Much is made about the rising tide of obesity in the modern world. There are many explanations. Ultimately, it's mostly alterable if you have the will to do something about it. But, there are many things working against you in the process.
One example is the hectic schedule that most of us keep. Say what you will about the idealism of the '50s, with mom at home doing the housekeeping. One of the benefits was that there was a home-cooked meal. That's still a very real possibility, even with both parents working. But it's certainly more of a challenge.
A study by Cornell University researchers examined the dietary problems we face when people work hectic hours and don't take the time to make home-cooked meals. The researchers found that parents who work long and unusual hours are more likely to grab fast food on the way home, or buy prepared meals.
Long work hours and irregular schedules mean more time away from family, less time for household food work, difficulty in maintaining a regular meal pattern and less opportunity to participate in family meals, says Carol M. Devine, PhD, RD and colleagues in their report.
Some of the researchers' findings are fairly elementary:
Structural work conditions among parents - such as job hours, schedule, satisfaction, and food access - are associated with food choice coping strategies with importance for dietary quality.
That's a fancy way of saying that when people are busy and don't have easy access to healthy food; they go to fast-food drive-thrus or easy microwaveable foods when they get home, so they don't have the added work of cooking.
The Cornell University researchers surveyed 25 men and 25 women in upstate New York. Here are some of the more interesting findings:
- About 25 percent of both groups said that they had no access to healthful, reasonably priced, good-tasting food at or near their place of work.
- Fathers who lacked access to reasonably priced, good-tasting food at work were more likely to miss lunch, eat while working or in the car, and were less likely to pack a lunch.
- Close to 75 percent of the parents had at least one fast food meal a week, and at least one take-out meal a week.
- Only 56 percent of fathers and 40 percent of mothers had more than five home-cooked meals a week.