Monday, July 30, 2012

I love to win: but at what cost?

I love to win

Don’t get me wrong… I lose a lot. And often by a very long way. I am very competitive, mostly with myself, but still I love the feeling of success.

At the age of 36, I finally understand what I didn’t when I was a competitive swimmer in my teens… when you train, if you don’t train hard, if you don’t give your all, if you don’t listen to your coach, you only cheat yourself. But sometimes none of this knowledge matters.

Today has been a really frustrating day for me. I am angry at who it seems we have become as a society. Well at least some of us. On my way to swimming training this morning (yes, I am dragging this 36 year old butt into an outdoor pool at freezing o’clock to compete at the masters games later this year and training rather than watching the Olympics… go figure) I was listening proudly to the success of two of our swimmers. Alicia Coutts was about to receive her bronze medal and Christian Sprenger was having the race of his life in the 100 breaststroke.  I almost didn’t want to train. I wanted to wait and listen to the 4 x 100m relay for men. Thank goodness I didn’t. Not because they didn’t win, but because it seems we (the media and some of the people of Australia) feel that if we put a goal out there and don’t succeed we are failures. Also we are apparently arrogant and in need of bringing down. Wow. I believe that is sad.

I have so many goals. That is the way I work. Goals for my weight. Goals for business. Goals for masters swimming. Goals for how I want to parent. Goals for my relationship.  My life is about goals. I didn’t realise it for a long time, but for me, I respond to goal setting. I appreciate that not everyone works that way, but I do. I need goals to achieve. I need goals to stay focused. This year I have the Pan Pac Masters games. Next year is the Mooloolaba Triathlon, followed by Noosa. Maybe a half marathon thrown in. If my closest friends have something to say about it I will probably add a half ironman to my list (but maybe not – my husband still likes to spend time with me!)

I often share my goals. Sharing them means that my friends help me. They stand by me and if I succeed, they celebrate with me. And if I fail, they are there, they understand what it meant to me and they help me pick up the pieces to start again on my next goal. I believe that James Magnussen did this. He shared with Australia. Not to be arrogant. But for our support.

Today we have stomped on a champion. But more than that, we have told our kids not to share their dreams for fear of ridicule. Today certainly has been a dark day for Australian swimming. Not because of the outcome in the pool, but because of the character we have shown as a nation.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Supersized fast-food fury?

This week McDonald's was found in breach of industry standards over a website which was seen to be marketing to children. Personally I do not mind most of the marketing they do. The marketing person inside of me finds it interesting, the charity worker inside of me worries a little about those who are weak to these messages, but in the end, I truly believe that it is up to the parents to teach their kids about what they eat and why they eat it, because those lessons will be with them for life.

The SMH reported:

The Advertising Standards Bureau upheld the Cancer Council's complaint about the Happy Meal website, finding that it had breached several clauses of the voluntary code for advertising to children, including promoting unhealthy food choices by using characters and online interactive games aimed at children.

Even having worked for charities targeting this behaviour in the past, I have started to rethink why this causes so much passion from so many. I am struggling to understand how cute characters on a game, on a website are encouraging children to eat bad food. I do understand pester power. I have studied it at university and I most certainly have seen the impact of it on marketing campaigns I have worked on.  

I also have a 6 yr. old and a 3 yr. old. So far, I control what goes into my children’s mouths – to a large degree. They love having McDonald’s. They have probably had it 3 times in the last year, and their meals are chosen by me (apple bag, no chips, water instead of soft drinks). I know exactly what it does to their little bodies overnight too. My 3 year old has type 1 diabetes; I test her blood glucose every few hours during the night. On a McDonald’s night she usually needs extra insulin and her levels continue to get higher and higher overnight. McDonald’s is a treat and my kids understand this.

I would like to eat bad food every day. I love chocolate. I love ice-cream.  I know what happens if I eat too much – and it is not just about gaining weight. I don’t think as clearly, I get tired and generally my health suffers. Over the past few years I have discussed the impact of our diet with my children. Mostly, they don’t nag me for “sometimes” foods. 

So would it be easier for parents if there were no lollies and foods targeting kids? I guess so. There would be fewer arguments and maybe less children eating as many “sometimes” foods. But what happens when the kids are old enough to buy their own food? What happens when they get to make their own choices? Clearly the concern is that we have an obesity epidemic growing in Australia with unhealthy parents unable to educate their children, which is leading to overweight or unhealthy children.

This week is National Diabetes Week. This week the focus is all about type 2 diabetes and how to prevent it. Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through diet and exercise; unlike type 1 diabetes which is an auto-immune disease (and cannot be prevented). I think we need to start teaching our children from a very young age about good food choices. I think we need to help them understand why good foods can make them feel good for longer and why “sometimes” food, whilst yummy, are only for just that – for sometimes. I believe that the challenge for us is how we get parents to understand food labels – not just fast food, but all food. We need to understand the impact of the ingredients of what we eat and what it means to our bodies. The healthy canteens campaigns for schools within Australia are a great start.

What do you think? Would it be easier to just ban junk food advertising of all kids and remove cartoon packaging and kids’ toys with purchases? What else can we do to help parents?