A few days ago, one of my health-conscious friends told me about a woman she knew who had just stopped at McDonald’s to buy her kids breakfast before taking them to school.

“I was too rushed this morning,” the woman had said. “So I treated them to whatever they wanted at the drive-through.”

One child had a chocolate milkshake. Another ordered hash browns and ketchup. The kids thought their mom was great. My friend was disgusted.

So was I, especially when I thought about all the times I’d bought fast food for my family. Forget making dinner after work. Instead, I’d stop and pick up chili dogs or hamburgers or frozen lasagna. Other nights, once I was home, I’d decide that I was too tired to cook and order a pizza or Chinese food. Worse, for years, every Friday was a standing date with anything from hot wings to calzones to double-stuffed burritos. We called it grease relief.

Giving those Friday-night meals a glib name gave me permission to binge. Sometimes I made three stops because my husband, daughter and I all wanted a different brand of poison. Designating one night a week to dinner-in-a-box-or-bag let me off the hook. One night a week isn’t so bad, I told myself. Some weeks the one night turned into two or three. At the time, I was so deep in my addiction I could not have told you the number.

My home cooking wasn’t much better. I’d make a huge pot of spaghetti or slow cooker barbecued roast or taco meat or a stack of chicken breasts, everything accompanied by French bread, sandwich rolls or tortillas. Fresh fruit, vegetables and salads took last place in my refrigerator. My fat-muddled brain also thought that cooking only a couple of times a week should have helped me feel less tired and stressed.

The calorie-laden, hormone-and-antibiotic-filled animals, genetically modified and chemically preserved food I stuffed down my throat was the reason I could barely function, but I couldn’t see it at the time and later refused to admit it until my health almost crashed. My body was too busy fighting off the effects to fuel the energy I needed. I’m amazed that I could get out of bed every day and appalled that I didn’t pay attention to what my body tried to tell me.

I’m also mortified that I fed that potentially lethal diet to my growing daughter. What I did to myself was terrible, but what I did to her? Insane. My addiction was as strong as any alcoholic or drug abuser’s because I endangered my child’s health to satisfy my cravings. I wasn’t the only mother or father brainwashed by the steady stream of commercials promising an easy fix for busy parents.

We are angered and appalled by situations such as the toxic water in Flint, MI. Yet we never bring that intolerance for others who endanger us and our children home. Instead, we make hits out of television shows such as Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship and Rachel vs Guy: Kids Cook-Off where many of the pre-adolescent competitors are already overweight. Because of our nutrition neglectful lifestyles, we are raising an entire generation of children who are programmed from birth to overeat.

Today, one of out of every six American children is overweight, and the Boomer generation may be the first to outlive their kids. The Centers for Disease Control statistics show that one third of the children born after 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime and that all overweight children have a much greater risk of developing heart disease and a variety of cancers. A childhood diet high in sugar and fat can also result in a lower IQ and a higher risk of violence as an adult.

Today, I’m grateful that my daughter is healthy. I’m guilty because healthy eating is something she had to learn as an adult.

We buckle up our kids in the car. We teach them not to talk to strangers. We try to protect them from harm in any way we can. Giving our children a healthy start in life shouldn’t be any different. Our kids have no choice but to trust that what we feed them won’t harm them. Are you serving them the same poison you’re shoveling in your face? If you won’t think about what your eating habits are doing to you, think about the damage you are doing to their growing brains and bodies, and the legacy of illness and addiction you’re handing down. Think about how you can change all that for them and for yourself one bite, one choice, one day at a time.

Hazel Dixon-Cooper