Supreme Ironies (or, they really don't get it, do they?)

I would like to hand out another Smooshy-faced Cat Award, this time to one of the most prestigious medical groups of our nation: the American Medical Association.

Their newest campaign against "Childhood Obesity" definitely disproves the fact that doctors are, indeed, smart. I'm sure there are a few sharp crayons out there, but the rest? It's time to buy a new box of Crayolas, kids.

This was their latest proposal: Expert Panel Says to Call Kids 'Obese'. One of the experts was the illustrious Centers for Disease Control (for whom I used to have much respect). The other was the good ol' AMA. An exerpt from the article:

Dr. Reginald Washington, a committee spokesman and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Tuesday that some doctors have avoided the blunt terms for "fear that we're going to stigmatize children, we're going to take away their self-esteem, we're going to label them."

The recommended terms cut to the chase, at least medically, but don't mean that doctors should be insensitive or use the label in front of every patient, he said. "We need to describe this in medical terms, which is 'obesity.' When we talk to an individual family, we can be a little more cognizant of their feelings and more gentle, but that doesn't mean we can't discuss it," Washington said. "The evidence is clear that we need to bring it up."

Answer me this: why shouldn't doctors be aware of and respond to a patient's feelings? Why don't you ask the kid what s/he likes to eat and eats regularly, and what activities they enjoy. Hell, ask them if they're happy.

And pray tell, Dr. Washington, to what evidence are you referring?

Ah, yes. Statistics. Mark Twain said it best: There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Younger kids are developing Type 2 diabetes. Almost 1/3 of our children are 'overweight.'

Yet the irony is that the children with Type 2 diabetes are quite the minority, and I don't know that anyone has done a study on any possible genetic or underlying metabolic causes for this. Another question is this: are children any unhealthier now than before?

See here's the thing: people are confusing cause and effect. It's like the current debate about mercury in childhood vaccines. Study after study has confirmed no relationship between thimerosol (a preservative containing mercury) and the onset of autism. So why the debate in the first place? The onset of autism typically happens around 18 months. Which is about the same time as some childhood vaccines. Ergo, the vaccines (or the mercury) caused the autism.

Autism is a serious, heartbreaking disease. I've seen it in my relatives. Research on the causes of autism is necessary (just like it is for eating disorders). The timing of vaccination happening around the time of autism symptom onset doesn't mean that there's a causal relationship.

It's the same with so-called 'childhood obesity' and it's 'epidemic.' Just because kids weigh more today doesn't mean that they are less healthy. They are less likely to die of infectious disease. They are less likely to die in automobile accidents. Why not worry about something we know actually harms a child's health, like lack of insurance? Vaccines are life-saving. So is food. Sandy Szwarc, in her Junkfood Science blog, put it best:

"Far more young people are dying from anorexia than . . . from being fat."

This comment is coupled with an intriguing and haunting research study done by the CDC that a young person's perception of their weight (either too overweight or too underweight) drastically increases their likelihood of attempting suicide. This was NOT related to their actual weight. Rather, it was their perception of their weight that increased the risk.

Talk about speaking out of both sides of your mouth there, you CDC peeps. "Kids are too fat!" you say, yet a little itty-bitty news article says "Kids who think they're fat are more likely to commit suicide."

Solution? Tell kids they're obese. Suicide kills more teens than any type of overweight.
Pat yourselves on the back for a job well done. You have outdone the veritable Jonathan Swift on creating your own Modest Proposal.

FYI: A Modest Proposal was a short satirical essay written by Swift on the near-famine conditions in Ireland in the 1700s. His solution? Parents should eat their own children, thereby lessening their financial burden and providing sustenance.


Katy said...

I literally JUST finished reading this article, and, with steam coming out of my ears, I came here looking for sanity.

And found it.

Thank God.

I don't even know WHERE to begin with this article. How about the part where the writer misstated the BMI ranges for children? To be an overweight child, you can have a BMI in the normal adult range. At most ages this probably makes sense, but this holds true for kids post-puberty. In fact, there is no provision on the BMI charts for kids who reach puberty earlier than their peers. (A thought--could earlier puberty be part of the increase in numbers of "fat kids?") Yup, speaking from personal experience here, which is probably why this SO riles me up. I hit puberty on the early end, but more importantly, FAST. Within the span of a year I'd grown five inches, gotten my period and sprouted hips and boobs and curves all those other things that come with being, um, female. And went from being "normal" weight to "overeweight." Which I never questioned. Up til recently, I thought I was just really fat at fourteen. (Coincidentally the same time I began flirting with Mr. Ed...could there be a connection? Nah, my doc telling me to watch my weight and cut out sweets and carbs couldn't have had ANYTHING to do with it. If she hadn't said it, she would have been sparing my feelings and also sparing me the truth. Of course.) Just the other day, I went and took a look at those BMI charts and, lo and behold, discovered that, had I been an adult, my weight at fourteen would have been "normal." Well I had an adult body--so of COURSE I had an adult weight! My body basically stayed that size and shape for the next four years (except I grew a couple more inches and gained some more weight)--treading the line of overweight until, miraculously, I reached 18 and I was NORMAL! (But scarred. And eating disordered.)

And who do I have to thank for getting me to that normal weight? Time and changing charts, not my doctor's admonitions. But I'm sure she takes credit for it...but somehow I doubt she takes credit for my ED.

Another story that I doubt will get much, if any coverage, is this:

It says restricting and overexercising fucks up your bones, regardless of weight of menstruation.

Gee, I wonder what those "fat" kids are going to do after their docs tell them they are now officially obese?

(Sorry for the rant...)

mary said...

It seems to me that without human kindness we are still living in primitive times, still without the ability to have what matters.
Ironically I find that there's a large degree of CONTROL THE WORLD mentality spewing from this type of report. 'Someone' it seems might perturbed at the numbers, at having to look upon people they perceive as physically imperfect therefore has made it their personal mission to save us. Almost an ED mindset, the kind of nasty words that one must learn to ignore in order to recover! Shame they think it would help to insult people by showing their great ability to diagnose with cruelty instead of compassion.

carrie said...


Amen, sister! I had the same experience as you- I reached my adult height and weight at 12. By the charts, I would be considered overweight. Now? Well within normal range.

And I did see that NYT article. ::shakes head:: Somehow I don't think the doctors will pay as much attention to that one.


You're right- what happened to a little concern and compassion? I hate charts, the way they dictate every aspect of our health. Some people are never going to fit the charts but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them.

mary said...

New specialties create new jobs. Anyone else see the guinea pig factor at work here?
There's a Dr. who's been Oprah lately and I get the feeling he doesn't just want to teach us health. He has an obsession with PERFECT people. He shares some very good stuff and valid info but when he tells us we all need to have a waist that's X number of inches and no more for the ultimate health risks it seems he's causing more stress and feeding into the anal minds of a mindset that is focused on size.
One of your post sharers recently said it P-E-R-F-E-C-T-L-Y when she said that the peace and contentment her family got from making ice cream sundaes was soothing to the mind, even with the fat content. Stand up and take a bow whoever you are and I did say 'perfectly'!
No words shall be forbidden...just going to find new ways to use them.
Someone needs to tell the experts that people come in all size, shape, and color!

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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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