Curbing Chocolate While Preaching Healthy Eating

Commentator Joseph C. Phillips is familiar with his children's sugar addiction — after all, he says, they probably inherited their sweet tooth from him. While he hides the candy from his kids, Phillips wonders if there's such thing as Chocoholics Anonymous.

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ED GORDON, host:

Major soda companies have agreed to stop selling sugary beverages in schools across the country. That's a healthy start for students.

But what about after class?

Commentator Joseph C. Phillips knows it can be tough to teach kids healthy eating, and even more difficult taming his own sweet tooth in the process.

JOSEPH C. PHILLIPS (Commentator): I used to roll my eyes at parents who forced health food onto children at school functions. I used to think they were nothing but a bunch of meddlesome, party-pooping killjoys.

Well, as I look around at the overweight kids waddling around my sons' schools, I now count myself among the ranks of the party-poopers. Pass the crudit├ęs.

As my sons get older and bigger, it becomes clear that as parents we are at war. According to the National Institutes of Health, since 1976, the percentage of overweight and obese children has doubled. Children with a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile for height and sex are considered overweight. Now the BMI is not a perfect measure. More muscular bodies will register a higher BMI, and this has led some to claim the case is being overstated.

Discussions about the folly of the BMI can rage on until the cows come home and it won't change a thing. We know fat kids when we see them.

Government commissions convened to address the problem are terrific. But the battle ultimately lies with parents to win or lose. Now my wife and I try to run a tight ship. We make an effort to serve healthy meals, keep our children active, and limit junk food. At times, however, it seems we're fighting an uphill battle.

During Halloween, the kids bring home bags of candy from school parties. They then go out trick-or-treating and bring home buckets more. One month later there's Thanksgiving feasting, replete with all sorts of sweets. Following close behind is the Christmas season, when it is officially on. Peppermint, candied fruit, in addition to eggnog, rum balls and more feasting. Valentine's Day creeps up and more bags of candy arrive from school. St. Patty's Day follows, and then Easter with creamed eggs and huge chocolate bunnies.

I haven't even mentioned lollypops from the doctors office, birthday parties each weekend, or the occasional candy bar from the local drugstore. I feel like a DEA agent in my own home. I've begun frisking my sons at the door and will soon begin random backpack searches.

Yeah, I joke, but this is serious business. Recent years have seen a sharp increase in children with type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, which can all lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Overweight children suffer higher incidences of orthopedic problems, liver disease, and asthma, and have a 70 percent risk of becoming overweight adults.

As a child that struggled with weight issues, I also know the price kids pay for being overweight is not only physical. The social and emotional costs can also be tremendous, resulting in depression and poor self-esteem. The child I worry about the most is the youngest. He has a sweet tooth the size of Texas. I threatened to cut him off cold turkey. He began to tremble.

I may as well confess that as concerned as I am for the kids and their health, I am most worried about myself. When it comes to sweets in general, and chocolate in particular, I have no self control. So I suppose my son comes by it honestly.

You know, my kids have me to tell them when enough is enough. Who'll stop me? I'll leap over my wife to get to a chocolate covered toffee bar. I'll wrestle my sons for peanut butter cups. Dark, white or milk chocolate-it makes no difference. I have to have it. Late at night I even sneak through my sons' stashes, swiping all the good stuff, leaving them nothing but candy corn.

I tell you, I need intervention!

GORDON: Joseph C. Phillips is an actor and a columnist living in Los Angeles.

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