Friday, January 29, 2010

NAAFA takes on Michelle Obama's crusade against childhood obesity

I wouldn't normally repost a press release. But this one from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance is so well-researched and concisely effective that I can't resist.

Repeat after me, everyone: Shame is not a health-care strategy.


NAAFA Challenges the First Lady

For Immediate Release
January 29, 2010

Oakland, CA – First Lady Michele Obama has recently announced her intention to focus on childhood obesity prevention. NAAFA encourages the First Lady to consider all the research before taking action and supporting any program that may do more harm than good.

Mrs. Obama, please explore and consider the following:

• When important figures such as parents, teachers and peers in children's social environment endorse a preference for thinness and place an importance on weight control, this can contribute to body dissatisfaction, dieting, low self-esteem and weight bias among children and adolescents (Davison & Birch, 2001; Davison & Birch, 2004; Dohnt & Tiggemann, 2006; Smolak, Levine, & Schermer, 1999).

• The stigmatization of large children has increased by 40% over the last 30 years (Latner & Stunkard, 2003).

• Many drugs presently being prescribed to children cause weight gain. There was a 40 fold increase in bi-polar diagnoses in children between 1994 and 2003. 90.6% of youth received a psychotropic medication during bipolar disorder visits. For many, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants were also prescribed. (Arch Gen Psychiatr,. 2007)

• Prescribing dieting is, in effect, prescribing weight cycling, and many people will be fatter in the long run (Mann, 2007).

• Weight-control practices among young people reliably predict greater weight gain, regardless of baseline weight, than that of adolescents who do not engage in such practices (Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2006).

• Based on results from a population-based, longitudinal study with 2,500 teens, Neumark-Sztainer and colleagues at the University of Minnesota (2006) concluded that to prevent obesity and eating disorders, the focus needs to be on health much more than weight. The more weight per se is talked about, the more likely teens are to adopt dangerous dieting behaviors.

• A 2006 study from UCLA suggests our media and cultural obsession with achieving a certain weight does little or no good and may actually undermine motivation to adopt exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits.

• The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated in 2008 that childhood obesity has leveled off.

NAAFA urges the First Lady to:

• Partner with us and our many resources in the scientific and healthcare communities to examine this issue. Fat children are already the targets of merciless bullying. NAAFA urges Mrs. Obama not to support any programs that would create a pervasive bias against fat children.

• Consider Guidelines for Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs found at: Childhood School Plans at and Guidelines for Children at

• Support the Health at Every Size (HAES) tenets which state that healthy habits are good for EVERYONE, no matter what their size. Eat healthy, nutritious foods and enjoy occasional treats. Pay attention to your natural hunger and satiety cues. Move your body in ways that feel good rather than exercise focused solely on weight loss.

"Obesity has a strong genetic component that is expressed in environments that foster sedentary activity and eating an energy dense diet", stated Joanne Ikeda, Nutritionist Emeritus, University of California Berkeley, "Therefore, we encourage First Lady Michelle Obama to promote environmental changes in school settings that support enjoyable physical activity and consumption of a wide variety of nutritious, appetizing foods."

This issue is about the critical need to create environments in which children and adolescents do not feel shame or guilt about their bodies but, rather, are motivated to enjoy healthful eating and active living habits regardless of their body size or shape.

Founded in 1969, NAAFA is a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for fat people. NAAFA works to eliminate discrimination based on body size and provide fat people with the tools for self-empowerment through public education, advocacy, and member support.

On the web:

News flash: A little "extra" weight can be a good thing

Especially if you're over 70, say researchers at the Western Australian Center for Health and Aging.

A recent study shows that normal-weight and obese patients over 70 had slightly higher levels of mortality than those whose BMIs put them into the overweight category--BMIs of 25 to 29.

In an article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the researchers said, "These results lend further credence to claims that the body mass index [BMI] thresholds for overweight and obese are overly restrictive for older people."

Makes sense to me--that "extra weight" is what Ellyn Satter describes as "nutritional resources." Food is fuel, folks. Your body needs food not just to power itself but to fuel resilience, especially as we get older.

Now I want to see them study this same notion in 60-year-olds. I'm curious about what the results might show.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chicago conference! April 26!

If you're in the Chicago vicinity (or even if you're not), please join Maudsley Parents for a day-long conference featuring some of the smartest and most articulate researchers in the field of eating disorders.

Our speakers include Dr. Walter Kaye, director of the University of California San Diego's Eating Disorders Program, and Dr. Daniel Le Grange, director of the University of Chicago's Eating Disorders Program. They're two of my all-time favorite experts, and they'll have some exciting new research results to share. We'll also have a panel of parents who will share their experiences using Family-Based Treatment (FBT) to help their children recover from eating disorders.

Register here before Feb. 28 and the fee is only $40. After March 1, the fee is $50.

I'll be there--I hope to see you!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The decade's worst photoshopping, and it's all done on women

The first decade of the 21st century was apparently the decade of Photoshop. Here, Newsweek magazine takes us through some of the decade's most egregious Photoshopping as applied to women's bodies.

We know this kind of overzealous retouching happens, of course, but seeing it drives home the point: When it comes to women's bodies, our culture is seriously fucked up.

Because really, who is the Photoshopping for? Do men really prefer women who look like praying mantises to women with, well, normal proportions? Or is it women who judge one another (and ourselves) so harshly that we demand an unattainable beauty ideal for ourselves, damn it?

Well, neither. You know who loves images like this? Advertisers. Media advertisers. They're the ones trafficking in fantasies. And what is an unattainable beauty idea if not a fantasy?

So how can we respond? We can boycott the offending advertisers. We can consciously look at slideshows like this, reminding ourselves that the images on the left are not any less beautiful than the ones on the right that have been retouched. Au contraire--in pretty much every case I find the unretouched image far more powerful and moving than the ridiculously overdone fantasy on the right.

**Thanks to Christen Brandt for finding the slideshow!

Let's hear it for Gabby Sidibe's designer

. . . who has the guts to articulate, in an interview with the Washington Post, the sad truth about the fashion business: It exists not to serve women but to use them. As Megan Carpentier over at Jezebel writes, "If a designer wants to design a pair of formal, satin shorts with pleats and pockets because for some godforsaken reason he thinks that's cool, then he's got to find a rail-thin model to wear it, or else his design is going to look as ugly and unflattering as it actually is. If he wants to design clothes for women to wear, then he might actually be forced to take into account the women who will be wearing them."

And thanks to Carpentier for pointing out some of the cognitive dissonance in the story. Which is unsurprising. We as a society are so screwed up on the subjects of weight and health, it's a wonder we don't all burst into tears every time we walk into a clothing store.