Retired High School Athlete

..old [eating] habits die hard..

So What.

Posted by picketca on April 17, 2007

So what? What does all of this mean. I guess to get to the end, I will re-visit the beginning.

I remember the very second that I decided I wanted to look further into the world of obesity in children. It was a couple of months ago that I was just beginning the high school varsity volleyball season. I know that it was a Thursday night because the idea of writing a blog, and choosing a topic, was still fresh in my mind (and we usually play Thursday evenings). It was an away game so per usual I showed up minutes before the Freshmen began their game to join my fellow coaches on the bench. On my way across what seemed like an endless gym to my feet that I earlier shoved into so uncomfortable heels for the event one of the opposing team’s players caught my eye. She was shorter than the rest of her teammates and was obviously overweight. I was overcome with sadness seeing this very young girl at an almost disabling weight trying to keep up with her much thinner teammates. I would like to give her credit for her effort though, the fact that she was out there trying her best and exercising says a lot about her character. But my mind ran and ran, flooded with questions. Who let this poor child get this way–where were the parents–why didn’t the schools step in–did the coaches ever try and address her health–was this little girl ever provided the proper tools to lead a happy and healthy adolescence??

Then I thought, who is responsible? If I were her teacher would I risk hurting feelings and step in by educating the student and parents? If I was the coach would I feel comfortable talking to her about her food and exercise patterns? It’s tough, tough to think about doing and I’m sure much tougher to do.

I guess the articles I’ve looked over where my way of answering those tough questions. I looked at what schools were doing, big and little steps. What was working and not working. I feel like it is the responsibility of all parties involved to educate and monitor a child’s health. The parents, teachers, administrators, grandparents, coaches, and all others involved. As future educators we are in this profession to change people– to help them grow. This is an important part of that growth into adulthood.

Thanks for reading.



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Everyone Has A Story–And A Right To Tell It.

Posted by picketca on April 17, 2007

… And I’d have to say I agree with Bright Ideas Conference keynote speaker Jaqueline Woodson.

There are a couple more ideas she presented that I really enjoyed including:

  • When you ask kids to be quiet-you are taking away their voice and power
  • The best writing comes from a place of fear and change–find it and use it
  • You need to read, read, read, to be a good writer
  • Write any time and any place possible
  • When writing figure out what it’s trying to say rather than what the story’s about

I also really enjoyed her reading of her writing. I just closed my eyes and listened to her voice beaming both literally and through her chose words–it is an amazing example of “voice” in the writing world.

One of the sessions I attended was all about the idea of Wiki. They said that anyone can use wiki as a teaching tool. I think it’s like a blog, only anyone can edit and write on any wiki. I can be used as a collaborative tool for social writing.

Teaching writing consists of

  • listening
  • speaking
  • leadership
  • cooperative processes
  • ethics
  • and responsibility

My favorite session was the session called: Let’s Talk Writing: How to help students share their own writing and effectively respond to peers, with Christine Dawson. I learned a couple of really awesome ideas that even worked on me as I was in the session!

The first of those ideas was called the “Quaker Share.” Basically how it works is after a free write session, or during the drafting stages the teacher asks the students to read part of what they have written– pretty standard right? This kind of sharing has NO teacher response (she actually stepped out of view and didn’t say anything). Also, because the student is deciding exactly how long they want to be in the spotlight, and as soon as they are done sharing the spotlight shifts to someone else. Sounds simple right? But after a number of people shared a bit I waited for my turn to share–I actually wanted to read what I wrote in front of a large group of strangers who had an extensive education in teaching writing.

The second teaching took I really enjoyed was synesthesia (combing of the senses). The writing prompts included:

  • what does a wish look like
  • what does sadness smell like
  • what does springtime taste like
  • what does green feel like
  • which is softer silk or a whisper

And with that I became an instant poet– I had another short piece I would be willing to share in a quaker share.

I got some awesome ideas at the conference and I am already using them in my current lesson plans. I’ve ordered “Locomotion” by Jaqueline Woodson off Ebay too!

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Even Former President, Bill Clinton, Thinks So..

Posted by picketca on April 17, 2007

Former President Bill Clinton: “We have run the risk, because of our eating, exercise habits, because of the way we make, distribute and consumer food, of raising the first generation of children to live shorter lives than their parents.”

I say, “right on Mr. [Former] President.” Instead of addressing the ever so popular topic of No Child Left Behind Act, the former president decided to spend most of his 40 minute speech addressing the childhood obesity epidemic. In his audience was thousands of school board members from across the country and this was the chosen topic by former president.

My favorite part of the article was when I said that after the speech was what happened after:

And if schools provide important role models, what about the lesson of practice what you teach. After Clinton’s speech, numerous school board members lunched on pizza.

Some, it seems, hadn’t learned their lesson. That’s like watching the documetry, “Super-Size Me” and heading to McDonalds on the way home for a supersized combo meal. But some got the message:

Walt Davis, Terrell, TX Superintendent: “We’ve got to have the students in the classrooms healthy and nourished so they can learn so, like he said, all the issues are very much related.”

So, as I come to an end of all of this I’d like to reiterate the fact that all of the success in testing with the standardized testing will never be where it needs to be if we don’t first address the childhood obesity. If we ignore the fact that our children are undernourished, and unhealthy, then we can forget reaching our full potential.

“Bill Clinton Urges Action On Childhood Obesity: Challenges Schools To Help”

Pamela Tom

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You Wrote, I responded.

Posted by picketca on April 16, 2007

Over the course of this semester I have responded to a number of blogs, here are a list of the links:




















Enjoy! 🙂

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Fruits and Veggies Are NOT The Answer?

Posted by picketca on April 15, 2007

The article in my last post talked all about the changes they were making in order to give students the tools to live a long and healthy life by instilling healthy eating habits early on in their lives. They did this by replacing the fries with fruits and veggies. They switched out the sodas and replaced them with flavored milks and different fruit juices, but the next article I found on the subject, childhood obesity, doesn’t think that this is the solution to our nations very widespread problem, obesity.

The article admits that schools have gotten way more health conscious by making these changes but unknowing if this is the solution. Their argument is that even with the changes the calorie intake is very similar, and though these new foods they are given are higher in nutrients it’s not proven that they really need them (with the exception of calcium).

First of all, there is little evidence that most children need more nutrient-dense food. (Kids may need more calcium, but there are less caloric ways of attaining it than chugging down 500-plus calories in the form of a few servings of a flavored milk drink). Second, a close look confirms that in the case of substitute fruit/veggie chips, the nutrient bonus is quite negligible.
If we are trying to reduce excess calories consumed by school-aged children, why are we promoting high-calorie foods at all — even ones that claim to be bursting with nutrients? We are not going to succeed in our war against obesity if we do not know where we are going.

As sort-of a side note I really enjoyed the references this article made to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. He compares the changes and new regulations made recently by the Center for Science in the Public Interest are them taking steps to take steps instead of having some sense of real direction in solving this problem.

“I don’t much care where [I am going] — ”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“– so long as I get _somewhere_,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

This article gives me a different prospective on the issue but no answers. While the different programs and schools may not be reaping all of the benefits and immediate results they are trying and recognizing that there is a problem, and we are now ready and willing to figure out how to fix it.

“Throwing More Calories at the Obesity Crisis

April 13, 2007

By Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H.

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Looking for a Little Direction

Posted by picketca on April 15, 2007

For the past four years I have been coaching all different aged girls grades 3rd to 12th in the sport I love and this is how I’ve have come to the conclusion that kids want and need direction and discipline. If I hadn’t been on them every time they used the wrong footwork or there was something incorrect about their arm swing they would have continued what they were doing forming bad habits. I once had a coach tell me that for every time you do something incorrect it takes 25 times of doing it correct to restructure that muscle memory. I think that the same is true in eating habits.

In most cases if you were to give students a choice between fries or broccoli as their side they would choose fries. But I don’t think it’s fair to blame them for making that choice if we don’t educate them on the consequence of their choices.

In about five Ann Arbor middle schools the administration is providing the information and direction they need.

The project uses 20-minute lessons, motivational speakers and eye-catching props to teach kids about basic nutrition and encourage exercise.

This new information is not just necessary right now, this is information these children need to take into adulthood, and they are taking it in with open arms. One of which saying that he now is making the “correct choices” in what he is choosing to eat. And though these kind of changes come with large price tags, the results are priceless:

Of the 292 students who took part in the study of 2005-06, 47 of 142 with high triglycerides reduced their levels. Nine of the 21 students who had cholesterol levels above 200 reduced them below that mark. Researchers didn’t make numbers available on the students who lost weight but noted that several did.

“Students Slim Down”

by: David Aguliar

April 15, 2007

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A Different Kind of Report Card

Posted by picketca on March 1, 2007

Midterms, tests, quizzes, homework, presentations, projects, journals, research paper, essay, assignment, and report card. Each of these words, at least on a personal level, carry a certain level of stress with them. What about the words,BMI Report Card? It’s not something I had to worry about when I was in grade school, not another reason to come home from school possibly defeated and ashamed. On the other hand, with the number of children in our country growing at such rapid rates maybe we need to be made aware of our problem, lay it all out there.

The schools distribute the state-mandated reports even as they continue to serve funnel cakes and pizza for breakfast. Some students have physical education for only half the school year, even though 34 percent of kindergartners were overweight or at risk for it, according to 2003-4 reports.

So, let’s try something new. A B.M.I report card, let them know that they are overweight. Like this New York Times article argues, this is only presenting the problem, not solving it–where in this plan is the solution?

“It would be the height of irony if we successfully identified overweight kids through B.M.I. screening and notification while continuing to feed them atrocious quality meals and snacks, with limited if any opportunities for phys ed in school,” said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston.

This is not the only problem with this idea. There are a number of students in these schools who take this “report card” and think of it as there teachers, role models they know and trust, telling them that they are fat, and watching them. Some children have refused to eat at home and are altogether confused, their parents are telling them eat, and schoolofficals are telling them you are obese in their minds meaning don’t eat.

Yet she became convinced that her teachers were chastising her for overeating. Since the letter arrived, “my 2-year-old eats more than she does,” said Georgeanna Dunbar, Karlind’s mother, who complained to the school and is trying to help her confused child. “She’s afraid she’s going to get in trouble,” Ms. Dunbar said.

January 8, 2007

New York Times


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Please, Do Not “Super-Size Me”

Posted by picketca on March 1, 2007

This is not the first time that I’ve seen the Morgan Spurlock documentary, “Super Size Me” and it will probably not be the last because the truth is, this is the most efficient diet I have ever done. The last time I watched this I could not bring myself to eat fast food of any kind for at least two months and too some this may not be a very big deal. But, to me, a full-time college student working thirty hours a week at a part-time job and juggling a assistant varsity volleyball coaching job, it’s not always the most easy to find a healthy, quick alternative to fast food.

The facts alone in this documentary are life altering. We’ve all heard the warnings, “don’t eat fast food, it’s bad for you, you’ll get fat and have no energy” but have we ever really looked at it with open eyes, seen the truth and evidence. Here’s why I haven’t had any desire to stop at the local Burger King or McDonald’s both conveniently located on my way home from campus everyday. Rules as stated in the movie:

  • He must fully eat three McDonald’s meals a day.
  • He must sample every item on the McDonald’s menu at least once over the course of the 30 days.
  • He must only ingest items on the menu. This includes bottled water.
  • He must “Super Size” his meal whenever, and only when, the option is offered to him.

In a time period of 30 days a healthy 33 year old man embarked on a fast food journey in order to educate. He started out at a weight of 185.5, after a month of McDonald’s he gained 24.5 lbs and went from healthy to obese according to hisBMI (body mass index).

He also experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and nearly catastrophic liver damage. It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose the weight he gained.

There was one more reason I was happy to watch this documentary again. I have chosen to write about childhood obesity in schools and this movie makes me as a future teacher and parent never feed a child fast food. I know that this is a bit extreme and highly unlikely but it is a goal to work towards right? In the last article I responded to they said instead of pizza parties and candy bars as incentives maybe a free homework pass or an apple, and this movie is reason enough to never throw a pizza party again.

I’d just like to add that my favorite line in the movie, which I would say it is safe to say it’s more of a joke is when he has kids and pass by a fast food restraunt with them in the car he will “punch them in the face” to condition them to have bad feelings about fast food. Very, very unrealistic, but funny nonetheless.


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“Fresh Fruit and Veggie Friday”

Posted by picketca on February 28, 2007

My last post was about banning certain junk foods and sodas from vending machines in the hallways of the schools.  This to me is a first and easiest step in a long walk to more healthy schools.  Our children are obese, this needs to be fixed but it will take time and effort.

“Sixteen percent of children and teens ages 6-19– roughly 9 million kids– are considered overweight, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting them at risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.  That percentage has more than tripled since 1980.”

Schools know that this is a rising problem- how could they not it is in their faces everyday.  But change takes time, and work, and the biggest problem, funding.  Prepackaged, highly processed foods are not only cheaper but easier to maintain and store over a longer period of time.  Through modeling, nutritional counseling, and persistence there can be reform, and it has been proved by a number of schools in the Washington area. 

A school in Arlington introduced “Fresh Fruit and Veggie Friday” where the entire class would bring a fresh fruit or veggie to class that day as a snack and they would also all “brave” foods they had never tried like the soybean and the teacher said, “they went nuts for that”.

In Spotsylvania County they didn’t stop at simply taking unhealthy foods from vending machines they provide nutritional counseling with a wellness dietitian. 

Instead of teachers having ice cream parties or giving out candy bars or pizza coupons as rewards, for example, Farrell encourages them to hold class outdoors, hand out homework passes or offer verbal praise.

Each of these are steps, small steps, but we are moving forward.  It’s still not enough.  Schools are educating and taking junk foods out but what about the lunches, the main meal the school provides in order to give energy to the students for second half of the school day. 

“We know that a lot of school districts really are taking action to improve the vending machines,” Lear adds.  “But now the tough stuff is getting those cafeteria lines to match our rhetoric.”

Schools face budget-cuts year after year and with so much need for the little money the schools are given I can see how hard it is to allow for more spending in the cafeteria.  But this is obviously affecting the health and well-being of our children.  The habits that these students are forming now could turn out to be life long. 

From a preliminary analysis by Action for Health Kids, a public-private partnership that seeks to foster improved nutrition and increased physical activity in the schools, finds that only 54 percent of school systems nationally have met all of the federal government’s minimum requirements.

Fifty-four percent! How is this possible? This is a problem that needs to be address together by school officials and administration, teachers, the local and national governments, and parents. 

Reviewing the School Cupcake Ban 

By: Karen Pallarito

The Washington Post

January 30, 2007

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First Step: Admitting you have a problem

Posted by picketca on January 31, 2007

Hello, my name is Cassie and I’m addicted to pop.  Okay so maybe that’s a little over the top but I do have a problem.  It started in high school.  I would demand an extra dollar everyday in my lunch money allowance because if I didn’t have my daily dose of caffeine I could not function in school.  And my mother- being the Pepsi addict that she was could not deny me my addiction.  Back then I was using the hard stuff, you know, Mountain Dew.  Due to my extreme decrease in physical activities since I’ve graduated high school I’ve downgraded to Diet Coke (and Diet Cherry Coke) because I can still get the caffine without the calories and sugar.  

Getting to the point. I know that you can not hold schools 100% accountable for bad eating habits and obese children and that is not what I intend to do.  My intention is to argue that this is part of the problem.  I also will not deny that most of these bad habits start at home, mine sure did, but it doesn’t help when these bad habits are re-enforced in their places of education.  Don’t you think that we should teach not only about healthy minds but about heathy bodies?  I remember walking into school and seeing that beautiful glowing Pepsi maching humming it’s invitation that I would accept on a daily basis becuase i could easily burn at the end of the day in practice.  Not only did it taste great, it gave my anti-morning body some extra energy.  By the time it wore off in the afternoon it was time for lunch and I would pop another cap. 

I wanted to address this as part of the reason children are obese because of a recent article I came across in my Google Reader. First of all the article was from the Grand Rapids Press that and alone made me want to read it (Hey, you can’t help where your loyalties lie).  It was all about renewing a Coca-Cola contract in Kent County schools.

I was surprised to read that in 1999 most of the Kent County schools signed a 10 year (!) contract with Coke and in return they would receive $30 a student every year.  When they signed this contract no one seemed to mind but now with the childhood obesity and diabetes things have changed.

“Guess what? Coke has gotten into milk products,” said Paul Baumgartner, nutrition services director for Grand Rapids Public Schools, where the vending machines accessible to high school students now carry other Coke products: Minute Maid fruit juices, Nestea, Dasani water and Slammers flavored milk.

Some of the schools still have the pop as options but do not sell them until the end of the school day.  As a high school student I know I would have been very upset.  Years later as soon to be teacher and someday parent I think that this is part of the solution. 

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