Friday, March 5, 2010

the WAR against childhood obesity

i'm still worrying about the WAR against CHILDHOOD OBESITY. I capitalize these words because they seem to have taken on a life of their own. i don't like the name -- who wants to be signaled and out and called "obese", particularly when you're a child?!!! and who wants to know there's a WAR against your body?

i've made comments on other people's blogs, but it keeps sticking in my head -- Why aren't we hearing more about the feelings behind the obesity? what's going on that a kid is eating enough to be medically obese? arent there studies that show that if children are left on their own and given a lot of choices, they pick pretty healthy foods and don't overeat? why are heavier children (did i mention i hate the word "obese". i crinkle my whole face while typing it) choosing to eat so much and so often junky food? most kids i know would rather be outside running around. why do some kids prefer to stay inside and watch tv? there are some real issues here that fruits and vegetables can't solve on their own!

i'm also not hearing much about teaching acceptance to more "normal" weight kids. i was picked on mercilessly when i was an "obese" child. it's painful to remember how lonely and confused I was. why was everyone making fun of me? how come no one wanted to be my friend? of course, i'd run to food, literally my only "friend" when i was 11 and 12 and stuff myself until scared -- i thought i was going to die because i'd eaten so much i couldn't breath.

Mean kids --yet another problem fruits and vegetable can't solve.

it makes me think that there is something fattest somewhere in all of this campaign againST CHILDHOOD OBESITY. everyone keeps talking about the weight and those darn fruits and vegetables and portion control. i've opened my mouth and told a lot of people in my own circle that this whole campaign against CHILDHOOD OBESITY bothers me in its approach. i fear it will stigmatize children, make them feel they're not good enough the way they are. yes, of course, we need to help our children eat healthfully and get moderate exercise. but we should work toward Childhood Wellness or Healthy Childhoods (guess it doesn't sound as a grand as a major WAR AGAINST CHILDHOOD OBESITY.) No one really likes what i say. they usually get defensive. i talk about therapy and people get bored. I sense that we're not seeing the whole child; we're just seeing an overweight kid. and no one likes the fat kid, right.

i gather that people think this is a "safe" issue. everyone's patting himself on the back for joining the WAR. after his last heart procedure, the very first thing i heard about president clinton was a statement he issued saying he was feeling better and was ready to go back to his work against CHILDHOOD OBESITY. i'd rather they focussed on poverty and education, not skim milk.

I haven't heard anything about telling kids that WHO THEY ARE is great regardless of what size they wear. if everyone's were waging a war against my body, i'd need to know that my essence is fine and i'm unconditionally loved no matter what i weigh.

why doesn't mrs. obama add therapists to her cadre of nutritionists and medical doctors. (there may well be, but i'm just hearing about the medical doctors and nutritionists). my mother took me to lots of those, in addition to weight watchers, et. al.

when i was 11, i was miserable,lonely and so confused about why everyone made fun of me. i craved unconditional love, not a mother who seemed to love me more when i weighed less. during my early teens, i rarely weighed less. instead, i ate. and ate. and ate.

but why was i eating compulsively? it wasn't that i didn't like salad. i've famously always loved vegetables. no, i ate because my parents hated each other and fought constantly yet neither would move out for FIVE miserable years. i ate because my brother and sister left for college when i was seven and never came home because the atmosphere was so toxic. i ate because my mother got involved with a horrible creepy crazily addicted prescription drug user twenty years her junior and then had him move in with us. i could go on, but i think you have a small part of the picture.

during this horrid period in my life (by the way, the creep never touched me, but other than that, everything SUCKED), i hit nearly 200 pounds. IT FREAKED MY FAMILY OUT.

then i started starving.

and oh the compliments poured in. my mother gloried each time i skipped a meal. she tried to copy my efforts but never did as "well" as I. i think that made her feel badly about herself.

i got all kinds of gifts and new wardrobes EVERYTIME my clothes got a little lose. and we didn't even have much money to spare. but, hallelujah, melissa was getting thin.

you all know my story. when you worship at the church of skinniness, sometimes things go wrong. i was tooooo hungry.

enter bulimia.

it's been 34 years since i was 11. i binged, starved, and puked for 31 of them. what if someone had told me back then that they loved me unconditionally instead of getting me diet pills.

my mother waged one hell of war against my childhood obesity. i hate war.


  1. Ya, it's very easy for people to just focus on physical things, like weight, rather than look into emotional issues. It's a very Western culture type of thinking. Even with anorexia, the focus is often on weight, not the anxiety and depression behind the disease. I'm sure the same is true for obesity. Mrs. Obama's reaction to her own daughters shows the whole problem. That whole situation really irritated me!

  2. It seems to me that childhood obesity is a symptom of adult problems. Adults are supplying crap food to school lunch rooms and their own pantries. Adults are too busy working or pursuing their own interests to provide children with time for active, safe play or nutritious meals. Adults are not focusing on children's emotional needs, leaving a vaccume some turn to food to fill. It's a problem of our modern society that is not easily fixed, as it will require a lot of folks looking in the mirror and taking responsibility for their own situation, as well as a shift from profit-at-any-cost to a true focus on what is best for kids.

  3. Oh, and believe me, having these poor kids pummelled by dodge balls in gym class isn't doing a bit of good. I feel a blog rant brewing...

  4. Right there with you. My mom showed love with food. The more she felt bad about herself the more food there was. Then at the same time as she would feed me more and more, dad would put me on a diet. After they divorced diet with dad, binge with Mom. Talk about messing up a kid.

    I think that kids do need to get out more. They need more exercise, they need to learn more about proper sizes - stop super sizing things, but they need to learn to feel good about themselves for who they are and not try and please everyone else.

    Loved the blog today! Glad you wrote it.

  5. kim; yeah, i just wonder why so many hate fat so much.

    if i do manage to get my MSW, i'd love to work with parents, families, schools and anybody else who'll listen to how to talk about issues of weight, body image and unconditional love (which is really the first thing, isn't it?)

    Vegas Linda Lou; no one hated gym more than i did. i made up every excuse and prayed to break my leg or something, anything to get me out of that class. it felt totally sadistic! wearing shorts AND have to run around while 70 pounds overweight. and i knew i was 70 pounds overweight, because the health teacher yelled it out after she weighed me. SADISTIC, INDEED.

    ksgirl: i really agree. in most socio-economic classes there seems to be a lack of time for the needs of children. both parents have to work, sometimes two jobs; some parents don't have spouses or support systems; some people just do know better. and there's so much STRESS. what's easier than fast food and putting your kid in front of the tv? my cousin's a teacher, and many of her students were raised on junk food and very little supervision. it doesn't make for such a great foundation for the kids.

    thanks for writing. great comments!

    eating alone: talk about mixed messages. yikes. that must have been really, really confusing and frustrating. and so difficult to figure out what YOU should do.

    thank you for saying you like this blog. this one was personal. as i was writing, i was scrunching up, practically in the fetal position, trying to type. these are not good memories.

    i'd really like to aid in the process of helping kids in need to have better memories than ours!

  6. This was such an amazing post I just had to comment. and say I applaud you for writing about this, and for sharing, thank you! It seems people always try and do what they think is best as they hav one idea, and just screw up in another way. I don't want my children to go through what I have been through, I hope I just don't tip them in a completely different direction because of my fears. Children can just be so cruel. kia kaha, stay strong

  7. THANK YOU for this post. Living near DC, all I hear about is Michelle Obama and her quest for "healthier" kids. I think if she focused on children's emotional health she'd be more successful.

  8. lou lou: i'm so glad you stopped by. and glad to find YOUr blog.

    i always worried how i'd raise a child. i don't have children, but i do spend a lot of time with my two nieces, one who's very, very heavy and the other who just thinks she is. i worry so hard about everything i say on the topic of their weights, when it comes up. and they do bring it up a lot. i wish it didn't end up an issue for them. but it did.

    kids are mean. why? (i don't expect you to be able to answer that, by the way.)

    lisa; i wish i lived closer to D.C., so i could storm the place. i've usually respected what mrs. obama has done, but i'm confused this time. i'm sure she's heard some backlash. i wish she would really hear it and listen. and then respond. this seems like a campaign AGAINST something. why not make it a campaign FOR children?

    thinking of you, lisa. it's been a well, "long", year for you in DC. may everything start looking way up right this very minute and then for always.

  9. how can anyone not like the fat kid??? ...

    ... there's just something about the pinch of a chubby cheek that a bean pole kid can't offer ...

    striking a balance AND simultaneously not making someone nuts - there lies the challenge

    btw, GREAT POST!


  10. anonymous; i guess the thing is -- the fat kid does not want to be the fat kid. no one wants to be picked on. the fat kid is the weak kid. living a life in grace encourages kindness to all, no?

    balance IS best. you're a very smart person.

    thank you

  11. This post just made me cry. I believe you've just written down all the feelings I've ever felt about my eating disorder, and the many eating disorders of others.

    I share your sentiment about fighting against childhood obesity. Isn't there enough war out there already? And kids are fighting in schools everyday. Divorce rates are up; parents are fighting more and more. It's enough to make someone seek peace and stability in the only place that they can find it. Food. The last thing I would want to hear in a world with such calamity is that someone is fighting a WAR against my body.

    Of course, I've already wagered a war against myself. Hypocritical, isn't it?

    Okay, rant over. :) But, I seriously do think that the feelings behind eating disorders (that range from starving to compulsive overeating) need to be studied more. Often times, I feel that I'm not really being listened to; that I'm merely another bulimic to be "cured" by "the most esteemed eating disorder phycologist in Virginia." I'm sure that if people listened more, they would be amazed at what they hear.

  12. Why don't they have a war against mean spirited people, against racist people, against rude people, against companies that produce crap food that costs nothing and contributes to obesity. How about a war against sexualisation of children in advertising? How about a war against extreme poverty that still occurs in rich Western countries? How about a war against the cost of hospitals? Or the cost of decent education?

    I could go on and on. I mean, really, there is so much more important stuff that the media could bang on about isn't there? So much more that matters than the size of someone's body?

    People assume that an overweight person must be weak and gormless and thus to be ridiculed. There is always help for drug and alchohol abusers but not so for food addicts. Because in my mind, when a person is eating giant amounts of food there is something else going on.

    A fragmented and uncaring society leads to deep problems behind closed doors.

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  14. Agreed. Ms. Obama could have picked anything else and I would have approved--what about spaying and neutering pets? What about saving wildland from development? What about the drop-out rate or the teen pregnancy rate or in fact, that Mississippi, where she visited, has places where 98% of the women having babies are unwed?

    I am very disappointed that Ms. Obama thinks encouraging little children to be conscious of their weight is the most important thing to focus on. What about the 34,000 who are killed in traffic accidents yearly?

    There just seem to be so many worthy causes. Very disappointed that she has chosen this one.

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