And here I thought a dieting office was bad...

It just keeps getting worse, doesn't it? This whole obesophobia* deal. Seriously. Since when did fat become scary? In fact, here's a little clip of adipose tissue:

Most cells aren't the pretty looking under that type of microscope. Those cells are just...little bundles of energy.

So what's so scary?

This is: a whole town in suburban Boston went on a diet. For one year. Having it be aimed at adults would be bad enough, but this was aimed at children (!!!!). Seriously. Seriously. Children do NOT need to be losing weight.

The overall premise of the study was to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in the school cafeteria (good, in my opinion. The veggies I remember from school lunch were downright nasty...all canned and mushy and stuff). The city also built more parks and bike paths. Also good. Exercise and being outside is fun, and can lift mood, etc.

My beef with it is this: it wasn't aimed at health and fun. It was aimed at "reducing obesity." Why can't a town just build a bike path and a couple of parks to improve quality of life? Or offer a wider variety of foods to children to get them to expand their horizons? But no. It has to "reduce obesity" or have some other purported health effect.

Researchers say it worked. They said the study children lost just under one pound of overweight during the year in the study.

Pardon me, but would someone explain what "a pound of overweight" is? And why growing children should be losing weight? Or not gaining as much?

A researcher tried to answer that question:

"All children are gaining weight because they are growing," she said. "We want to prevent weight gain over and above what they need to for development."

Ah, but the title of the news article was "Kids avoid weight gain on diet" which isn't exactly the same as kids gain less weight on diet. Or kids gain one pound less than average on diet. In fact, the article the above quote was excerpted from (on the same subject) was: Healthy Eating Program Slims School Kids.

Okay, I get it. Let's indoctrinate our children even more that fat is bad and thin is good and if you're not thin, you're fat. Period. Wow. Thanks. I never would have been aware of that. And the only measure of health is weight- that is all that appears to be measured in this study. Or at least that's all that was focused upon.

The difference in weight between the study group and the control group was less than one pound, on average. There was about 75,000 people enrolled in the study. Any sort of difference would have been significant. If two people went on a diet, and Person A lost 10 lbs and Person B lost 9 lbs, that wouldn't be a significant difference. That could easily be due to chance. Well, when you take lots and lots of people, even the smallest differences aren't going to be chalked up to chance alone. So the difference might be statistically significant, but is it practically significant?

And even if it is, are programs like this a good idea?

I think not.

One 10 year old said that she now eats fruits or veggies with dip after school instead of milk and cookies. She tells reporters that she feels better. All well and good. A steady diet of milk and cookies isn't the greatest. However, as an afternoon snack for an active kid, fruit or veggies and dip is NOT going to fuel her adequately. Maybe she'll eat more chips after dinner. Or maybe she'll develop an eating disorder.

As well, I'm wondering if parents were given the chance to opt out. Or if that would even be practical given that the whole frigging town was on the diet. I'd move. Seriously. I would. I could even do it based that I might become completely deranged and do something stupid. In fact, all parents were sent home fact sheets about the benefits of low fat diets and exercise.

Did they include the dangers of not enough fat in the diet and too much exercise? I highly doubt that.

When I look at articles like these, there's always one fat person, unidentified, lumbering around and eating. As if that's all fat people did. Or as if all thin people did was walk around in a leotard with a sweatband. Why don't they show them chatting with friends? Or at the bar? Or watching a movie? These are normal human activities, NOT reserved solely for the thin.

Yet one more reason I am glad I have yet to reproduce.
*Hah! I invented another word! If you have previously invented this word and would like to claim it, send me documentation, including time and date of invention, and I will happily credit this word to you. Cheers!


Danyel said...

I really have been enjoying your blog posts! I'm trying super hard to get myself established in this blogging community. Hope all is well...

Charlynn said...

Why is it that positive, healthy changes such as eating more fruit and being more active need to be made in conjunction with dieting? Why is this connection constantly made, to the point where an entire city does it? This is a scary reflection on our society's attitudes toward "health" and weight, especially when kids are involved. I hope they follow up on the kids that participated in the study - I'd like to know if the changes had any long-term effect, positive or negative. How many of these kids will develop eating disorders?

carrie said...


Thank you for the kind comments. The initial little bit when you start blogging can be a little ho-hum is anyone out there feeling. But it's worth it!


Exactly. People should eat fruits and veggies because they taste good, not simply because they're "good for you." And the evidence of *how* good is lacking, to say the least.

Part of it is funding: the National Institutes of Health, the CDC have lots of money to spend on "obesity prevention." If someone wants to conduct a study on, well, anything health-related, the easiest way to get money is to "prevent obesity." I'm more interested in quality of life. But that's hard to measure.

I could go on and on- one of my projects in grad school was to design an obesity intervention. I told the prof that nothing worked, ergo my project was *completely pointless*. She said do it anyway and then gave me a C because "it wouldn't work." I talked her up to an A- because I could pin her down that I told her it wouldn't work.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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