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Here is a Metro West Daily News blog entry about some scaremongering "childhood obesity" billboards that are being shown in the Boston area. You can leave a comment about whether the billboards are offensive and whether they will increase the harrassment of fat children.

http://blogs.metrowestdailynews.com/MWNow/?p=1271

Here is my comment:
As a child I was reasonably active with some athletic skills - I ran, played tennis and softball, did cartwheels, biked for miles at a time, and climbed trees.

I was also a little pudgy. Physical activity did not make me thin.

Other children teased me for being fat.

My parents tried desperately to make me thin throughout my childhood. I was on a skim milk diet when I was six months old. When I was older, I cried from hunger in the afternoons before dinner. I was not allowed to snack. None of this made me thin.

Today at age 45 I am very fat. I am convinced that my size is partly the result of ongoing food restriction in my childhood. Studies have shown that children who experience food restriction and hunger become unable to pay attention to hunger cues. Their bodies become super-efficient at processing food and storing fat. They are therefore at a much greater risk of becoming and staying fat as adults than children who are allowed to eat when they are hungry.

The MetroWest billboards of fat children, along with the hateful, scaremongering text, will frighten parents. Clearly, frightening parents is what you intend. Many people will respond by putting their children on calorie-restrictive diets. This will cause even more adults to become and stay fat in the long run.

Therefore, if you want to INCREASE the number of FAT adults and children, just keep running the billboards as they are.

If you want to IMPROVE THE HEALTH of adults and children, then get rid of these hateful billboards, and substitute information about staying active and eating well.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
the_siobhan
Feb. 15th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
I am somewhat encouraged by the fact that all of the comments appear to be negative.
firecat
Feb. 15th, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
Me too, but I know that's partly because the blog post is being publicized among the small HAES community. I suspect it will garner more fat-hating comments as time goes on.
sarahmichigan
Feb. 15th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for speaking up. The comments from a couple of doctors who criticized the ad made me want to cry with happiness.
michaelsullivan
Feb. 15th, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
Here's what I wrote when I couldn't help myself after clicking on that link:


---------
I am going to start with a comment on your question. You write as a closer to your post here:

“What would get your attention, if not these billboards?”

I encourage you to think about this question in light of the experiences that have been shared by fat people in the comments.

Do you honestly believe that there exists a single person in this country who is more than moderately obese who is not *daily* made aware of this fact, and of the approbrium that this society heaps on their condition? Do you honestly believe that fat people are fat because no one has gotten their *attention*?

The constant barrage of apparently well-meaning medical opinions is abuse. If you don’t think it’s a constant barrage, that’s because you aren’t fat. It is. Trust me. I get opinions about my weight and what I should do about it at least once a month. And I’m just pudgy. People who look like the person in that billboard picture get unsolicited medical advice nearly every single day of their lives.

Imagine what it would be like to live in a world where about once a day, maybe even more, you got unsolicited medical advice about a problem you have — all of which you’ve already heard many times before, and most of which is completely ignorant, even negligent — and your “advisors” all assume that the problem is basically your own fault. For instance, suppose that you are in a wheelchair and that most of the people you meet think that not only did you bring it on yourself by undertaking some overly risky activity, but that you aren’t getting proper medical followup, and that they (who don’t have and know very little about your condition) have the expertise to help you out, and let you know what you *should* be doing about your problem. All under the premise of being *helpful*, and making sure that your problem has your *attention*.

That’s what life is like for a very fat person in the USA today. Ask anyone with a BMI over 40 and they will tell you.

If you want to know about diets, ask a fat person. They’ve heard it all. You think you know more than they do? Why? Do you think you know more about X cancer than someone who has it? Do you think you know more about broken bones than someone who’s in a cast? Unless you’ve been there, or are a medical expert, chances are you would *never* have the chutzpah to lecture someone with a medical condition, letting them know everything you’ve heard about what they should and shouldn’t do. Unless that condition is that they are fat. That, we know *everything* about, and of course, if the fat person actually knew any of it, they *wouldn’t be fat*, so we have to tell them! It couldn’t possibly be that our prescriptions aren’t a magic bullet!

That’s the underlying assumption of this billboard, and it’s the underlying assumption of your question. It’s abusive and ignorant. Read, listen, and learn, and stop lecturing people who already know ten times as much about a subject as you do. It’s like a white person lecturing African americans on the experience of racism. Get over yourself.

Michael

-------
firecat
Feb. 15th, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
Brilliant! Thanks for posting a comment!
mjlayman
Feb. 15th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)
And it isn't always true. I hear "You must have been a fat child" fairly often, and I wasn't. Until I got sick, I was 135 and 5'8" and my ribs showed. I have pictures of this. The doctors know I got fat (and fatter) during the two long hospitalizations and nobody knows how or why and no diets, even a 5000-calorie one, have made my weight change. So they don't worry about it and neither do I. I think people say that because they want to think they were a skinny child and so they won't get fat.
firecat
Feb. 15th, 2007 10:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, I know a number of fat adults who were thin as children.
ruth_lawrence
Feb. 16th, 2007 01:04 am (UTC)
..including me.

the childhood gauntness was due to asthma, and the fat,largely, to cortisone used to treat it.
kmd
Feb. 17th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC)
And me.

Thin child. Chubby adolescent. Didn't get truly morbidly obese until after my first serious diet.
dancing_star
Feb. 15th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
As a very fat adult, who was a fat child, I think the billboards will cause the problem to be worse not better. I know with the teasing I got in school I withdrew.

I remember being teased in K for being fat, what's sad is no one told me how beuitful I was, I look at my K pictures now and see a beuitful girl, but by then I already hated my body because of all the teasing. If I'd been left alone who knows what might have happened.

My mom put me on diet after diet, force activity after forced activity. I know she meant well, but I'm positive the diets, the being treated so differnt, not having similar lunches as my peers, cause far more problems than they solved.

In elementry school I was also pointed out as my school pulled us fat kids out of our classes once a week, for a special class to teach us how to eat, how to move, how to dress, how to be normal. To berate us if we'd gain weight when we stepped on the scale, and of course praise if we lost weight.
firecat
Feb. 15th, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
I look at my K pictures now and see a beuitful girl, but by then I already hated my body because of all the teasing.

Yes, yes, yes.
femmediva
Feb. 16th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)
**applause** for your response. I completely agreee that restricting kids' calorie/food intake is the absolute worst thing a parent can do. Not only because of how it completely messes up the metabolism, but also the nutrients kids need that they won't get. Thank you for posting this. I also likes response #1 especially as it pointed out where some of the other real problems lie, asd offered solutions.
michaelsullivan
Feb. 16th, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the first response was brilliant.

I am amazed by how many institutions do various hand-wringing programs aimed at countering obesity, and then serve meals that contain little or no healthy food. My wife described being in a group that was lectured about obesity and a need for self-care at a church hierarchy function, where a meal was served and pretty much the only options were high-carb, high-sugar processed foods. no meat, no vegetables or legumes, no fruit. Just pastries, doughnuts, cookies and chips.

Nice.

So we make it much harder for kids to eat well and exercise properly, and then we berate and hand-wring over all the kids that are now "fat". And of course, half of the thin kids are equally unhealthy for the same reasons, they just have brains/bodies that don't respond to their inactivity and malnutrition by getting fat.
firecat
Feb. 16th, 2007 04:47 pm (UTC)
They would rather spend their grant money on publishing billboards than actually making institutional changes.
ailbhe
Feb. 26th, 2007 12:27 pm (UTC)
no time to read into it but rah rah rah from here where kids are unusually large and people sometimes ask stupid questions.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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