NAAFA Condemns First Lady's Anti-Obesity Campaign

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Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427
NAAFA Condemns First Lady's Anti-Obesity Campaign

http://cnsnews.cloud.clearpathhosting.com/news/article/fat-advocacy-group-says-first-lady-s-mes

(CNSNews.com) – A group calling itself the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) says that when First Lady Michelle Obama created her anti-obesity "Let’s Move!" initiative, she unfairly singled out fat kids, turning them into targets.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Monday, NAAFA public relations director Peggy Howell said the First Lady “essentially gave permission to everyone to condemn the children with higher body weights.”

Howell called Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign “well-intentioned, but somewhat misdirected.”

“What I mean by ‘misdirected’ is that rather than educating and encouraging our nation to create healthy practices for all children, focusing on the health of all our children, children of higher body weight have been singled out and the focus of the campaign is on weight reduction and not on improving children’s health.

Howell said Obama’s campaign marginalizes weighty children and turns them into victims.
“Well, how are they marginalized?” Howell asked. “Studies indicate that children of higher body weight are 65 percent more likely to be bullied than children of lower body weight. When our First Lady said that we have to wipeout childhood obesity in one generation, she essentially gave permission to everyone to condemn the children with higher body weights. How this translates in real life is that these children experience more ridicule, more teasing, more bullying, and the perpetrators feel justified in their actions because after all, the First Lady said these kids have to go.”

Howell said being targets -- whether intended or not -- causes heavy children “pain and suffering” – even depression and suicide.

“When children of higher body weight hear we have to wipeout childhood obesity in one generation, for them those words translate to: we have to eliminate obese children. They hear: your body is bad. They hear: thin equals good, fat equals bad. They hear: your body is bad,” Howell said.

She added: “I believe that it was not the intention of the First Lady to cause more pain and suffering for these children, but I also believe that this is one of the consequences of focusing on reducing body size as opposed to improving health. Other consequences include: poor body image, body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, bullying, disordered eating, depression, lower expectations for future success, and sometimes even suicide.”

Howell’s group held the news conference on Monday to propose an addition to the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011, which is a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to help prevent bullying in schools.

S. 506 would require states to collect and report information on “the incidence, prevalence, age of onset, perception of health risk, and perception of social disapproval of bullying and harassment by youth in elementary schools and secondary schools and communities in the State.” It also requires schools to adopt anti-bullying discipline policies.

Bolding mine.

Do you think that by encouraging the country to wipe out childhood obesity, the First Lady is condemning overweight children, or encouraging the bullying of overweight children? Do you think that her message over-emphasizes body size rather than over all health? Is it a harmful message?

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

I don't think it's harmful, condeming or encourages bullying, but it sometimes does seem like the message does emphasize size a little more than it should. It's not like she's advocating for their death or even singling out the fat kids to eat healthy and exercise.

I don't see how anyone could twist the campaign into her giving "permission" to bully fat kids. :rolleyes:

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

Wow. Just spent some time on the NAAFA web site. Never heard of this group.

I think that they might get more traction by offering up positive solutions rather than seemingly complaining/playing victim.

I think that Michelle Obama is doing a good thing. Of course some people will take issue with it, that is their right.

Did the "war on literacy" make people bully bad readers? Or the war on drugs lead to druggies getting mercilessly picked on?

Fat kids got picked on sometimes when I was in elementary and middle school ~ but so did skinny kids and short kids and kids with glasses and kids with bad haircuts (me in 3rd grade :rolleyes:). If anything now that overweight kids are so common it seems that they might get picked on less than before ~ they are a majority in some areas, not something rarely seen.

boilermaker's picture
Joined: 08/21/02
Posts: 1984

Um, no.

Her campaign is called "Let's move!", with what I understand to be an emphasis on getting all kids more physically active. It isn't the "let's diet!" campaign or even the "let's loose weight!" campaign-- the whole point is to get kids moving.

I'll admit that I didn't know that there was a national fat acceptance association....and while I understand that heavy people marginalized, I'm torn. I don't think Mrs. Obama's campaign singles out fat kids anymore than this fat acceptance group promotes obesity.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4104

I can see both sides. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with Mrs. Obama's plan, which emphasizes getting active and nutrious school lunches. But I also know that kids are very susceptible to the nuances of language. When we were pregnant with Weston, we referred to him as "the tiny baby" rather than "the new baby" because Tiven was still at an age where she associated "new" with the old thing (in that case, her) being replaced. I can believe that some kids might hear "get rid of childhood obesity" as "get rid of obese children" and that's sad, but IMHO that means a parent needs to step up and do something about either what their child is doing to others or how their child feels. It doesn't mean the message needs to be changed.

Joined: 06/04/07
Posts: 1368

"Spacers" wrote:

I can see both sides. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with Mrs. Obama's plan, which emphasizes getting active and nutrious school lunches. But I also know that kids are very susceptible to the nuances of language. When we were pregnant with Weston, we referred to him as "the tiny baby" rather than "the new baby" because Tiven was still at an age where she associated "new" with the old thing (in that case, her) being replaced. I can believe that some kids might hear "get rid of childhood obesity" as "get rid of obese children" and that's sad, but IMHO that means a parent needs to step up and do something about either what their child is doing to others or how their child feels. It doesn't mean the message needs to be changed.

I somewhat agree with this... but there are some children who don't speak up and only internalize the message so parents may not even realize there's a problem until much later. To hear "wipeout" or "get rid of" is certainly not the right words to be saying when discussing weight with children. I do agree that the focus should remain in staying healthy by moving and eating right and not to focus on the weight with kids at all. If they educate right, the shifting in weight will work itself out anyways.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"boilermaker" wrote:

Um, no.

Her campaign is called "Let's move!", with what I understand to be an emphasis on getting all kids more physically active. It isn't the "let's diet!" campaign or even the "let's loose weight!" campaign-- the whole point is to get kids moving.

I'll admit that I didn't know that there was a national fat acceptance association....and while I understand that heavy people marginalized, I'm torn. I don't think Mrs. Obama's campaign singles out fat kids anymore than this fat acceptance group promotes obesity.

See, this is what I thought too. I do know that on the Let's Move website they says:

Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by the First Lady, dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let's Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years. Giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices. Providing healthier foods in our schools. Ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food. And, helping kids become more physically active.

http://www.letsmove.gov/learn-facts/epidemic-childhood-obesity

However, I don't think that the message is that only obese kids need to get moving or eat healthier - I think that the message is that everybody needs to get moving and eat healthier. If you look at the reasources on the Let's Move website, it doesn't really talk a lot about steps to losing weight, it just gives some pretty common sense guidelines and tips about nutrition and getting a little more physical activity. It's so common sense, I can't even believe that it's controversial.

I will also say that I don't think it's a terrible thing (or a mean thing) to admit that childhood obesity (or teen obesity or adult obesity for that matter) is a problem that needs to be addressed. If it was purely aesthetic, I would think differently, but obesity can contribute to a lifetime of health risks and also a general decrease in well being. I belong to a website (myfitnesspal.com, for anyone looking for something like this - it is free and I find it immensely helpful) that is an online community for people who are looking to lose weight, get more active, or maintain a healthy weight/activity level. I love reading people's blogs, and I can't tell you how many people talk about having trouble doing simple things like playing with their kids or going up the stairs, and wanting to change that and live a better life. Obesity hurts people and it hurts their quality of life. I don't think it's wrong to acknowlege that and to try to encourage people to improve their quality of life and try to give them some resources to help them. It's not meant to put them down for being obese or overweight, it is meant to help them lift themselves up and work on getting healthier and feeling better.

Starryblue702's picture
Joined: 04/06/11
Posts: 5454

I don't see any issues with what Michelle Obama's program is all about. I think this is just another case of people who have fat kids being too sensitive and trying to put the blame on anyone and anything else besides themselves. This kind of stuff drives me crazy. If kids are fat it's the parents fault... period. We all know kids are mean and are going to pick on fat kids, so that coupled with the far more important reason (HEALTH!!) should be enough to make sure you don't let you kids eat whatever crap they want.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3255

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

See, this is what I thought too. I do know that on the Let's Move website they says:

http://www.letsmove.gov/learn-facts/epidemic-childhood-obesity

However, I don't think that the message is that only obese kids need to get moving or eat healthier - I think that the message is that everybody needs to get moving and eat healthier. If you look at the reasources on the Let's Move website, it doesn't really talk a lot about steps to losing weight, it just gives some pretty common sense guidelines and tips about nutrition and getting a little more physical activity. It's so common sense, I can't even believe that it's controversial.

I will also say that I don't think it's a terrible thing (or a mean thing) to admit that childhood obesity (or teen obesity or adult obesity for that matter) is a problem that needs to be addressed. If it was purely aesthetic, I would think differently, but obesity can contribute to a lifetime of health risks and also a general decrease in well being. I belong to a website (myfitnesspal.com, for anyone looking for something like this - it is free and I find it immensely helpful) that is an online community for people who are looking to lose weight, get more active, or maintain a healthy weight/activity level. I love reading people's blogs, and I can't tell you how many people talk about having trouble doing simple things like playing with their kids or going up the stairs, and wanting to change that and live a better life. Obesity hurts people and it hurts their quality of life. I don't think it's wrong to acknowlege that and to try to encourage people to improve their quality of life and try to give them some resources to help them. It's not meant to put them down for being obese or overweight, it is meant to help them lift themselves up and work on getting healthier and feeling better.

I think you nailed it perfectly. And these are the things that motivated me to make a change this year, thinking about how obesity affects one's health in other ways. It makes every condition you have worse, it makes healing harder, and it is easy to have it snowball as it gets worse. I think what she's doing is great, and I love what Jamie Oliver was doing in the schools too.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1537

I have no issue with the first lady's message, I am glad someone in coming out with message. But we just spent the weekend at the ILs cabin and since my oldest was sick she watched a ton of TV. I was laying with her when one of Mrs. Obama's commercials came on and she said "I am so glad I am not overweight, these commercials are on all the time and they would make me feel like I wasnt a good person"

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"mom3girls" wrote:

I have no issue with the first lady's message, I am glad someone in coming out with message. But we just spent the weekend at the ILs cabin and since my oldest was sick she watched a ton of TV. I was laying with her when one of Mrs. Obama's commercials came on and she said "I am so glad I am not overweight, these commercials are on all the time and they would make me feel like I wasnt a good person"

I think this illustrates the issue perfectly. I think the message is a good one, health and getting fit. And with the increase rate of childhood obesity, I think it is important and I applaude the first lady for taking on this cause.

That said, I do think there will be the side effect of stigmatizing obese children and people in general that will lead to further ostrasizing them. You can't help it. If you say it's bad to be fat, then you are going to have people thinking fat people are bad. Period. That's where good parenting and delicacy and tolerance become important.

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"Potter75" wrote:

Wow. Just spent some time on the NAAFA web site. Never heard of this group.

I think that they might get more traction by offering up positive solutions rather than seemingly complaining/playing victim.

I think that Michelle Obama is doing a good thing. Of course some people will take issue with it, that is their right.

Did the "war on literacy" make people bully bad readers? Or the war on drugs lead to druggies getting mercilessly picked on?

I don't disagree that the message is important and I too think what Michelle Obama is doing is a good thing. But I really do feel you are overlooking the side effect of intolerance that is a fact when we talk about the issue of obesity. The war on literacy or on drugs didn't create bullies against bad readers and druggies. But the difference is you can't tell if someone is illiterate or a druggie just by looking at them can you? They don't walk around with a physical sign stating their addiction or problem 24/7.

And if you think kids who can't read don't get bullied you are dead wrong. There is a lot of shame behind being illiterate and being on drugs. But you can hide it enough for people to get to know you first and not make a snap judgment solely based on your issue. KWIM?

I know someone who is a rcovering addict and he does not like people to know because they do judge him when they find out. But usually you get to know him, like him, and then his issue isn't everythign that defines him.

Obse people don't ahve that luxury. It's the first thing you see about them. There is no hiding it or putting it aside in order for people to get to know you before they have a chance to judge you. And I think that is why the line between making it positive message of fitness and health and not one of demeaning fat people, is so thin. And when you talk abotu kids who are not mture enough to see beyond the physical and tangable, it can be difficult.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't talk about it and promote it the way Michelle obama is doing. I'm just saying that we also need to talk about the downsides and the potential negative aspects that might arise, because they are just as valid.

Fat kids got picked on sometimes when I was in elementary and middle school ~ but so did skinny kids and short kids and kids with glasses and kids with bad haircuts (me in 3rd grade :rolleyes:). If anything now that overweight kids are so common it seems that they might get picked on less than before ~ they are a majority in some areas, not something rarely seen.

That's silly. They may be more common but to think that they are the majority? Come on. The issue is not that all kids get picked on though. The issue is that there are not messages against being short and having bad haircuts. But there are messages not to be fat and that adds to the acceptance of disliking fat people.

Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't talk abotu obesity and that we should accept it (which the NAAFA is trying to do it seems). But it's very hard to have message against obesity and not against the obese. It's tricky.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3255

OKay....I think Lana has it right. It's true that the conversation absolutely needs to include the message that it's not okay to make fun of overweight kids (or adults), to look down at them, etc.

elleon17's picture
Joined: 01/26/09
Posts: 1981

I do somewhat agree with this.

I think they recognize that her intentions are well meaning, but maybe the concentration on obese children and the effects it could have on their self esteem have not been fully thought out.

I think if it was left at "let's Move" campaign and not a focus to eliminate obesity in children, the kids would just focus on the moving and not being fat or not fat. Living a healthy lifestyle and not such a focus on their body image. If you live healthy and focus on that the other parts with fall in line.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"culturedmom" wrote:

I think this illustrates the issue perfectly. I think the message is a good one, health and getting fit. And with the increase rate of childhood obesity, I think it is important and I applaude the first lady for taking on this cause.

That said, I do think there will be the side effect of stigmatizing obese children and people in general that will lead to further ostrasizing them. You can't help it. If you say it's bad to be fat, then you are going to have people thinking fat people are bad. Period. That's where good parenting and delicacy and tolerance become important.

Lana, I get what you're saying. Do you think that there is a way the message could have been framed that would have been less likely to stigmatize obese people/children?

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Lana, I get what you're saying. Do you think that there is a way the message could have been framed that would have been less likely to stigmatize obese people/children?

I don't know. But I do know that is why people who deal with diversity and social issues as well as researchers who appreciate qualitative and not just quantitative research, are important. Had they had experts like that on board (I'll bet money they didn't, because we are far and few between) they probably would have looked into the aspects like long term effects of ad campaigns and messages on the wellbeing of the children who they are targeting.

I looked at the first lady's website and actually I think it is pretty good. They try not to focus on obesity adn just health and no where that I saw did they use the word fat. However, I do think for a campaign called "Let's Move" it is very clear that the message(not just from the website, but her speeches and interviews) is not necessarily about all the health effects of exerciseand eating well but mainly targeting obesity. Which again, is important because being obese is definitely unhealthy. However, in such a size conscious society, we have to becareful that it's the health that we are focused on and not the size. Which is hard because it is so closely linked.

There are more healthy effects of eating well and exercise other then the obesity factor. It's good for your eyes, organs, bones, the earth, local farmers, etc. Maybe if she focused more on all the aspects of what exercise and healthy eating bring to the table and less about just not being obese, it would be better.

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

OKay....I think Lana has it right. It's true that the conversation absolutely needs to include the message that it's not okay to make fun of overweight kids (or adults), to look down at them, etc.

Oh and yeah, and this 100%. This should be part of the equation.

Joined: 06/04/07
Posts: 1368

I found this to be an interesting read regarding the need for all obese people to lose weight. Definitely food for thought...

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"Beertje" wrote:

I found this to be an interesting read regarding the need for all obese people to lose weight. Definitely food for thought...

I understand were they are going with that, and I agree that excess weight affects people differently. But excess weight is not a healthy thing for the body. The body is not meant to carry excess fat. It constricts organ movement, impedes hormone function, and so much more.

I will say that doctors do need to be aware that being fat does notmean being unhealthy especially when it concerns medical problems. Often times drs. will go to the "lose weight" as the treatment for everything that is wrong with an overweight person. Back pain? Lose weight. Headaches? Lose weight. Exhaustion? Lose weight. And that can be so dangerous, especially when weight turns out not to be the issue, but drs. can't see past that.

For example, I have had sleep apnea my entire life. Since I was 13 I snored loudly, stopped breathing, and had terrible exhaustion during the day. I couldn;t sit thorugha movie or ride in a car without falling asleep. At different points in my life I had brought it to the attention of various drs. and all would say "lose weight". Whether I was obese or just slightly overweight, the diagnoses was the same. This is something that has plagued my life, you ahve no idea. One day I fell asleep at a red light with my kids int the car. Thank G-d my foot was ont eh brake peddle. So I went to a specialist and he took one look in my throat and said "My G-d you need your tonsils out." I was 33 years old.

I had my tonsils out and have not snored or stopped breathing once ever again. My dr. toldme it had nothing to do with weight but that my tonsils were so large that it would impede my breathing.

So I do think that drs. should encourage their patients to lose weight because it is not a healthy way to live. However, they do need to realize that weightis not the only factor for every medical issue an overweight person might have.