This is something like a public service announcement from your friendly, neighborhood Shredder. I could tell you to quit smoking. I could tell you to Just say no. I could tell you to flex your power by shutting your lights off when you're not in the room, or to buckle up even if you're just driving a couple of blocks to the video store, or to floss every day to avoid cavities and gum disease.
I could tell you to have an emergency kit prepared in case of a natural disaster, or to check the batteries in your smoke alarm to make sure they're still working, or to examine the pressure in your tires to ensure that you'll be safe while driving around doing errands.
I could also tell you to avoid food and drink containers that have a broken seal, and to not feed or touch wild animals that might have rabies, and to take shorter showers and such to conserve water.
I could tell you a whole bunch of things as a public service, but people have told you all of those things before. Over and over again. And again. They have. So why should I add my voice to the public-serving masses? And why would you listen to me?
Out of everything I could say to you, however, I will say that you need to watch what your kids eat this holiday season. You may have heard that before, too, but I learned something recently that made me want to encourage you to stop stuffing stuffing into your precious little ones.
On Nov. 17, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced the results of an annual physical fitness test given to all fifth, seventh, and ninth graders enrolled in public schools.
You know and I know what the results were. We haven't been collectively blind to the dire warnings about how round the country's children have been getting, have we?
The results weren't pretty though, technically, things are getting better. I guess there was a 1-percent improvement in overall performance between last year and this year. Still, we're looking at something like 11 million overweight kids and 13 million more eating and not exercising their way into that risky category.
Some fancy-degreed cardiologist from the American Heart Association said that they're all deeply concerned that kids today may become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents. That's what made me sit up and take notice. I haven't heard that before. Maybe you have, and if you have, good for you.
I thought we were all just going to keep getting older and older. Not all of us as individuals, of course, though I guess that's true, too. Everybody gets older every day. Even after you die, I suppose, you're still getting older, but I'm not going to go there.
No, what I mean to say is that society, humanity, mankind as a whole seems to have been upping that collective life expectancy for generations now. People in ancient Rome thought 20 or 30 was old, or something like that. I don't know. I'm not a historian.
But it seems like now we're taking a step backward in our journey toward Methuselah-hood. And it's all because our up-and-coming generation is sitting on the couch probably playing one of those new-fangled videogames and eating a diet once reserved for fattening prize hogs.
That cardiologist I mentioned before, one Freny Vaghaiwalla Mody, called the current tubby trend destructive, saying that it's resulted in an epidemic of obesity.
It's true. I've seen local kids myself, and they're not in the best shape. Of course, it seems that by the time they get to college, they're all razor thin and running around San Luis Obispo in skimpy clothes to show off their chiseled abs and miniscule body fat. Then again, the ones running around are probably the ones who ran around as kids. The other ones, the sedentary students, are still sitting in their dorm rooms, playing some first-person shooter and scarfing potato chips where I can't see them.
So what's my point? We're entering into the season of Thanksgiving, which also happens to be the season of eating. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Rolls. Green beans with bacon. Yams with marshmallows. Butter. Gravy. Pumpkin pie. Apple pie. Pecan pie. Ice cream. And leftovers of all of the above.
This is also the time of year when the weather gets colder (in theory) and the sky opens and rain falls (again, in theory), making outdoor physical activity an option about as popular as watching It's a Wonderful Life for the 14th time. Given the choice between the two, though, I'll bet that kids these days would opt to see George Bailey find Zuzu's petals once again over throwing a football or other ball of choice around.
Don't let that happen. Check with any number of local outdoor groups about upcoming hikes. Look in our calendar section for something to do besides napping on the couch. And don't forget that Shredder doesn't usually tell you what to do, but it's still a good idea to double-check your smoke-alarm batteries, especially with your oven going full blast this season.