When was the last time you watched Sesame Street? If you have a youngster at home, maybe it was this morning! For most of us, however, it’s been years since we last viewed Big Bird and the gang. But, even now as adults, our friends from Sesame Street still have a lot to teach us.
Everyone loves Cookie Monster, that blue fellow that can never seem to get enough cookies. Cookie Monster never worried about calories, fat content or serving size…..he just wanted cookies! Who can forget the song “C is for cookie – that’s good enough for me!”?
But in this age of skyrocketing obesity rates and health care costs, even Cookie Monster has changed his eating habits. There’s even a new song: “A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food,” where Cookie Monster learns there are “anytime” foods and “sometimes” foods. (Source: The Associated Press, 2005; MSNBC)
Cookie Monster still eats cookies. After all, he is the Cookie Monster! But now he eats cookies in moderation. Rumor has it that Cookie Monster is even experimenting with new, healthier types of cookies to sometimes replace his old favorite chocolate-chip cookies.
So what can we learn from Cookie Monster? First of all, it’s important to note that Cookie Monster is not ‘on a diet’. Cookie Monster knows that trying to force yourself to give up your favorite food is a sure path to failure. When we try to ‘willpower’ our way into giving up our absolute favorite treat, we inevitably fall off the wagon. It’s a much better plan to simply cut back on fattening foods, eating them less often and in smaller portions. That way we won’t feel deprived or even depressed, which leads to bingeing and a feeling of failure. Cookie Monster knows that if he tried to give up cookies altogether he would fail and soon be sneaking cookies late at night. Cookie Monster even knows that failing this way is very dangerous because it can lead us to believe that we are failures…..”I can’t do it, so why even try?”
Instead of giving up cookies altogether, Cookie Monster is doing the smart thing and just cutting back. That’s a great lesson for us! If you’ve failed on your last ten diets because you were trying to give up pepperoni pizza…..and you love pepperoni pizza as much as Cookie Monster loves cookies…..then why try to give it up again? Take a lesson from Cookie Monster and simply cut back instead; eat smaller portions less often. Remember, cookies are a ‘sometimes food’ now!
The second thing we can learn from Cookie Monster is to substitute healthier foods for fattening favorites. Cookie Monster is experimenting with healthier alternatives to his chocolate-chip cookies. He knows that he can still enjoy his treat without putting on the pounds. How can we adapt this lesson? How about trying veggie pizza instead of pepperoni pizza? If that doesn’t work for you, then how about asking the pizza place to put on 1/3 less pepperoni? Another alternative would be to make your own pizza at home and use the reduced fat or turkey pepperoni that’s available in every supermarket meat department. How about cutting back on the cheese by 1/3, or making your own using low-fat cheese? There are a lot of ways to modify pepperoni pizza to make it healthier!
The third fat-loss tip we can learn from Cookie Monster is that we need to continue our own health, fitness and nutrition education. “This season, each episode opens with a ‘health tip’ about nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest. Sesame Street also will introduce new characters, such as talking eggplants and carrots, and offer parodies, such as ‘American Fruit Stand.’ Even guest stars will address healthy activities, such as Alicia Keys talking and singing about the importance of physical activity. Politicians have gotten into the act, filming public service announcements with Sesame Street residents. In one taping, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist taught Elmo to exercise – jumping up and down. In another, Sen. Hillary Clinton and the small red monster discuss the various textures and tastes of foods.” (Source: The Associated Press, 2005; MSNBC)
We all watched Sesame Street when we were growing up, and I must confess that Cookie Monster was one of my favorites. While we may think that we’ve outgrown him and his friends at ‘123 Sesame Street’, they still have a lot to teach us.
Take a moment this week to watch Sesame Street. Take a trip down memory lane. Remember when the Sesame Street gang helped you learn your ABC’s and 123’s, and then think about what they can teach us today.
Tracie Johanson is the founder of Pick Up The Pace, a 30-minute exercise studio for women, focusing on fitness, health and nutrition for maximum weight loss. Please visit http://www.letspickupthepace.com/ for more information.