I sincerely believe that Michelle Obama has the absolute best of intentions with her war on childhood obesity. Unfortunately, good intentions and $5 will get you a non-fat latte and not much else.
The war on obesity seems to be predicated upon the idea that there is a “thin person” buried in fat inside each obese person. I think that’s why people feel that having a “war on obesity” is an ok thing to do. I’m betting they look at it like the “war on cancer”, where the goal is to remove the cancer and leave the person…they want to remove the “extra” weight and leave the thin person.
But I am not a thin woman covered in fat. I am a fat woman. I am my fat, my fat is me. I may lose some fat or gain some fat, lose some muscle or gain some muscle, and that’s fine. But all of me is always, well… all of me.
You can’t have a war against my fat and leave the rest of me out of it, so the war on obesity is a war against me and against the body I live in 100% of the time.
A war on childhood obesity IS A WAR ON CHILDREN. These aren’t little walking statistics. They are children. Precious, impressionable children who already have to navigate a world of peer pressure, parent pressure, academic pressure, information overload, over-scheduling, awkward social interactions, puberty, early sexualization, drugs and alcohol etc. As if obese children don’t have enough problems without state sponsored teasing. I’m already hearing horror stories of kids being weighed in IN FRONT OF THEIR CLASS and getting report cards sent home admonishing them for their BMI.
Look, in my childhood plenty of adults in my life, including family members, were just plain mean to me about my weight. They did it under the guise that it was “for my own good”. It was devastating and I know that I’m not the only person with a story like this (in fact I know some people who have never recovered). I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been if their behavior was sanctioned by the school.
I’m not here to argue about causes or effects of childhood obesity. I’m here to suggest that you can’t shame people into taking care of their bodies, and adding the stress of publicly being shamed about their weight just doesn’t logically lead to kids who are mentally healthy enough with high enough self-esteem to make good choices in any area of their lives, least of all their health. Making kids hate their bodies will not support them in taking care of those bodies. Do you take care of things you hate? Neither do kids. It’s not “for their own good” . Their own good is to be raised to believe that they are incredible beings who deserve to be respected and treated well by themselves and others, and taught true, correct information about what constitutes health.
If Michelle Obama was for childhood health, I’d be behind her 100%, but as long as she is waging a war against children I’ll find myself fighting on the other side, the side where we work to empower kids to be mentally healthy, have high self-esteem, and take care of their bodies without shame or self-hatred.