How to prevent childhood obesity

Okay, for the first part of the blog, we're going to assume that childhood obesity can and should be prevented. So bear with me.

I was watching the news this afternoon, and an interview came on with a local Weight Watchers guru (who I think has lost MORE weight through multiple facelifts) and a young woman who had lost 55 pounds on Weight Watchers.

I roll my eyes. Yet another weight loss story.

This woman (a nurse at a prestigious hospital), said that she had always been "heavy," even as a child, and had always thought of herself as the fat girl. This I can relate to. My body type isn't dainty or waif-like. Never was. I understand this all too well.

The ludiocrity of this interview was just starting. The nurse said, now that she's thin, she can actually feel good about herself.

Honey, I hate to break it to ya, but that's temporary. If you gain even a little weight back (quite likely), you're gonna feel like utter crap. And then you diet again so you feel better. It's not an eating disorder per se, but it can be an unhealthy obsession with food and weight.

The sad thing is, it's quite normal in our society. If a friend asks if a pair of pants makes her butt look fat, it's like entering a mine field. You can't say yes, because the said friend will freak the hell out. And if you say no, she won't believe you. It's this odd female dialogue that goes on.

Female 1: I am so fat. I can't wait to start losing some of this weight.
Female 2: You think you're fat? No, I'm fat. You're a toothpick compared to me.
F1: Seriously, look at my butt! It's huge!
F2: Not compared to mine. Besides, you have a great figure.
F1: It's only a great figure if you're posing as Venus of Willendorf.
F2: But you're well-proportioned. My hips are way too big for my body.

And on and on it goes. Sometimes, I think asking if I look fat in something is a subtle way of fishing for a compliment. That I might actually look okay or even- gasp!- good. Another thing that question does for me is to help combat my continuing anxieties about fat. In a sense, I know I'm probably not going to get a safe answer. On the other hand, I need that answer, that reassurance. I am terrified of being fat. I'm not terrified of fat people, or of fatness in general, just of me, Carrie, being fat. We need those lies, sometimes.

This "fat talk" has been called a mandatory part of female life these days. A way of bonding. Men have beer. Women discuss pant sizes and BMIs.

Women who have been fat and have dieted their way (I initially typed in "weigh." Go figure.) to eternal happiness and bliss have also expressed concern over their own children's fates.

The nurse who was being interviewed by the over face-lifted WW guru said that she wanted to keep her kids from going through what she went through (the teasing and low self-esteem). A good, noble idea. But she was going to do it by telling them how awful it was to be a fat kid.

Brilliant. If a kid is genetically predisposed to be larger, and you're telling them fat kids are called names, teased, hated by society and the only way to prevent this is to be thin, then you're only further lowering your child's self worth. Shame never results in lasting behavior change.

Emphasizing eating a wide variety of foods, of eating when you're hungry, stopping when you're full, along with moving your body for fun, that's how you can help your child feel better about themselves. Not by telling them how awful it is to be fat. I doubt a single American child out there doesn't think of fat people as some sort of lesser species.

I think a mother's ability to relate to their child's problems (what it's like to be teased or singled out) is great, and can be quite helpful. But saying, "You wouldn't get teased as much if you weren't fat," is so horribly wrong.

That's the one thing in the world I wish I could put an end to. Self-hatred. Yes, poverty, world hunger, and a cure for AIDS are right up there, but self-hatred kills, too. Not always literally, but it can leave you mentally and spiritually dead.

In it's place, I would like self-acceptance. It's the only way.

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8 comments:

Laura Collins said...

SO important! (and well said, too!)

I think people would get this better if they used this analogy. A parent wants to protect his child from racist comments and beliefs, so he says "change your skin color and hair texture so people won't tease you or think bad things about you."

Racism and aesthetic bigotry have way too much in common.

Jeanne said...

Right on, Carrie!! (Or should I say "Write on!")

Actually, if we were able to "cure" self-hatred, perhaps world hunger and AIDS and all the other horrible problems in this world might also ease. If we all were taught to love ourselves AND accept others for their uniqueness, there wouldn't be the stigma attached to illness and poverty. AND (gasp) perhaps we might all help each other!

Well, we can dare to dream...

Sarah said...

Self-acceptance. Can't imagine it right now. Want to get there.

Great post.

Willow said...

I can relate to this so much, as a parent whose child has been teased & called fat, and having her see me struggle with anorexia, I am trying very hard to make sure she learns to like herself for being who she is, not what she looks like, what she wears etc.

Charlynn said...

The last sentence says it all.

mary said...

love it Carrie!

/****** /***** /******

Sarah, I know you don't know me but I hope you begin to imagine it! Only you can accept yourself and you can do it.

carrie said...

All,

Yep, self-acceptance is a tough one for me. I always see people who are "better" (read: thinner, better at their trade/craft, actually togeter and not faking it, etc) and then I think, "Well I suck in comparison."

Granted, I don't compare myself to Pulitzer Prize winners, but still.

Something to work on.

I would like to say, "I am how I am and if you don't like it, go shove it."

Alas, not there yet. Hoping to be, however.

Lindsay said...

I'm new to reading your blog but I just have to say that I agree whole-heartedly with your dream of ending self-hatred.

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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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