Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moving is Good. Destination is Important Too.

So, we now have an action plan from the First Ladies 'Lets Move' program. First blush; It would seem that Mrs. Obama and the Childhood Obesity Task Force have been listening. To whom? I couldn't say. However, the one thing that I did noticed while listining to the Press Conference is the distinct lack of the phrase 'weight loss'. 

There is a focus on nutrition in both schools and home which, in my opinion, is fine and well. Efforts to improve the quality and nutritional value of school breakfast / lunch programs, real and realistic efforts undertaken locally by nutritional / medical professionals and backed by the Fed Gov (Unlike those fronted by a certain Celebrity Chef who just plays one on TV) are more likely to improve HEALTH across the board for children. Most importantly for children with intermittent access.

There is also a lot of focus on food manufacturers and advertisers. Again, this would seem a necessary effort. Particularly in the advertising arena. I can remember when children's cartoons where silly entertainment and when they became nothing more than half-hour commercials for toys. It was almost inevitable that the food industry would get in on the act and equally inevitable that the whole thing would get out-of-control. There was / is FAR too much money to be made. Now, it would be the height of naiveté to believe that this doesn't effect children but does it mean we should start banning toys with kids Happy Meals? Ummm, No. We're doing pretty good so far. Lets not start back-sliding into EpiPanic rhetoric, K? 

One of the other things that this Action Plan seems to address is the Food Desert phenomena. Recognition that it DOES exist is an important first step and it, obviously, isn't something that's going to be easy to resolve. As that it is a recently recognized problem I wouldn't expect guaranteed, sure-fire, solutions. I'm not sure that putting a lot of the burden of insuring proper nutrition for ALL kids (which is pretty much how I'm viewing this entire program) on schools is going to work. There are strong, market driven, reasons why these deserts exist. The impetus to supply cheap, high-calorie, 'pseudo-food' in low income area's is akin to a gravitational effect and reversing or mitigating that is going to take something on the level of creating anti-gravity. First we've got to find out if it's even possible. Within the framework of a universe where Big Business is one of the driving forces behind it's physical laws, I'm not all that sure that it is. It's entirely possible that this might be one of those things that requires CULTURAL change before we see any positive movement. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.     

Exercise infrastructure / safety; How could this be anything but good? Insuring that kids have safe places to play and be active is a no-brainer as far as what should be happening. Why it isn't is a WHOLE 'nother question. Theories for that particular question run from 'blame-Nintendo/Xbox' to crack vial littered basketball courts and, again, answers to any of these problems won't come easy. Dealing with crime is a function of law enforcement. It's not like we've been ignoring it over the years but the world, it seems, has changed. Have Criminals become less discriminating? Willing to hurt, maim, kill anybody that gets in their way? Maybe. Maybe not. Are there more abnormal individuals out there targeting children than before? Yes. And no. Is the media instigating fear of the world outside our doors with sensationalist reporting. Yes. . . Unfortunately the options for passive, sedentary, entertainment are also much more pervasive than they've ever been in the history of humanity. I'd argue that not only is it possible to believe it's safer indoors but that staying inside, for kids at least, is the more attractive option.   
Again these are, primarily, attitudes that need to change. Take it from those of us in the fight for Fat / Size Acceptance; this ain't easy, but it can be done. 

Speaking of FA/SA, it would seem that the low whistle from those of us tired of being judged / penalized for the size of our bodies has been heard (Or, at least, one can hope). As one of the rallying cries of FA/SA states- 'Nothing about us, without us'. In my review of both the Mrs. Obama's speech and the task forces Q & A afterwards, not ONCE, was there mention of weight loss as a proxy for 'good health'. This is significant. 

Could it be that Michelle Obama and her Task Force have gotten, at least, PART of the message? Weight loss Good Health. A radical, oft decried, concept that can illicit completely irrational reactions from a LOT of different people. Reactions so ingrained they're almost predictable ('But being fat isn't healthy!1!1!). Perhaps FLOTUS and her Team have come to realize that if you want to seriously address the issue of HEALTH in regards to Fat People in this country, it might be a good idea to consult with the people who are, indeed, fat. Find out what we have found to work, what doesn't, isn't likely to, and what goals might be deemed more realistic than others. Experience, after all, is usually considered a fairly good teacher.    

That being said, there are still problems with this program. It seems to leave a lot of the usual stigmatization of weight out of it's practices but still manages to be antagonistic in it's intent. And this is probably due to it's focus on 'fighting obesity' rather than on the overall health of ALL children.  There's no such thing as a program that's gotten everything perfectly right, straight out of the gate. However, imagine for a moment, what could be achieved if the focus were really on health. Cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and strength, balanced and varied nutrition. Imagine if more fat kids turned out to be living healthier while more underweight kids and more normal-appearing-UNhealthy kids became more healthy as well. As fewer of ANY of those types of kids become likely to show signs of the body warping image or psychological issues that run rampant in their parents now.       
I mean, I'm not seeing a down-side here. So. . .  When do we get around to dropping this 'obesity' nonsense and start concentrating on real Health? Are we still listening? 

Muzak Therapy:
Dire Striaghts / Once Upon A Time In The West


  1. Thank you for this post. I'm right there with you on how what is being proposed looks good. I just don't see how it will eradicate obesity.

  2. What wasn't included is pretty significant. BUT, yeah, 'eradicating obesity'? Really? It would appear that some might not be familiar with the buzzing nest of hornets that surrounds the very word 'obesity'. How it's been used to medicalize fat people and diagnose peoples state of being into the scare campaign of the century. Funny, since their the ones who gave it it's pejorative connotation. Their overt faith in the BMI is problematic as well. Reliance on that particular bit of mathematical stupidity needs to end but quick. Fortunately their not pushing for school OR public weigh-ins as some moronic, punish-the-Fatty, advocates have righteously called for in the past. Might be the 'you can't hate someone thin' message is getting through as well. Could just be my rosy self-delusion, but how good would THAT be?