Category Archives: Obesity

Parents fight to keep kids healthy.. AWESOME!

“It is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior when so many forces within the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change”

— Institute of Medicine

This oft used quote is the rallying cry of many health advocates who are working to improve the environments of low-income minorities. It was used in a presentation by my colleague to motivate parents interested in advocating for their community to fight childhood obesity.

She shared it at a monthly convening of  First 5 Regional Parents Group in San Pablo, California. Funded via revenue from a tax on cigarettes (Proposition 10) First 5 California provides  healthcare, school readiness, child development, and support programs for families of young children.

First 5 in Contra Costa uses part of their funding to support Parent Regional Groups. To tell you more about the groups I will steal a passage that I had previously written on the ‘company‘ blog…

First 5′s Regional Parent Education Group is one such program that teaches participants valuable skills in community leadership and advocacy. As part of the program, First 5 staff train parent volunteers in project management, leadership, community engagement and public speaking.  Currently, 150 Contra Costa parents are involved in the program, many of them low-income residents and half of them speak Spanish as their primary language.

One of the group’s projects is to provide low-cost physical activity classes for young children aged 0-5.  They recognized that one of the barriers to young children getting exercise is that many families live in neighborhoods that lacked clean and safe places for kids to play and learn about different forms of activity, like sports.

After doing independent research and surveys, parent group participants found that there was a need for affordable programs for young children to engage in physical activity. They went to the city of Richmond and San Pablo and advocated for classes for their community. They were successful!

This year all of the Fall 2011 classes — Soccer, Karate, World Dance and Gymnastics —  are currently full!  Students also receive a goodie bag filled with nutrition and physical activity tips that parents can use at home. 🙂

When asked what advocacy means to them parents shared “the ability to speak for others” “to have power” “to fight for my children”, “to have a voice”.

A major problem within low-income minority groups is the history of disenfranchisement and lack of empowerment. Many feel that they do not have the right to protest when fast food restaurants invade their communities or fight for clean parks and safe streets.

The First 5 Parent Group in San Pablo says otherwise. When I attended their meeting on Wednesday night,  I was inspired by the earnestness, dedication and energy of the parents working to make a difference. I wanted to bottle it up and take it with me!

Wooo Hooo!!

So tell me dear reader..what example do you have of extraordinary people fighting to change their community for the better? Are you doing something to make your neighborhood safe and healthy? Sharing is caring!

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, Health, Obesity

McDonald’s Makes Happy Meals More Healthy!

The Happy Meal is headed for a nutrition overhaul.

Bowing to pressure that its kids’ meals haven’t been healthful enough, McDonald’s will downsize french fries and put a fresh fruit or veggie in every Happy Meal.

Apple slices have long been an option with the Happy Meal. But the problem has been that parents have to ask for them in lieu of french fries. That’s about to change.

via Bowing To Pressure, McDonald’s Makes Happy Meals More Healthful : Shots – Health Blog : NPR.

WOW.. letting your voice be heard truly works, huh? Would this satisfy those who feel like we shouldn’t take away choice?  Does this appease  health advocates?

As  someone who has a problem with marketing unhealthy food to young children, this is a baby step that I embrace. We have a long way to go, but I appreciate the effort.

What do you think?


Filed under Advocacy, Hallelujah, Health, Obesity

I have a problem with being misled.

Really? Is that what you say in your commercials?

I like soda. The cool fizzy liquid flowing down my throat on a oppressive hot summer day makes me feel happy and free. My favorite is root beer, Barq’s in particular. It’s the perfect partner for vanilla ice cream. For chocolate ice cream I prefer Pepsi. Pepsi, being slightly sweeter, is better than Coke for ice cream floats.  #myPEPSIjingle

I also love drinking!  If I am tired and it’s hot outside, I’d rather have a  slurpee smoothie. liquid something instead of something to eat. You can’t just have a can of soda or small glass. That’s not going to satisfy. You have to get the big 32 ounce cup! AND it’s cheap. A slurpee is barely $2.  Economical, fills you up, and cools you down..that’s THREE birds that I’ve killed!

However, I have decided to cut soda and sweetened beverages out of my life. I’m not skinny and diabetes is an unwelcome friend of Love’s family.

1 sugar cube equals 1 teaspoon of sugar

Why soda? Because soda and other sugar sweetened beverages is the  highest source of sugar and empty calories in my (and many folks’) diet. I am lucky to live in Oakland and was blessed to learn a lesson from Alameda County Public Health’s Soda Free Summer Campaign. The Recommended Daily Allowance of Sugar is at most 40 grams or 10 teaspoons per day (4 grams = 1 teaspoon).

A 12 oz soda averages 39 grams of sugar. There goes my limit. DANG IT!

Out of the many sources of sugar in my diet: cereal, juice, ice cream, tea, candied yams, tooth paste.. soda contains the most sugar with the least reward. I’d rather just have ice cream. That’s 36 grams of sugar, but with dairy and calcium..a nutrient!  Unlike soda, it’s easy to limit your ‘one sitting’ intake of sugary foods. You can  literally drink liters of soda in one sitting. There are only so many candied yams you can eat in one sitting.

Armed with this knowledge, over the past two years I have tried to reduce my sugary beverages consumption and drink more water. Yet, I am constantly being coerced, misled, and bamboozled by the beverage industry.

In the past, I hated water for a long time. No flavor, no color, no sugar…BORING.  I can’t just stop drinking soda COLD Turkey. It’s an addiction. I need a patch or something…..

I KNOW..I can drink Vitamin Water. It  has some flavor.  It’s water with vitamins. I can get healthy and quench my thirst at the same time!  One of my favorite flavors was Formula 50, ’cause it’s grape, and I like purple. (I ❤ Purple Rain).  Formula 50 contains vitamins with lots letters (C, B, E). But it also has 32 grams of sugar per bottle (DAMN IT!!). No more Vitamin Water for me!

A better alternative:  I can quench my thirst and get all those nutrients (and more)  by chowing down on some grapes.

Vitamin Water doesn’t tell you about the unnecessary sugar in their commercials. They market it as a healthy, better than water, beverage. They know Vitamin Water isn’t all that healthy and  their attorneys ASSUME you know it, too.

“Vitamin Water is a great tasting, hydrating beverage with essential vitamins and water and people can clearly see from the labels, which are FDA compliant, what’s in every bottle..”

How many of us read those labels on the back? How many of us calculate the nutrients in our diets? How many educated folks know how to read a nutrition label? How many low-income people do? How many African-Americans? Are 50 Cent’s fans reading the label?

Yet, we are the ones most effected by over-weight and obesity. According to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s new “F as in Fat”  report low-income individuals and African Americans have some of the highest obesity rates. “Adult obesity rates for Blacks topped 40 percent in 15 states, 35 percent in 35 states, and 30 percent in 42 states and D.C. …..More than 33 percent of adults who earn less than $15,000 per year were obese, compared with 24.6 percent of those who earn at least $50,000 per year”

Part of the reason behind these alarming statistics is lack of education, low access to healthy foods, and economics. Junk food is easy to prepare, cheap and available everywhere, particularly in low-income communities. There is a Mc Donalds, 7-11, or liquor store on every block in the hood. Some people have to travel across town to reach a farmers market or even a Safeway.

At the same time African-Americans are targeted with advertisement of unhealthy foods. I am part of the Pepsi Generation.  Popeye’s sponsors Black History Month on BET. McDonald’s celebrates Black History 365 Days a YEAR. They are LOVIN’ US!

I can’t totally blame soda, or sugary sweetened beverages for being overweight. I know I need exercise more and pay better attention to what I eat in general. However, I have a problem with being misled by false claims in commercials.. Most importantly, I don’t appreciate being lured into unhealthy eating on purpose. And if I, as an educated woman, have this issue what about those who aren’t as educated and don’t have as many choices?

The Federal Trade Commission has a problem with it, too. They are asking the food industry change their practice in advertising unhealthy foods to children. If we as adults have a problem with being swayed by unhealthy food marketing, you KNOW our children do, too. They eat what we give them. They also believe Ronald Mc Donald is their friend.

The FTC has new guidelines which will be up for discussion in Congress this summer. They are asking for public comment. Do you have a problem with being misled and want to do something about it?

Comment on the unfair marketing of  unhealthy foods by visiting FTC’s website: Do it TODAY! The deadline is July 14th.

I learned about all of this a the Childhood Obesity Conference in San Diego two weeks ago. (Shout out to CCPHA, Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy Makani Themba-Nixon,  the FTC and many others!) There should have been a lot more African American’s there. There weren’t a lot of low-income people there, either.  They need to know this. I am sharing what I learned with you now. Share this with someone else.

Share with me, too! What are some of the ways you are cutting sugar from your diet? What commercials are misleading you? Do you think the food and beverage industry is being unfairly targeted?


Filed under Advocacy, Health, Oakland, Obesity

“Summer…Summer..Summer TIME!”

The sun is out!! What does that mean? Time to go outside and play!

Summer is here and far too many people have been sitting indoors all winter and spring and need to get out of the rut. The best way to turn your life around 180-degrees is to step outside this summer and spend some more time with nature. The sun’s healing powers are very real and you will feel like a new person if you commit to getting outside every single day to enjoy the sunshine. Here are 10 great reasons why you should get out of the house this summer.

via 10 Reasons Summertime Shouldn’t Be Spent Sitting Indoors.

SPARK, a national organization dedicated towards encouraging physical activity to improve the health of children and adolescents, lists some great reasons for going outside (increasing physical activity, getting much needed vitamin D, etc).

I say..How could you not take advantage of God’s gift?  Feel the warm sunshine on your skin. Take a deep breath and enjoy the fresh clean air. Let the gentle breeze play with your hair.

What are 10 things you can do outside?

I HELLA Love Oakland.

  1. Take a walk
  2. Have a picnic or bbq. (Invite me, just comment with date, place and time)
  3. Read your favorite book in your backyard, balcony or favorite park
  4. Run 4 3 2 miles ..a mile
  5. Go swimming
  6. Play tag with your friends
  7. Play KICK BALL with your friends! (I’ve been trying to play kick ball for years. Please invite me.)
  8. Go to an outside concert.
  9. Go swimming
  10. Take beautiful pictures of your city and share with the rest of the world.

So go outside. Stay outside until the street lights come on. Don’t come back in unless you have to pee. 🙂

What are some things that you like to do outside during the summer?

TWITTER UPDATE: June 20th 8:27 pm


Tomorrow’s (June 21) the 1st day of summer! Before the fun begins, brush up on summertime safety tips from CDC:

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Oakland, Obesity

23 million children and teens are obese or overweight..

Some would say that childhood obesity is not a problem. But this kind of statistic is scary..given that health problems that previously were something that adults had to deal with are now diagnosed at much earlier ages: diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

This video posted by SaludToday is about Hispanic children..but has dire implications for children all across America. Particularly the impact of negative marketing and increased screen time has on physical activity and caloric intake.

I am a firm believer that obesity is not just a personal issue, but an environmental one. However, after watching this video, what are some actions that you can take to help fight childhood obesity?

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Obesity

Let’s Bike! | Let’s Move


Do you remember when you learned how to ride your bike?  Read how Boston helps to make this rite of passage into a city wide event!

Let’s Bike! | Let’s Move.

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Obesity

Thanks Sarah Palin. You rock! ;)

Sarah Palin is allowing bloggers to have the BEST WEEK EVER!

She’s bashing the Bushes and the Obamas. No one is safe!

This week she was a guest on the Laura Ingraham show in which she gives her opinion on Barbara Bush and Michelle Obama. (see below)

Barbara is an elitest (from comments made about the Katrina refugees to Texas), but I think it is AWESOME that she suggests that Sarah stay in Alaska. I agree. However if Palin does stay in Alaska, what would blogger’s like me have to write about? Sarah is a fountain of good blogging material.

Take her slam against Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move Campaign. Three minutes into the show Sarah describes how she feels that Obama is an elitist who uses her uppity ideas on how American’s should live to inform decisions on policy. She says that Obama just ‘can not trust parents to make decisions for their own children and what we should eat’ and whines that the government should ‘leave us alone’ and get off our backs.

What Ms. Palin fails to understand is that Let’s Move isn’t really about telling parents what to do. It’s recognizing that there are factors that lead to childhood obesity that are out of the parents control. Lack of supermarkets in low income neighborhoods. Portion sizes at restaurants that are exponential. Schools serving pizza for breakfast. Streets without sidewalks and crime just being everywhere. Let’s Move is a collaborative initiative that works with all sectors of society to reduce childhood obesity.

Does Let’s Move provide tips to parents such as reducing screen time or taking the kids to the park every once in a while? Yeah. But they are tips..not the LAW. You aren’t going to be arrested for not complying. If your child’s pediatrician recommends serving water instead of juice to reduce your child’s chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes and dental carries are you going to start whining that he is ‘telling you what to do’? It’s what you pay him for, right? You pay the government with your hard earned taxes– wouldn’t it be nice that they put that money to good use such as helping you and your kids to have healthier lives?

Things like:

– Using part of the White House lawn as a garden, bringing kids to learn about sustainable food and harvesting over 1,000 pounds of food to feed the homeless.
Educating the community and parents about nutrition.
– Bringing chefs to public schools to improve what is served to kids at institutions where they spend the majority of their day away from parents.
– Spearheading an initiative to help local markets and groceries to serve healthy foods.
– Providing resources to families that want to go outside.

Such common sense thoughts and actions like these miss Sarah Palin by a mile. Which is great! I was wondering what the heck I should write about this week and Sarah Palin gave me the perfect subject. Thanks Sarah!! Keep it coming.

To learn more about Let’s Move and what you can do to be more involved in helping reduce childhood obesity- visit

ps.. Ms. Obama: I would REALLY like to come to the White House and decorate for Christmas. I can’t this year..but next year, please reserve my spot. Thanks! 🙂


The House just passed the Hunger Free Kids Food Act (S. 3307). Yay!!! Read about it here:

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Obesity, Politics

“They’ve come for our Happy Meals”!!

Recently, the city of San Francisco enacted a ban placing toys inside unhealthy happy meals and folks are outraged.

Tony Hicks wrote an angry column blasting the SF City Council for quote ‘ betraying me and any other parent for daring to believe that we know what is right for our kids’.

He then had the gall to speak on the behalf of low-income parents who can only afford to buy happy meals for their kids.

I would like to correct an implied misconception. The SF City Council is not saying that parents can’t take their kids to Mc Donalds. They aren’t telling a parent what they can or cannot do. What they are trying to do is not reward unhealthy eating. Mc Donalds is perfectly within their right to place the toys in healthier food options. And believe it or not- they DO have healthier food options. You can buy a happy meal with low-fat milk instead of soda or get apple slices instead of french fries. I am pretty sure with a little innovation and ingenuity they can even provide healthier sandwich options too. This ban might actually spur such creative thinking.

Shocking..but it’s possible!

The toy DOES matter. Parents can buy food at Mc Donalds from the dollar menu if being frugal was the only issue. No, the kid wants the toy. Half the time the kid doesn’t even eat the meal. They want what Ronald Mc Donald entices them with; the latest movie promotional product or other novelty item the Happy Meal has to offer.

As for low-income parents, if they had the option of buying a healthier meal for their child at an affordable price, don’t you think they would jump at the chance?

Wouldn’t any parent for that matter? Do you think parents actually want to clog their kid’s arteries and put their kids at risk for obesity or other chronic diseases?

Oh I GET IT…Tony Hicks just wants to make sure you have the right to do so. SMDH

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Obesity

Change requires all of us.

My current occupation involves working to prevent childhood obesity in children aged 0-5. I work for a collaboration of agencies that make a commitment towards obesity prevention by taking on projects that promote healthy eating and active living for little kids, but also encourages adopting environmental and organizational policy change in the work place.

Many of our partnering organizations work directly with young children: child care agencies, community non-profits, hospitals. The goal of adopting organizational policy is to encourage modeling good behavioral practices for our children. You can’t tell a child to eat more vegetables while munching on a donut. Kids learn from us by watching us and acting accordingly.

If you want to change your child’s behavior, you have to look at how your own behavior influences theirs. This is an individualistic idea, however, my organization’s goal is to work with the local community using this same concept.

Changing the lives of our children requires the work of the community. Low income and poor families can not raise healthy and happy children on their own. They need our help.

While doing some work..I found this video that sums up my point visually, and I must say quite emotionally.

This video asks organizations to invest in our children. If you, personally, were convinced of this idea, you might be wondering what you can do.


Nov. 2nd is a day this year that we get to decide how this country is run and who is going to run it. This isn’t about who is running for President. It’s about who is going to be your governor, what propositions are going to be passed, who is going to be your district attorney, who is going to be sitting as a judge in your county, what is going to be done to clean up the streets in your neighborhood. All of these things combined affect the lives of our community, our families and our children.

You may not have all the money needed, but you have the power to make change.

“Make that change.” Vote on Nov. 2nd.

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Obesity, Politics

“When I was youngun I used to walk 10 miles to school!”

When I was a kid, my brother and I did walk miles in order to get to school. My mother didn’t have a car. I’m still walking to this day..carrying on my mother’s tradition of not driving..33 years and counting!


According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, 30 years ago “nearly 90% of children who lived within a mile of school used active transportation (i.e., walking or bicycling) as their primary mode of travel (USDOT, 1972).” Today, you don’t see many kids making the journey to school on their own two legs anymore.

Let’s, Michelle Obama’s initiative to reduce childhood obesity, is promoting International Walk to School Day and have written about it on their blog.

Check it out here: “Walk to School Day”

Afterward, pick your child up from school today and walk them home. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Obesity