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My mother cooked hockey pucks. Sure, she called them knishes, but we knew better.

I liked the potato knishes. My father liked the liver knishes. A knish, for those of you among the uninitiated, is a heat-seeking missile that laughs in the face of Prilosec. As most of the food of my childhood, a knish is fried and very fatty.

While I ate knishes like they were Eskimo Pies, I drew the line at kishkeh. There is just no polite way to describe kishkeh. With the precision of a surgeon, my mother, an otherwise non-violent woman, would take the guts of a cow, turn them inside out, clean them, scrape them, then fill the remaining sack with onions, eggs, flour and schmaltz. Trust me, you don’t even want to hear about schmaltz.

The amazing thing is that I didn’t grow up to weigh 400 pounds. In my mother’s defense, and God knows, my mother needed a good defense, we didn’t know any better back then. This was the food that our foremothers brought over from the old country. Bringing food from Russia. Now, that was takeout.

Even for breakfast, when my mother set a table, she put something on it you hardly see anymore. It was called a sugar bowl. It came with the dishes. Every morning, I used it on my Corn Flakes. Three or four spoonfuls. This was before Frosted Flakes. And we didn’t know any better.

But, now we do. The numbers are everywhere. And every number tells a story. Only 11 percent of Americans say they are very overweight or obese. An interesting statistic, considering 68 percent of Americans really are. Now, here’s the scary part: Almost 32 percent of U.S. children are either at-risk or obese at 9 months. It’s over 34 percent for children 2 years old.

Now, before you start writing to tell me that the government should stay the hell out of your life, let me tell you that I don’t really care if you want to stuff your face with three dozen jelly donuts a day. I am a true believer that you have the right to kill yourself with the weapon of your choice. And, since granulated sugar causes less collateral damage than bullets, I’m all for the donuts.

But (and this is a very big but), you do not have the right to kill your children. There is nothing in the Constitution that says you can give them heart attacks or diabetes. This is not an inalienable right. This is child abuse.

If you hit your children (and you never should), those bruises might heal. If you poison them with bad food, they’ll be social outcasts forever. They won’t get the good jobs. They’ll be a drain on the healthcare system. They will be left to TV shows with the word “loser” in the title.

I’m not saying that losing weight is easy. Not when we’re surrounded by so many accessories to the crime. Want the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes at McDonald’s? That’s 1,150 calories and 20 grams of saturated fat. How about the sausage, egg and cheese croissant at Dunkin’ Donuts? That’s 640 calories with 17 grams of saturated fat.

Hey, I feel your pain. I just found out that the raspberry scone at Starbuck’s has 500 calories and 15 grams of saturated fat. The raspberry scone!

Even people who think they’re eating healthy food often aren’t. Take yogurt. That’s health food, right? It says “low fat” right on the container. But a carton of low-fat yogurt can have as much as 33 grams of sugar.

Listen, I know it’s not easy sitting at the dinner table every night trying to do the right thing for your family. Are three slices of pizza too much? How many hot wings make a meal? So, let me help you with a weight-loss exercise a local nutritionist showed me. Just put your hands on the edge of the table, sit straight up, and push away.

February 2011
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