Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2002 / 17 Kislev, 5763

Barry Lank

Barry Lank
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Consumer Reports

Teens giving up lunch to do what!? | I don't care what you do. Seriously. You want to get your eye pierced and have a hoop earring dangling from it? I'll sit on your legs while they drill.

Want to spend all day in a sports bar drinking ale and commiserating with other people who got busted for drag racing in a hospital zone? I thought you looked familiar.

But I turn into a clucking old woman when I find out that someone should be eating better. That's what happened when I learned about a new trend among ambitious high school students: skipping their lunch breaks and instead scheduling extra classes or extracurricular activities for that time.

The Associated Press reports that various schools in New Jersey are allowing this. Felicia Stoler, media representative for the N.J. Dietitians Association, said it also apparently is going on in other states and with younger children.

"You have to wonder whether they even ate breakfast," she added.

And although I have no kids and feel no attachment to anything except the flavor of certain European beers, still, a strange voice burst out of me right then:

"They're not eating? Do they want to kill me with worry, after I made them this nice kugel? Fine, break the heart of your local opinion columnist an opinion columnist who loves you like no other opinion columnist loves you and who spent 36 hours in labor with you. Thirty-six hours! Why didn't you just kill me then?"

That's the kind of thing the voice was saying - but with expletives.

Nonetheless, the AP says students throughout New Jersey are choosing this option so they can improve their academic transcripts without making their school day longer. This is the same generation of children, by the way, who already are getting so much homework that they're bent over from carrying all those books and they'll end up walking with a slouch like their Uncle Peter who never married and lives like a shlump in that awful hotel, and you want to end up like that, just to make me unhappy?

You know what's going to happen if you don't eat the healthy lunch that I pack you every day - like a slave, not that I expect anything in return except to be aggravated, but why should I care? Ironically, if you don't eat when you're supposed to, you'll get fat.

The body, you'll be interested to know, is a funny thing

When you stop eating, your body doesn't burn as many calories as usual, Stoler said. If a 13-year-old girl eats little or nothing during the day, the body stoically presumes she has been transported to a 19th century Peruvian slave prison, and her metabolism slows down. But then, when the kid gets home, she eats. Maybe she even eats healthy. Nonetheless, her body still thinks it's in that slave prison.

So rather than burning those calories, the body stores them as fat figuring that it must prepare for the famine it will encounter while being transported 1,000 miles to the tweed fields. And these eating habits may well follow this child for the rest of her life.

The good news is that more kids than ever are ready to be hauled over the Atlantic in a clipper ship. The bad news is that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta classifies their amazing condition as obesity. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1999-2000 says that nearly 9 million American kids age 6 to 19 were seriously overweight - triple the number in a similar assessment from 1980. That's 15 percent of the population that age. But the way, this same survey says 31 percent of adults are obese - double the percentage from 20 years ago.

Sure, there are a lot of other reasons for this: Kids stay indoors more and play video games; and people are eating more junk food in general. But it only makes things worse if you don't eat a decent lunch.

Which I prepared for you myself, by the way, not that I expect any appreciation whatsoever for all the work I put in around here. I was only in labor with this lunch for 36 hours.

So don't give me that look.

JWR contributor Barry Lank is an editorial writer and humor columnist based at the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, NJ. Comment by clicking here.

10/23/02: OK, at least JWR's fundraising attempts aren't THIS pathetic!
10/17/02: The next poet laureate of New Jersey is me!
10/07/02: On the 'net, nobody can stop you from popping back into people's lives
09/26/02: Now it can be told: Floridaitis is a nationwide epidemic
09/19/02: Workers of the world ... rest?

© 2002, Barry Lank