Thursday, February 11, 2010

My letter to Michelle Obama

 Dear Ms. Obama:

I've heard a lot in the news about your desire to campaign against childhood obesity, and I feel compelled to tell you my personal story.

You see, I've been overweight my whole life, including the childhood years that you are most concerned about.  My final straw was reaching almost 350 lbs (at 5'5"), and I had gastric bypass surgery on 1/21/10 to try and gain control over my life and reclaim my health.  So I applaud your idea to ensure children have access and encouragement to eat healthy food and get more exercise.

My concern, however, rests with the idea of "eliminating childhood obesity," and the unintended repercussions of this focus.  Imagine being 12 years old and overweight, bombarded with images of models who are size 2 at every turn, frustrated by not finding clothes in your size, teased and humiliated by peers and society as a whole for being fat, and now the First Lady starts a campaign focusing on obesity.  Might you feel more judged and singled out?  Might others be more willing to judge you harshly for your size?  Might you feel more of a social stigma than you already do? 

Our culture enacts a tremendous penalty on people who are overweight, and a focus on losing weight simply reinforces those penalties.  It focuses on what is wrong with a child, and how to "fix it", instead of focusing on how each and every child can take control of their health regardless of their current size or shape.

Please consider re-evaluating this message.  Emphasize that children should eat more healthfully, and should have positive forms of physical movement, rather than focusing on fat children.  By encouraging good eating and exercise habits regardless of a child's current weight, children, their parents, educators and health care professionals can work on a positive message that doesn't create judgement or engender feelings of shame. 

I wish you the best of luck, and I truly do applaud your efforts in affecting change.  I only ask that you consider the emotional and psychological impact of your campaign, and that you carefully tailor your message to enact the most positive form of change.

Thank you for listening,


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