What do diet food and brilliant babies have in common? Or more accurately, what do a recent study finding that people who eat diet food are more likely to become (not just be) overweight and another recent study which finds that letting your very young children was the Baby Einstein and other such “intelligent children” video programs diminishes their vocabulary development have in common?
The two studies are the latest in what I like to call “why is everyone worrying” section of life. The first study regarding fat kids found that it is likely that the nutritional deficits of “diet food” cause the body to not recognize high-calorie food when it is ingested and therefor the person is prone to eating significantly more than they need. I would add that eating diet food also makes it easier to eat more, assuming that because it is diet it is better, therefore getting the body accustomed to more food than it actually needs. Diet food, when used as a replacement for a “regular” item in conjunction with self-control and basic common sense can indeed be part of a healthy lifestyle. But so can regular food. The Subway spokesman who famously lost significant weight while eating their sandwiches really only regained self-control, taking smaller bites, chewing more slowly, eating more slowly, recognizing when he is full, recognizing when he is actually hungry, being satisfied with reasonable portions, etc. These are tips that can bring any appetite into control and any body into a healthy weight.
Next we have babies whose parents have stuck them, for the few hours they see them at home, in front of a TV to be faced with images of objects and colors and music of Mozart, in hope that these miracle DVD’s will insure their child’s future brilliance. Apparently these children, compared with children whose parents spend time talking with and around them, suffered a significantly reduced vocabulary. Vocabulary is a primary tool the child uses to understand the world around it, without vocabulary the child cannot grasp concrete concepts and has difficulties communicating those concepts to it’s surroundings. Turns out that the best thing a parent can do for a very young child is to spend time with them, communicating, even if only in “parentese” as one of the articles defines the sing-song way parents often talk to their parents.
So what do these two findings have to do with each other? No it’s not the children. It’s personal responsibility. We want to have something we can just plug in, some philosophy we can subscribe to that fixes our problems and allays our fears. We want the baby to be smart without working really hard. We see a DVD that says it’ll make our babies smart, proven. We buy it and we’re happy. We want to eat without guilt, we want to be thin without trying hard, without changing ourselves. We are constantly searching for the silver bullet that will make our problems go away without effort on our part.
This is part of the reason for our consumer culture: we’d rather buy a solution than build one.
This is part of the reason for the success of the lottery: we’d rather bet that someday our luck will turn and we’ll be set for life without having to scrimp and save and not buy every last thing that catches out fancy.
The list of societal ills that can be directly, primarily, and even just significantly linked to our aversion to personal responsibility is long. Instead of drinking diet soda and eating diet food, lets start exercising and working out and eating less. Instead of wanting out children to be smart, lets start investing in them and feeding into their small minds such tools as they can use to tackle the world they inhabit and will inherit. DVDs of pictures and colors and music are not Mom and Dad. I do not doubt that classical music of such complexity is vastly superior to a persons’ development than some of the garbage which passes for art in our poor modern time, but it is not magic wand of brains, filling out child with calculus and verbiage, no that is left to you.
So take control, you can make change. You alone are capable, you alone are responsible.