As many of my ideas do, this one comes in response to a post or comment I read on other social outlets. This particular idea came by way of a talented writer known as Betty Fokker: The Stay at Home Feminist Mom whose blogs I never miss and share widely, but I took exception to this one due to what I felt were unfair comments about Michelle Obama’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal.
I am also familiar with and a fan of Melissa McEwan and her wonderful blog called Shakesville. I read her article Fatties are Destroying America as well as Melissa’s previous articles on the program Brace Yourselves Fatsronauts and Let’s Move, Part II for starters. In the ‘offending’ article penned by Michelle Obama titled ‘The Business Case for Healthier Food Options’ there was praise for those businesses who have defied conventional thought that ‘healthy’ foods did not sell or give a profit and weren’t in demand by the public. The First Lady mentions Wal-Mart and Disney in particular – Wal-Mart for promoting fresh fruits and vegetables and a lower sugar content in its canned/processed goods; and Disney for providing healthier food choices in their theme parks as well as eliminating ads for unhealthy snacks on its TV shows. If you know me, you know I am NO fan of Wal-Mart who does nothing without an eye to profit, but if the end result is advantageous for consumers – that’s a step in the right direction. And we know that children are highly influenced by TV ads so kudos to Disney.
Bottom line, these companies are responding to consumer demand, a demand that is born of and encouraged by programs such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” that help raise awareness of how important what we eat is to health. And helping children identify and even ask for healthy foods – not Chicken Nuggets and French fries, but apples, carrots and even salads – is a major accomplishment. ‘Let’s Move’ also encourages physical play – like we did as children, in the yard – instead of hours on play-stations and iPhones (like my grandkids), or in front of a computer screen (like me).
I have gained weight from being inactive and not eating right and I can tell the difference in how I feel as well as how I look. Most people are like that. But people do come in all shapes and sizes and thank goodness for that. However, even at my lowest weight and best physical condition, I had a big ass. But I was healthier. Those rail thin models that are touted as the perfect female form that so many young girls try to emulate are UN-healthy and impossible to attain (most are photo-shopped or airbrushed). There is the patriarchal system at play. Not in promoting the idea that good food and exercise will make you a better person – for it will – at any size. In fact, the “health at every size” paradigm embraces normalized, healthy eating coupled with exercise AND self acceptance – which means affirmation and reinforcement of human beauty and worth irrespective of differences in weight, physical size and shape. I see nothing in the article by Michelle Obama that contradicts this.
But the truth is, over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and nearly one in three children in America today are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African-American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese. If we don’t do something, one-third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma. These are the medical facts.
Perhaps where society has gone wrong is in trying to set ‘norms’ for everything, doctors included. There is no ideal weight for everyone. If you are 5’7” woman, you may be told that your ideal weight is around 130 pounds – but that does not hold true for every one of that height. Maybe instead of defining healthy weight with numbers, charts or BMI, it should be defined in terms of the natural diversity of weight which is the natural weight the body adapts, given a healthy diet and meaningful levels of physical activity…and that looks different on different people.
An excellent summary of the HAES paradigm for how we should approach the differences in weight would be as follows:
Health enhancement—attention to emotional, physical and spiritual well-being without focus on weight loss or achieving a specific “ideal weight”
Size and self-acceptance—respect and appreciation for the wonderful diversity of body shapes and sizes (including one’s own!), rather than the pursuit of an idealized weight or shape.
The pleasure of eating well—eating based on internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite, rather than on external food plans or diets
The joy of movement—encouraging all physical activities for the associated pleasure and health benefits, rather than following a specific routine of regimented exercise for the primary purpose of weight loss.
An end to weight bias—recognition that body shape, size and/or weight are not evidence of any particular way of eating, level of physical activity, personality, psychological issue or moral character; confirmation that there is beauty and worth in EVERY-body.
Obesity is a risk factor for businesses, whether we like it or not, just as is smoking. It is something to be considered when cost factoring for insurance purposes if nothing else. It is true that excess weight and a lazy lifestyle increase the opportunity for poor health outcomes such as diabetes and heart disease and other conditions. What we must remember, however, is weight is not always due to laziness or overeating – it can be a result of other conditions or factors. It is the definition of what society deems ‘excess’ weight that is in dispute…and that is different for each person. Madison Avenue is to blame for this, not someone who is promoting a healthier lifestyle at any size and especially for children.
The ‘problem to be solved’ is not the elimination of fat people, but how unhealthy products and foods are promoted by businesses and pushed onto consumers via TV commercials and advertisements that make us think these products are OK or even good for us. Filling our food sources with unsafe chemicals and preservatives that the body cannot properly digest or convincing young impressionable teens that a certain ‘look’ must be attained in order to be of value is just another method of making money for producers/suppliers while divesting consumers of theirs. But as long as these tactics work, they will be used. If Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ initiative can raise public awareness that drives demand, businesses will make the changes to meet that demand in order to make the sale. That’s how capitalism works. If the end result is a generation of healthier children with better eating habits and physical fitness, how can that be a bad thing?
Last Thursday, Michelle Obama unveiled a plan in Chicago to increase physical education in 50,000 public schools, extending the reach of “Let’s Move” that would allow schools to apply for grants to enhance their physical education programs. Private companies will contribute $70 million, with Nike trying still to correct past problems with public perception contributing $50 million of that over the next five years. See how that works? Businesses will rise to the challenge if it means helping their brand and making profits.
Everyone has a role to play in reducing childhood obesity, including parents and caregivers, elected officials from all levels of government, schools, health care professionals, faith-based and community-based organizations, and private sector companies. Involvement is crucial to ensuring a healthy future for all our children. And that includes acceptance of all, whatever size they are. Health is the objective.
“In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.” ~ First Lady Michelle Obama
- Health & Fitness – Article 14 (bestbuy.com)
- Michelle Obama: Obesity Fight Is ‘Generational’ Campaign Includes Harlem (video) (harlemworldmag.com)
- Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move!’ celebrating 3rd anniversary (voxxi.com)
- Fight unhealthy food, not fat people | Jill Filipovic (guardian.co.uk)
- Michelle Obama, Jimmy Fallon show off their game faces (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- Designed To Move: Nike + Michelle Obama (thedropnyc.tv)
- Michelle Obama: Kids need to be more active (wgntv.com)