Saturday, October 20, 2012

Article Puts Focus on Kids' Health, Not Weight

Bravo to Utne for reprinting Dawn Friedman's excellent article on childhood obesity, originally published in Brain, Child magazine. Friedman analyzes the war on childhood obesity and its tactics—blaming parents, shaming children, and promoting restrictive diets. These reactions are misguided, she argues, because they assume body size is a choice and they equate weight with health.

Friedman devotes much of her article to illustrating how a blame-and-shame response to obesity does more harm than good. For example:

Shaming promotes unhealthy eating. Friedman herself developed chaotic eating habits after her parents sat her down to tell her she was too fat. She starved, binged, and exercised her way to a smaller size and lost her ability to recognize hunger. Friedman interviews another woman who developed an eating disorder after her father and a family friend chided her about her weight. While still hospitalized for her disorder, the woman was told she needed to lose weight again because she'd rebounded so quickly when she resumed eating. This woman has regained her health and developed a peaceful relationship with food and her body. She now speaks to schoolkids about health and physical activity, pointing out that body shame also prevents kids from exercising.

Equating weight with health ignores the importance of nutrition. A Minnesota-based pediatrician admits she doled out nutritional advice with virtually no relevant training and assumed parents were lying when their children didn't lose weight on restrictive diets. It wasn't until she had a child herself that she researched the medical literature and learned that statistically, fat kids and lean kids don't eat any differently. "I used to see some fat kid walk by with a Starbucks drink with a bunch of whipped cream and think, 'Oh my gosh, what is that parent thinking?'" she told Friedman. "What I didn't see was that his skinny brother was drinking the same thing."

Restricting foods makes them more desirable and leads to overeating. Friedman describes a six-year-old child who "broke into a neighbor's house to get food the little girl wasn't allowed to eat at home." In another example, a poster hanging in a classroom reads THIS IS A NO SWEETS ZONE and pictures a giant cupcake with a red slash through it, reminding kids all day about the yummy foods they're not supposed to eat.

Blaming individuals can lead to discrimination and mistreatment. An ad campaign in Georgia depicts a severely overweight woman and her overweight son sitting across from each other in folding chairs. The boy asks, "Why am I fat?" and the mother hangs her head in shame. The screen cuts to text reading: "75% of parents of overweight kids ignore the problem." Such rhetoric, Friedman points out, can be seen as "a form of state-sanctioned bullying, which lays the groundwork for ostracizing fat kids." After all, if obesity is a shameful condition for which individuals are responsible, we can feel justified in condemning them.

Do yourself a favor and read the entire article. You won't find a pat answer for the obesity crisis, but Friedman will point you toward a clearheaded resource for addressing your own children's nutrition (Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility approach). More significantly, she removes condemnation from our plates so we can focus on the task of feeding our kids.


  1. My boyfriend and I lost a lot of weight following an excellent program! I think it will not be online for a long time, so watch the video now!

    Find out here: Fast Healthy Weight Loss

    Thanks again

  2. In previous years, fitness was defined as the capacity to carry out the day's activities without undue fatigue. Physical fitness is now defined as the body's ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, Click here to read

  3. One of the biggest challenges today, is to stay fit. To follow health fitness tips, you need to make a lot of behavioural changes to achieve the required fitness levels. nootropics

  4. Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article. v tight gel review

  5. If you look at this list, three critical components emerge: Diet, Weight, and Exercise! Now you might think that this only applies to women. health questions

  6. A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up

  7. The website is looking bit flashy and it catches the visitors eyes. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface.
    seat cushion for car

  8. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. CBD Gummies