By Justin Tate
My children must bury me. This was all I could think about as I watched my beautiful children on the playground one sunny afternoon in Denver.
I refuse to be a part of a future where I must bury my son or any of my three daughters. I saw my grandmother, age 77, bury two of her own — one taken by disease in her 40s and another at age 50 to diabetes.
No parent ever wants to go through that.
Now that I’m a parent of four healthy and smart kids, ages 8 through 15, I seek to keep them active. Any sport they want to enter, I let them. Tennis? Football?
“You damn right you can play,” I say.
The previous generations of men in my family, while wise in spiritual matters, were foolhardy with their bodies.
My father, a diabetic for decades with an amputated foot, died of a heart attack in August at age 58.
My grandfather died a few months before I was born due to lung cancer. He had been smoking cigarettes since he was a teenager.
I am taking steps toward being a healthier adult as I approach 30. My words won’t be effective if I do not live a healthy lifestyle.
I encourage my children to put down the sweets, eat healthy and be active, not stagnant in front of a television, watching five-hour “Powerpuff Girl” marathons.
But at the same time, I want to have fun. I’ll still buy them Voodoo donuts. I’ll still make pancakes and waffles with them in the kitchen. I’ll still buy them corn syrup-enriched Arizona teas. But we will be an active family, one who moves too much to become obese.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Seven percent of children were obese in 1980. That number rose to 18 percent in 2010.
Of the factors the CDC suggested could be the cause of child obesity, one stuck out to me — environment.
My home state, Texas, has one of the highest obesity rates in high school-age children at 16 percent in 2011. Colorado’s rate of obese children in high school is 7 percent. The state my children moved from, Oklahoma, is 17 percent.
It’s the culture that adds pounds and shaves years off the lives of our children. My family has fed its young pork meat for over a century. Such an unhealthy meat was fed to them during slavery. Pork was continually cooked until it became a dominant course on the dinner table through family tradition.
This wasn’t such a horrible thing when our family had less to keep them indoors.
But with the invention of television, the computer, that 100-plus-channel devil that is cable and its wicked accomplice, DVR, I have to be a role model.
Today, I walk more than two miles a day. Not much compared to the three miles my mother used to walk in the mornings, but it’s a start.
I’ve declared a war on excess corn syrup in my diet. Gummi bears and Sour Patch Kids have become victims in the battle.
Most important of all, I gave up pork and other red meats, a decision I have upheld for the last six years and counting.
I started a workout regimen that includes stairs and using my arms to lift something heavier than the remote. Hopefully, my own embrace of the outdoors and veggies will inspire my children to live to their fullest potential as well.
Then when the inevitable comes and I am laid to rest, my daughters will speak fondly of me, and my son, strong and healthy, will be one of my pallbearers because I never want to be one of his.