Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Who has the time?

Last week, I did a segment for a local TV show called Moms and the City. A study was released revealing that 40 percent of NYC kindergarteners are overweight or obese. Even more disturbing were the numbers for certain neighborhoods where over half the children were overweight. Neighborhoods with high mean income levels had some of the lower percentages. Moms and the City asked me for some simple tips all moms could follow in light of the study. I didn’t want to sound extreme and yet, clearly, NYC parents need some help. I said:

The one skill that can transform a families eating, many mothers possess already and that’s organization. When it comes to food organizing:
1. Make a weekly menu plan to avoid waste and up the nutritional ante in meals.

2. Cook- this doesn’t have to be a 100% cooking commitment but 2 times a week if you aren’t already.

3. Shop- seek out farmers markets as the selection of produce in some urban supermarkets is lousy. Farmers markets excite children about healthy food.

If you’ll notice none of these tips involve removing things from your diet. There isn’t “no” preceding any tips and yet following these guidelines would make a huge difference for many families obese or not. I felt good about my segment and was excited to watch it. Thursday night at 10:00 I turned on the show and the obesity statistics were the first item discussed. They ran the clip, taped in my office, and despite only 1 take I thought my message came across as clear and reasonable. A nanosecond later, one of the 3 moms said “I’m sorry but who has the time?” One of the other moms Melissa Gerstein, who had interviewed me, said “we go to Fairway on Sunday and we figure it out.” She proceeded to give some examples of meals her family ate and made a good case for planning. I was a little disappointed. The format of the show is 3 different moms giving their opinion on various issues. While this mom, Raina, was probably expressing an opinion many moms relate to, I felt it could quell any newfound inspiration moms watching may have been feeling.

Last night something made me rethink my reaction. I was out with 2 friends, 2 other moms in the city (no connection to the show) and we were discussing housekeeping. My friend mentioned this glow system  that teaches you how to be more efficient in cleaning your house or apartment. My friend said “they have these tips that allow you to leave for work with a spotless kitchen.” I smiled, thinking about the dishes in the sink and breakfast remnants that greet me when I return from my run and dropping the kids at school. “It isn’t going to happen for me, as it is I am up at 5:30 to return emails and get breakfast ready.” In my own way, I was pretty much saying “who has the time?”

Most people I know are time-starved but use their time for things they deem important. I will change my day around to get to the market but have a huge stack of papers sitting on my desk. I have clients who wake up at 4:30am to exercise and others who work until 4:30am. They key is to make the time for the areas previously marginalized and for many of us that includes food. The key is to get the ball rolling, even if it rolls slowly. I put the milk away and washed out the coffee pot this morning. I wonder if Raina would be willing to cook a bit.
What are your weak or strong areas? What do you always make time for? What could you carve out more time for?


  1. As a PhD student on a fellowship, I have obligations to both my own scholarship (publications, conferences, seminars) and my students (teaching, grading, setting time aside to meet/conference with them). On top of that, I still hold a tertiary job as a warehouse employee one morning/afternoon a week. On top of THAT, I work out for 60-90 minutes 6 days a week. I only eat out twice a week (once for lunch on campus with a colleague and family dinner one evening a week at varied locations). Every other time I eat, it's either at home or something from home. I also get no less than 6 hours of sleep every night. In order to do all of these things, and do them well, I live a very regimented schedule. No, I do not have children and as you may imagine, very little of a "social life."

    That's my weak area: going "out." As a former obese smoker, I spent the majority of my late teens/early 20s in bars drinking plenty of beer, smoking plenty of cigarettes, and eating a ton of horrible, greasy diner food. And now, psychologically speaking, going "out" frightens me. I am not social awkward or afraid or social situations - I don't have anxiety issues or anything like that - I'm simply afraid of slipping back into an unhealthy life or feeling
    "displaced" because I am now so rigid about food, fitness, and overall health.

    So - if I had to carve time for something, I'd say I could attempt to reintegrate social outtings as part of my weekly routine. Though, considering that I'm quite content and fulfilled with my life as it is - I don't really see the need. I still maintain communication with friends regularly (texts, Facebook, occasional lunches, etc).

  2. Lauren--
    I feel like you should meet my friend Jenny (if you don't know her already). Her blog is and her new cookbook, all about family dinners, is Time for Dinner.

  3. I love cooking, grocery shopping, and feeding people. I missed it so much when we lived in NYC and San Diego (really tiny crappy kitchens in both places), and those are the years when my weight ballooned. I'll move everything else around in my schedule to accomplish a good, home-cooked meal at the end of the day.

    BUT, I "can't" make time to exercise. Now that school's back in session, the morning is too early and rushed for a workout and I'm drained by the time I get home. (This is after a summer of building really good workout I really envy people who consistently carve out time to workout. I know there is room in my schedule, but this is the area of my life where I always say, "Who has the time?"

    Come to Dallas and I'll make you a fantastic meal.

  4. Amy, you seem to be fitting it all in! I do think, even if not missing it, it's important not to sacrifice socializing. And Marie, start small. Try for 15 min of exercise (push ups, plank or any exercise) before or after work. Do this for a week you may find you can increase it.

  5. Excellent advice, Lauren. I'm going to do 15 minutes tonight before my tush hits the sofa.