In today's Wisconsin State Journal, columnist Susan Lampert Smith wrote about how parents at one school in southern Wisconsin have been asked not to send in the traditional Valentine's treats--cookies, cakes, and especially those little conversation hearts. Only slightly tongue in cheek, Smith suggests that parents send in string cheese for Valentine's Day treats, and writes, "This, sadly, is what Valentine's Day has become in schools where the federal wellness policy is being interpreted with revolutionary zeal."
You go, Susan. The zealots at this and other school districts obviously haven't read the studies on the effects of deprivation on eating habits. Restrained eating--in this case, telling kids they mustn't eat sweets for Valentine's Day--usually winds up making them eat more sweets, later on. If you've ever been on a diet, you're familiar with this paradigm. We're hard-wired to eat, and deprivation only triggers that urge, often leading to binging--often on the very thing you'd been deprived (or deprived yourself) of.
I saw this in my own children when they were young. Anxious to save them from the conflicted relationship I had with food, I enforced a stringent low- or no-sweets policy at home. The result? They became dessert hounds on playdates at other kids' houses.
A more sensible approach--and one I've applied to my own eating--would center around moderation rather than deprivation or binging, with plenty of opportunities for physical activity.
Of course, anyone who expects the school system to be sensible about anything is in for disappointment. But I hate the thought of all those federal dollars going toward food policies that actually cause some of the problems they're designed to help solve. I'll be sending a treat in my younger daughter's lunch bag on Valentine's Day. And I'll be glad to explain why to anyone who asks.