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Hart: What happens when you eat three meals a day

I'm pretty sure I have a bigger clue now about America's, well, "growing" weight problem.

Let's review. I was thrilled when my kids were at their Kanakuk Kamp in Branson, Mo., recently. For starters, I could turn what I consider the three-meals-a-day drudgery over to someone else.

I admit it: I find that I resent whoever came up with that rather excessive schedule in the first place. I'm guess I'm just not that interested in food, and I really don't like cooking. Making it to mid-afternoon before remembering that I ought to eat something is not unusual. And even then it typically seems like a time-consuming chore to eat something.

My kids were once stunned to see a neighbor mom sit and actually eat lunch with them when they were at her home. "Our mom doesn't eat lunch," they told her.

It's weird, I know. No, I don't think my eating habits are particularly healthy, and I know I'm missing some of the good parts of life. Every once in a while when I do enjoy a good meal, I think, "Wow, maybe I should do this more often." But for better or worse, I have my mother's eating habits, after all. She ate to live, not the other way around.

Ah, but every year that changes about this time in summer for one week. You see, after picking up my kids at their camp, we go to a nearby one-week Kanakuk Family Kamp together. K-Kaua'i. The place is magical, sort of Disney World meets Christian Family Retreat, minus the wine list. This was our third year.

Anyway, back to food. Here the meals are all-you-can-eat, family-style. And every year it's the same. When the food is available, made for my family and me and put in front of us three times a day, my entire orientation toward it changes. It doesn't matter that it's not gourmet food. It's good -- but mainly, it's just there.

It starts slowly enough, but by the second or third day I'm the first one at the dining hall for a big breakfast, saying, "More bacon, please!" Soon, I'm asking around 11 a.m. or so, "What's on the menu for lunch?" Worse, by 11:30 a.m. my stomach has figured out the clock and that more is coming, so it makes room. And I'm starving!

Then after a big mid-day meal, I'll want to know what's for dinner and if there is dessert tonight. By day three, I can't make it from lunch to dinner without a sugary snack at the Bamboo Bean snack shop. By day four, I'm swiping leftover muffins from the breakfast table to make it through to lunch. I find myself thinking about food. A lot. And I start consuming food -- a lot.

And by the end of the week, I'm several pounds heavier. Sure enough, it happened again this year.

Now somehow, the minute I hit my own doorstep after family camp every year, I revert back to old habits. But more and more I realize that's largely because, at home, no one is making eating easy for me.

We live in a culture in which food, both nutritious and junky, is plentiful, cheap, good-tasting and so easily available. Most normal people find it fun, interesting or even relaxing to prepare.

Yes, I regularly bemoan America's weight problem. I know we each need to take personal responsibility for it. And sure, I realize that my own experience in this is just an anecdotal "self-study." But more and more I think we shouldn't be so amazed that we have an obesity epidemic in this country. Perhaps we should find it more amazing that anybody escapes it.

(Betsy Hart hosts the "It Takes a Parent" radio show on WYLL-AM 1160 in Chicago. Reach her through hartmailbox-mycolumn@yahoo.com. For more stories, visit scrippsnews.com.)