I’m pretty sure my youngest son was put on this planet to keep me on my toes. The other day, he asked me, “If I eat a bunch of junk food, like ice cream and chips, but exercise a ton, will my body still be healthy?”
My answer was no, your body won’t be healthy if you’re eating a bunch of junk food, no matter how much exercise you do.
And here’s how I explained it to Sean: Food is fuel for our bodies, just like gas is for our car. If we put bad fuel in our car, the engine won’t work right—just like if we put unhealthy foods in our bodies. In fact, the more junk food we eat, the less active our bodies can be.
We also talked about “empty calories.” These are the calories that come from the fat and/or sugar in junk foods—like chips, candy, cookies, donuts, sodas, sports drinks and even fruit juices. The only thing these foods do is add calories to your diet and make you feel tired (right after the sugar buzz wears off). That’s why we call them empty; they don’t have the vitamins, minerals and other important things (“building blocks,” I call them) your body actually needs to grow and be healthy.
Then we added exercise to the equation. When you exercise after eating junk food, I explained, your body has to work hard just to burn off those empty calories. But when you exercise after eating healthy food, your body uses those good nutrients—or building blocks—to make you stronger.
I also reminded Sean that occasional treats are OK. What’s not a good idea is a steady diet of junk food. Even cutting back a little on the junk—like eating just one cookie each day instead of three, or replacing one soda a day with water—is a big help.
I then told him how much I love him and I thanked him for taking the time to ask such great questions about what keeps him healthy.
About The Author
With more than a dozen years of experience in promoting wellness, Medical Director of Child Wellness Stephanie Walsh, MD, is a leader in the field. A board-certified pediatrician and diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, Dr. Walsh played an instrumental role in establishing the Children’s Strong4Life movement. Dr. Walsh continues to support Strong4Life programming and content while seeing patients and families in the Strong4Life Clinic.Bio