Greetings from lovely Atlanta Georgia. I’m posting tonight from the lovely home of Jay and Esther owners of More of Me to Love (by the way, if anyone is looking for an early Christmas present for me, I want one of these loungers pretty badly :)
Seriously, Jay and Esther are awesome and tomorrow we’re being joined by Julie Wyman who is shooting a documentary called “Behind the Billboards” about the Georgia Billboard Project, which means that I’m just a few hours a way from seeing the actual billbaords in real life. I’ll probably blog all about it tomorrow.
In the meantime, I want to discuss a sign I saw at the airport. [TW - It's awful, feel free to scroll past the picture to get to my quality ranting]
I see what they did there – because the thin kids play basketball while the naughty lazy fat kids eat chips and sit around.
And who are the braintrusts who pulled this piece of horse hockey together?
Teacher Jane Elliot conducted a two day experiment. On day one she told her students “This is a fact. Blue eyed people are better than brown eyed people.” Moments later a girl took longer than the others to get her book prepared. One student immediately said “She’s a brown eye” and the other blue-eyed students all chorused in agreement. The next day she changed the groups, telling the class that brown-eyed students were superior. According to Elliot, “I watched what had been marvelous, wonderful, cooperative, thoughtful children turn into nasty, vicious, discriminating little third graders in the space of fifteen minutes”
Everybody knows about this study. I learned about it in high school and several college classes. So, knowing this information, what do you suppose happens when we tell kids “This is a fact, thin kids are better than fat kids.”
The problem isn’t just that the other students start to treat tbig kids badly, it’s that the big kids start to believe the stereotypes while remaining the victims of crushing social stigma, and that’s how you create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Also, they must be referring to something before my time because I never remember any kids playing like their lives depended on it. In fact, I don’t feel like the phrase “like their lives depended on it” could ever logically follow the word “play” as it relates to children (unless it was “kickball is not that serious, no need to play like your life depends on it.”) Studies show 60 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week is what kids need for physical health – nothing good will come from misinforming them that if they don’t feel like they are playing like their life depends on it they aren’t getting healthier.
This type of fear m0ngering should be prosecutable. Nobody knows for sure why kids are bigger now than they were (and there is a great deal of argument about if they are bigger, how much bigger they are.) There is no proof that fat kids are fat because they play less than thin kids – people are making that up in their heads (or gathering information via rectal pull), then slapping it on a giant sign at the airport so that they get congratulated for being strong in the war against
childhood obesity obese children. A war which has no victories, only casualties and collateral damage.
There is zero proof that giving kids the message that playing is a punishment for being fat, or that they have to play hard or they will die, will lead to healthier kids, thinner kids, or help develop a lifelong love of movement in kids – not a shred of evidence.
What we do know is that hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 are up 119%, and research from the University of Minnesota found that weight control behaviors used by adolescents predicted significant weight gain in some kids and eating disorders in some kids but failed to produce thinner kids or healthier kids.
It’s not surprising. 95% of people who lose weight gain it all back and many of them gain back more than they lost so even if you believed that all kids can be thin and that thin is preferable, the last thing you would want to do is attempt weight control measures since the most likely outcome of that is weight gain and the second most likely outcome is developing an eating disorder. The earlier kids start intentional weight loss efforts, the more damage they do to their bodies.
Kids do not take care of things they hate, and that includes their bodies. Healthy habits lead to healthy kids and kids are more likely to participate in healthy habits if they are fun. You can’t hate kids healthy, you can’t shame kids healthy, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you try.
I do not understand how people who (ostensibly) passed medical school cannot wrap their heads around this simple concept, but we have got to make this stop.
Write e-mails to the:
Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America firstname.lastname@example.org
America Academy of Pediatrics email@example.com
America Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re stuck on what to say, consider asking them why they are participating in an intervention that all the evidence says is most likely to harm kids. Tell them your story and speak from the heart. Fat kids are under attack in this country, they are literally the unwitting combatants in a war against them and they need advocates. We can be those advocates, we can help them.
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