Before the month is out, I’d like to report and thereby release my annual reticence about focusing attention so directly on childhood obesity. If I could, I would turn the matter inside out or upside down, but since my typing options are limited, I am just mixing the whole thing around–and hence the title.
Chances are you don’t even know that this is the month that deems we bring special attention to childhood obesity, albeit with good intention. Hopefully, fat kids don’t know it is either. Fat kids are not clambering for any special attention–their weight brings them more than they should ever have to bear every month of the year. Perhaps we should celebrate Childhood Obesity Lack of Attention Month and lighten up on those whose bodies bear our national shame.
I have written about my feelings on this before, and in a personal exercise of trying to write a short post, I will keep things brief by referring to those previous ones. But why I continue to be peeved is partly because I thought that awareness months were for concerns and conditions that would not otherwise garner attention. For example, September is also National Sickle Cell Month and Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month. Yet, obesity–for both young and old has not gone unnoticed. Since we realized there was a problem there has been a very public outcry and assault on the situation. The fight against it has been on heralding the call to eat less and move more. Master the equation.
But more so, I see the focus on obesity as missing the larger point. Yes, there has clearly been a marked increase in the prevalence of obesity in this country, and globally since the 1980s, according to the indicators that are used to measure such things. And, yes there are associated health concerns and consequences for some (though not all) of those who have turned their states from blue to orange and red on those troubling maps presented by the Center for Disease Control. The reasons for this are complex, confusing and multi-factorial. The obvious villains of eating more and moving less get the brunt of the blame but there are other nefarious players as well.
While we strive to figure out how to get a handle on the situation and direct many resources to worthy intervention and prevention efforts, my point is that the aspects of the problem that we decry for contributing to obesity, also have impacted other facets of our society’s health and that of its children. It is pretty obvious that we are suffering from lousy food, excessive intake and inadequate physical activity, but if we put those forces in a prisoner lineup, then we must also charge and convict them for not only contributing to weight gain but to behavior and learning problems, depression, anxiety, immune system disorders, allergies, and other maladies as well. It is not only the many who are vulnerable to weight gain who are affected. However, those who aren’t, are also being held hostage by the environmental and social influences that define our lives.
While it is true that our economy is burdened by health conditions related to weight for which the bell has been mightily tolled, so it is by these other impacts on our children. Gather together teachers, behavioral specialists, pediatricians, nutritionists and all those who tend to our young, and I am sure they will describe concerns broader than just children’s Body Mass Index (BMI). Dietary and activity level influences may be involved there as well.
I must perforce explain that I get the gravity of the weight situation. But I cynically bemoan the multitude of poor policies that fostered the crisis and the policymakers who then woke up screaming, hey, let’s do something about those obese children. If we want a month, then may I suggest we rename it, “Tending to Our Children’s Birthright of Health Awareness Month” and stop just focusing on obesity. I believe all children will benefit from such a shift in attention and it may actually prevent some harm.
For those who are interested in mindful approaches to specific childhood feeding issues and raising competent eaters, I guide you to the wise work of Ellyn Satter, Dr. Katja Rowell, and Dina Rose. (Update: Also, to the Guidelines for Media Portrayal of Individuals Affected by Obesity which addresses matters associated with weight bias, stigma, and discrimination.)
What are your thoughts?
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In health, Elyn
Related (directly and indirectly) Posts: A Bushel and A Peck of Ways to Address Childhood Obesity; The Humanist Imperative to Nourish and Care for Our Children; The Tempted Temperament; Skinny Boys
My Plate Haiku
Peach baskets brimming
Raspberries ripe on the bush
Apples soon to come.
(Summer sped by and fall is upon us. Apples are here!)
Happy Birthday to Rose’s wonderful Daddy. Healing prayers for friend Jodi who has nourished so many with her wonderful cooking and abundant love. Blessings to Crystal on her wedding to Oliver next week!
A point well taken, and well expressed. Thank you, as always, for your wisdom, insight and compassion.
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