Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Michelle Obama's Campaign to Fight Childhood Obesity

I have seen a lot in the news this past week about Michelle Obama's campaign to fight childhood obesity. And I have really been wanting to write something about this because I have had some thoughts that I want to share-- but I think I have been slow to do so because I never want my blog to sound like a diatribe against society or pop culture or the media or different individuals or (fill-in-the-blank). Yes, I like to think critically; and yes, there are things from time to time that need to be called out. But the purpose of my blog is not to point these things out that I observe or read from day to day for the sake of being critical. I am MUCH more interested in raising peoples awareness and encouraging others to think about the ways that we view ourselves, our bodies, beauty and eating disorders- and that is why I blog! When I read statistics about women, young girls and even men- really everyone!- I am always surprised to find out just how far people will go to lose weight or to look 'good'. While I get that we all want to look and feel good, it just seems so unreal and sad that things have been taken to such extremes. The fact that more than 2/3 of women ages 18-25 would rather be labeled mean or stupid instead of fat, and over 50% would rather be hit by a truck than be labeled fat is pretty outrageous (Martin, 2007). I also want to be clear (again) about the fact that when it comes to eating disorders, they are a serious mental illness- not simply a lifestyle choice, like many people believe.

So, with that being said, I am going to go back to the First Lady's new pet project- childhood obesity. I think it is wonderful that she is targeting children's health, but when I read on CNN.com that President Obama was calling his daughter Sasha "chubby" and that Michelle had mentioned things were "off balance" with her daughters weight wise, it made me cringe on the inside. While I loudly applaud her efforts to approach this issue nationally (because it is an issue), using her daughters as an example draws unnecessary attention to their weight at an age when they are vulnerable and sensitive to developing body image issues, not to mention eating disorders. While she has been significantly criticized in the wake of her comments, I think the focus, rather than chastising her for making the comments, should be on approaching this issue from a supportive and healthy standpoint for the sake of the children involved. Dr. Albers who has written books about mindful eating, wrote a great article for the Huffington Post that you may want to check out. Her point is that weight is not always the best indicator of health, and that we need to focus on the big picture rather than on dieting (which we know does not work!). Follow this link to read her article. And follow this link to read another great article called Dads, Daughters and Diets: Obama's Mistake.

In light of this recent controversy, CNN.com has listed some helpful suggestions for parents about talking to their children/teens about being healthy. Some of the suggestions that they encourage parents to consider include focusing on health and not pounds (or a number on the scale), being open to discuss any issues related to health or otherwise with their children, ending fat talk, and avoiding diet mentalities with 'good' foods and 'bad' foods. For more, follow this link. Whether you are a child or not, these tips are helpful for people of all ages to help maintain a healthy approach and attitude towards health, food and our bodies.

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