Over the past 30 years, rates of childhood obesity in this country have quadrupled. Eighteen percent of kids and 21% of teenagers are now considered overweight. It’s a problem that has one Charlottesville mother on the warpath - preaching and writing the gospel of healthier habits.
Shelley Sackier is the slender mother of two healthy kids, so you might not expect her to worry much about the growing number of American children with a weight problem, but she has known - from an early age - that eating too much of the wrong things could have uncomfortable consequences.
“When I was 13, 14, I jumped into the entertainment industry, and realized very quickly that my relationship to food coordinated with my relationship with my costumes.”
In her blog, Peak Perspective, she shares amusing stories of life at the top of a small mountain in North Garden, Virginia, and occasionally offers wise ideas about how to cope with kids and their tendency to eat junk.
“I had a very sneaky technique with my kids, which was any time I was introducing something new to them, I would eat it in front of them for the first two weeks and tell them that this was big people food and really enjoy it and tell them that maybe when they were older they could have this as well.”
Eventually, the kids got wise, but by then they had tried many new, healthy foods that they actually liked.
“I think having a varied diet is so instrument in good health - not just having all of your meals come through the driver’s side window.”
The children were also encouraged to join Mom in the kitchen.
“We need to get kids learning how to cook meals, and we need to have everyone sitting down at the tble again, eating that meal that did not come out of a cardboard box or a bucket!”
Sackier is a big fan of British chef Jamie Oliver, who has promoted healthier eating at school, and she praises Michelle Obama for her Let’s Move campaign, designed to attack the obesity problem through exercise, but she’s crusading against the food processing industry and those who should be regulating them.
“They are the ones who are creating the policies. They are the ones who are creating the advertisements.
They are the ones who are negotiating with Congress and with the executive branch, and they have a vested interest in keeping those numbers where they are.”
And this summer she’s launched a new book for kids between the ages of 9-14. It’s called Dear Opl, and it tells the story of a girl whose weight problem puts her at risk for diabetes. Because her mother wants her to slim down, the girl changes the spelling of her name - removing the A to reduce its size by 25%. She - like the author - writes a successful blog, takes yoga classes with her grandfather and wages war against a celebrity chef known as the Nude Food Dude. It’s a funny story with a serious message.
“There is no magic pill. There is not a snap-of-the-fingers solution, but it’s some very minor adjustments that you start to make in your life in creating a better healthy lifestyle.”
Sackier is especially upset by the failure of companies to spell out how much added sugar is in their products, but this week she has reason to celebrate. The FDA says it will require that information on labels, and the Charlottesville author recently sealed a deal to write two more books for young adults. She’ll sign copies of Dear OPL at Barnes and Noble in Charlottesville on August 8th at noon.