Camp encourages children to opt for healthy food items

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Camp encourages children to opt for healthy food items

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The “body king” boom ― or “momjjang” as it’s popularly known in Korea, where people strive for perfect figures, has moved beyond celebrities and adults and is now influencing children as well. Thanks to this fad, children have added another extra-curricular activity to their list. Children who are negatively called “body bust,” or “momkkwang” in Korean, are doing everything to shed that nickname. To help these kids out, a “Health Buff Camp” was set up last month in Boryeong, South Chungcheong province, sponsored by the Seoul School Dietetic Association and the Seoul School Health Promotion Center.
At first observers speculated that parents were pressuring their elementary school children to attend the camp, but such was not the case. When asked why they attended the camp, most children present replied, “I begged my parents to let me go to the camp because I couldn’t stand this any longer.”
Obesity has become a big issue among children as well, who confess: “My mom, my dad and even my little siblings call me ‘fatso’”; “I’m sick and tired of having everyone tell me to lose weight,” “I haven’t been to a swimming pool in two years because I am ashamed of my figure.”
A fifth-grade student experiences social alienation at school. She says, “Kids make fun of me, calling me a ‘pig.’ I hate going to school because I have no friends. That’s why I transferred to a new school last year, but I’ve bombed in my new school, as well. My mom says she’ll let me transfer again next year, but ...” The student has been on a diet and even went without eating for four straight days. But all the weight she lost returned rapidly, in what dieticians refer to as the “yo-yo effect.” Her greatest wish, she said, is to “weigh 40 kg [ 88 pounds] and wear pretty skirts.”
The camp, attended by a total of 164 children, included about 50 children who were smaller in size. These kids were more concerned about their short height than their weight. A fifth-grade student who weighed 29.6 kilograms refused to tell how tall he is. He looked about 130 cm [4feet, 3inches]. “I hate it when my friends call me a midget,” complained a fifth-grade girl who looked about the same height.
At the camp, the children learn about the calorific content of different types of food, and the recommended daily intake, about 2,000 kcal per day. They were also trained to create their own one-day-menu, which fit the health agenda.
Nutritionists working at the camp pointed out the notion of a “meal” was no longer clearly defined for Korean children today, mainly because they can eat whatever they want whenever they want. They advised parents to watch children’s body shapes when they turn 10. They also compared the eating habits of Korean adults who grew up in times when food was scarce, saying children these days are more picky about what they will eat.
Most children are not fond of healthy foods, such as brightly colored vegetables, milk and other dairy products. Underweight and obese kids are even more picky about their food.
Yoon Eun-kyung, the president of the Seoul School Dietetic Association, offers a few tips that Korean parents can follow. She suggests that in preparing Korean dishes, parents should disguise healthful but disliked ingredients, such as sardines, shrimps or sea kelp, and says children are more willing to eat vegetables when they are served with a strong sauce.


by Lee Ji-young

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