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:


Eating With Others said...

As a former chunky kid, it was very rough. You are treated different and like less of a person. This could all end very badly. I understand the desire to help people get healthy but this is so dangerouse. I was yo-yo dieting from the time I was 12. I never ended up in treatment till I hit 40- by then 12 years of a very abusive ED.

Katie said...

I've been dieting since before I can remember. My mother brags all the time about how little weight she gained when she was pregnant, and it just makes me cringe. I'm so worried about what Mrs. Obama might do and think about the irony that if she were my mother's child, she would have been told all the time that's she's too fat (which I don't believe to be true, but my mother most certainly would).

Harriet said...

There are things that Mrs. Obama could do that would be wonderful. For instance:

Increase access to fresh food for poor people.
Support CSAs and other farm-to-market initiatives that benefit both farmers and consumers.

But the potential for doing real damage is clear. We don't know how to make people thin over the long term. We do know how to make people feel self-loathing and shame in a way that will stay with them forever.

Anonymous said...

i know i was a tall fat kid and by 12 was doing slimfast at school. i tried them a meal.....weight watchers....jenny pills.....exersize 16 tht had ballooned into a full fledged eating disorder which has ruined my deeth and digestive track...before MIchelle Obama takes the "loose wight fatty kid" stance she needs to see what those attitudes do in real life.....this skinny crazy and obesity epidemic has a very real side...and i bet 5-10 years down the road we will see a spike in childhood ED....but we wont see it because they are being skinny for their own health. (/headesk)

mariposai said...

This is indeed treading on thin ice and much caution should be exercised...I think in general there should be more attention paid to promoting health (and what constitutes good health) rather than simply avoiding being overweight (or underweight as the case may be).

Sarah x

Anonymous said...

Come on people,I think it's a good idea what the First Lady is talking about.I support her all the way. We have to get our young kids into P.E. again, from sitting in front of the tv, from sittng playing video games for hours and hours. Eating junk food while talking on the cell phone, lying around. The doctor told my nephew he was on the verge of having diabetes and high blood pressure. He's 9.Less see what we can do to help everyone, mentally and physically. And maybe we can help those who feel the need to make fun of overweight kids.

Harriet said...


I'm all for getting kids into P.E. and into great food.

But what if those changes don't make them thinner?

I'm afraid the research is very clear on this point. HEALTH is quite separate from WEIGHT. I would like the First Lady to focus on children's health rather than the numbers on the scale. Then maybe she can do some good.

But if she sticks with her plan to "shape up" American kids by telling them they're too fat, she runs a grave risk of doing more harm than good. Especially if her campaign consists of words and slogans and doesn't actually create access to PE, or good food, or help transport poor kids to after school activities, or any of the other dozens of things that really might improve kids' lives.

Danielle said...

"Fighting" obesity. Enough said.

Fight Crime.

War on Drugs.

Obesity = Crime/Drugs??

It really makes me ill to find myself in a situation where people with fat on their bodies need to be fought, and in the center of a battle... If I am going to be healthy the last thing on earth that I need is a hard-ass, authoritarian climate.

I mean... War on Mental Retardation? America's Battle on Depressed People?

Why not make it a mission to get ALL America's Children healthcare (what a thought for a foundation of health?). Leave weight out of it!!

Harriet said...

Amen sister.

Rev Burn said...

Mrs Obama should be teaching HAES (Health At EVERY Size) With HAES it is impossible to be "too fat."

Anonymous said...

I think that mrs. Obama should start with kids because having a good weight at a young age is good, now most kids are over weight because of the eating habbits that their parents have and they do the same. More and more science studies show that most people are the problem of their weight. There are not ginetic information that says that a person will be over weight no matter what they do. The world over is having a very big broblem with fat people and it is becoming one of the most exspensive cost to most countries, at the rate things are going the human population must do somthing to slow it down and stop it as soon as possiable. This is not a joke. everyone should not have to fell the pain of it so things must be done and fast. with around 70% of americans over weight and that does not mean a thing REALLY? this is a complicatied subject and things need to be seen with very, very open eyes. are futur is at stake here.