as the only known thing to extend life, as compared to hormones, supplements and exercise.  At 25, I was looking at all the fad diets, and remembered what I had read about calorie restriction—I ordered the book ‘Beyond the 120 Year Diet’ by Roy Walford.  I was intrigued when it came, my 205 pound self read through the book three times, ear marking and highlighting certain passages—looking up more information on-line. I then got the software so I could track my calories and most importantly what vitamins and minerals I was taking in each day so I would not be malnourished.  Over six months I kept a food diary, used the software to plan my meals and I lost 85 pounds.  At 120, I felt like a new person—to my friends and family I looked like a new person, my knee pain went away, I had more energy and I even passed my drivers license test without my glasses—my eyesight had improved to near 20/20.  I experienced first hand the health benefits of losing weight, and most importantly I did this while my children were young.  If I had raised them, eating the way I had been while I was overweight—they too may have had problems.  Instead, I showed how to work to accomplish a goal and as I learned about nutrition, they learned about nutrition as well.

It would be unethical for a child to be on calorie restriction, as it would stunt their growth. My children would eat mega-muffins (like ‘lab chow’ for humans) for snacks (with chocolate chips so they’d eat them yet still get the protein, vitamin and minerals of a complete meal) but my children have never been calorie restricted.  I taught them that being hungry is ok, and actually good for you but they know about what different vitamins do, and how our bodies use them—they know how to evaluate the nutritional qualities of a meal. We have meal times together at our dining table, and along with our normal conversations of the day, we will comment on the nutritional qualities of the food—in this way over time they are learning.

I feel that I set an example to them of how they could be if they want when they grow up.  Each of my three children right now at ages 11, 9 and 6 have different views on food, one of them eats more healthy than the other two currently.  I do not chastise children for their food choices, or praise one in front of the others, I will just say what I would and would not eat.  We do not have hydrogenated oils, artificial dyes and preservatives, fried foods, or highly processed foods in our home.  We do have healthy deserts for the children such as ‘Healthy Choice’ brand ice cream bars, carrot cake (for the vitamin A), raw walnuts and dark chocolate – mom just does not eat dessert, dad will however and the children do as well.  I can practice CR easily while living with my family, and not impose it upon them—as a parent I hope that as they grow they will always make healthy choices.  I don’t know if any of them will choose CR, but I’m happy that I modeled losing weight and then healthy eating over the years.

One does not have to be practicing calorie restriction to teach children about nutrition.  All children need to be taught about proper caloric intake, the importance of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.  They should know what vitamins and minerals do in the body, there are sites on-line such as Nutrition Mission, Monster Nutrition or the USDA My Pyramid Blast Off Game that can help you teach them.  There are great nutrition books for kids like The Edible Pyramid, The Race Against Junk Food, or Dr. Seuss’s ‘The Things You Can Do That Are Good For You’.  Those books are all for the early elementary aged child, and are good to read with a picture book of the inside of a human body. Reading a book to your child enables you to engage them in conversation and find out what they think, you can fill in gaps in their knowledge.  The best thing you can do though for your children, is simply to practice healthy eating and to talk about it from time to time.

Feedback on this article is encouraged at the Immortality Institute forum.