A guide to healthier families



In his latest offering, Andy Griffiths teams with Jim Thomson, a personal trainer, and Sophie Blackmore, a nutritionist, to create a humorous and extremely readable guide to healthy family living.

Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy adopts a style similar to that of Kaz Cooke in her very popular guide to pregnancy for Australian women, Up the Duff. It is a chapter-based guide that commences with an ongoing excerpt from Jack’s life, voiced in the first person as Jack, followed by grabs of factual information relevant to issues raised by Jack and sensible suggestions as to how these issues can be tackled. For example, in chapter two, Jack describes his breakfast routine and details his rather unhealthy preferences for high-sugar cereals. His musings are immediately followed by a quote from a newspaper linking the high consumption of sugar to hidden sugars found in cereal. There is a general discussion about sugar in highly processed foods and the advantages of slow-released energy in unprocessed food, followed by some tips for healthier breakfast alternatives. Each chapter takes a similar course resulting in palatable, easily digestible instalments about how to recognise lifestyle problems and address them with no-nonsense remedies.

There are several things that warrant specific commendation in this guide. The first, and perhaps most important, is that it addresses diet and health issues as lifestyle issues. Rather than counting calories or chaining one’s family to the bathroom scales, the book looks at overall lifestyle changes that enhance or encourage healthy living, such as removing televisions from children’s bedrooms and spending more time together as a family in fun activities such as exercise. Changing priorities and making good choices about what, where and with whom we eat may seem more extreme at first blush than swallowing a meal substitute at lunchtime. However, as the book demonstrates, once the change is made and everyone falls into line, it becomes a healthy habit the family barely thinks twice about.

The book also provides a sensitive insight into the mind of a child struggling with weight and how this impacts on his enthusiasm or willingness to participate in class sports and the like. Jack’s musings are useful not only to parents who are trying to bring about the lifestyle changes the book encourages, but also to children who may readily identify with Jack. Jack is clearly likeable and very normal, but his eating habits leave a fair bit to be desired. His account of his daily activities demonstrate obvious links between what he eats, how this impacts on his self-esteem, and how this leads to further eating. It is informative reading for all children and their parents, giving a valuable context to the advice the book offers.

One of the measures undertaken by Jack’s mother to assist in the process of improving the family’s lifestyle is to cut back her work hours to enable the family to operate at a slow food pace. While noting wryly that of course it was the mother who did this, I thought it rather brave and commendable of the authors to touch upon the issue of prioritising emotional nourishment over material nourishment when striving to improve the prognosis of a family unit.

The book’s witty wisdom surpasses the issue of preventing obesity in children and offers a holistic approach to maintaining the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of a family. At its completion, Jack is not only trimmer; he is a happier, better-connected member of his family and broader social circle.  

Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy, Andy Griffiths, Jim Thomson and Sophie Blackmore. Pan Australia, 2005.  ISBN 0 330 42180 8, RRP $14.95

Celia Conlan is a family lawyer and  mother of three children, with a fourth due in October.



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