No Really, No One is Taking This Obesity Problem Seriously

Having written about our apparent ignorance of the “obesity epidemic” on Friday, another little gem popped up on stuff.co.nz earlier today.  Written by Dara-Lynn Weiss, she explains why she decided her daughter needed to go on a diet, and how she policed that diet.

She’d decided that 42kgs (about 96.2 pounds) was to heavy for her eight-year-old daughter, and, apparently, so did her daughter’s doctor.  Queue calorie counting over every single item of food that was to enter the child’s mouth.  Including while at a birthday party.  This method of dieting always means certain foods become forbidden, unless you don’t want to eat anything else for the rest of the day/week.  And, as often happens, once something becomes forbidden, it becomes relatively high on the ‘must have’ list.  Inevitably, this leads to arguments between mother and daughter, in public, which Dara-Lynn even admits were embarrassing.

Over the course of this diet, the daughter weighs in at 35kgs (about 77 pounds).  Dara-Lynn sees this as mission accomplished, that weight was their goal after all.  Nothing is mentioned with regards to how quickly this weight was lost.

Let’s take a look at how the daughter feels at the end of this:

When our appointment ended, Bea got dressed and we stepped outside of the office. I looked at her, beaming expectantly as we walked down the street. But she said nothing.

“How do you feel about all the weight you lost?” I asked her when we got home.

“Good,” she said, blandly.

“Do you like the way you look now?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, definitively.

“Do you feel different?”

“No. That’s still me,” she said. “I’m not a different person just because I lost seven kilograms.”

She went on. “I’m not comfortable with saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve changed everything and everything’s going to be perfect for the rest of humanity,’ ” she said. “I’ve changed half of the way, but not fixed my entire life. Because that isn’t true. Who can fix their entire life when they’re eight?”

“Well, no, of course you haven’t changed your whole life. But you’re not overweight anymore. You did fix that. That part of you is in the past.”

Her body tensed in my arms. She began to tear up. “Just because it’s in the past doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” she said.

After sharing this revelation from her daughter, Dara-Lynn goes on to say:

I had believed that I could set Bea on a different track, that I could “cure” her of being overweight by changing her eating habits before her self-image dimmed so much that she came to think of herself as a fat person. But I was too late. Or maybe it was never possible. She had indeed changed her body and her lifestyle, but the metamorphosis was bittersweet, because it had cost her some of the innocence of her childhood.

(Emphasis mine.)  Because thinking of yourself as a fat person is obviously the most terrible thing that can ever happen to you.  This kind of thinking on her part is confirmed by an earlier statement:

…  Was admitting to being overweight any more humiliating (or obvious) than just being overweight? Wasn’t it less embarrassing to acknowledge it and let people know you were aware of the problem and doing something about it?

As a fat person myself, I just don’t understand how I can continue to live with myself each day.

Dara-Lynn also divulges that she also had/has issues with her own weight and self-image:

My MO has always been two-pronged: cover up my flaws as best I can, then lay them out on the table for discussion to expose my insecurity pre-emptively. Throughout all the years that I’ve battled with my weight, even as I sought to hide my body under layers of obfuscating clothing, I fessed up about my feelings to others. I was the girl you could overhear groaning, “Ugh, I am so fat,” as I patted my distended belly. If I had an obvious pimple on my face, I would attack it with concealer, then find a way to work it into conversation, just so everyone knew that I knew that they noticed it, and they shouldn’t feel awkward about it.

Let’s have a look at some of the numbers here:

  • The mean average height of an eight year old girl is 125cm (about 4’2). Source.
  • Starting weight of 96.2 pounds.  This equals a BMI of 21.7.  Normal weight is 18.5 to 24.9. Source.
  • End weight of 77 pounds.  This is a BMI of 26.  The overweight range is from 25 to 29.9. Source as above.
  • As much as I hate using BMI to measure anything, the range for being obese doesn’t start until you are at least 30.  This doesn’t stop Dara-Lynn from throwing the word obese around willy-nilly when describe her daughter’s weight.

Great work, Dara-Lynn!  You have successfully pushed your own weight and body image issues onto your impressionable eight year old daughter and taken away some of her innocence.

H/T @ColeyTangerina

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If you’re reading this anywhere but That Girl, Fae or a feed reader without attribution, it has been STOLEN! Who knew that my stuff was that good? ~ Fae

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That Girl, Fae by R Simpson-Large aka Fae Teardrop is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License.

Obesity is Getting Out of Control, Don’t Ya Know

There’s a recent blog post by QoT at Ideologically Impure which really took me back to the roots of why I started this blog in the first place.  (I know, right? After my last post? Crazy.)

Anyway, there’s this article over at The New Zealand Herald, and it seems to be wondering why there’s this whole apparent obesity problem still and why no one is talking about it, when  meanwhile, “young children [are] joining weight-loss schemes.”

Yup, you read that right.  Young children.  In “weight-loss schemes.”  Because that’s totally going to encourage the children to have a healthy relationship with food and themselves.

While the director of SureSlim New Zealand, Phil Pullin thinks it’s a-ok for their “lifestyle programmes” to include plans for children as young as SIX, you have to think there might be at least a couple of issues with that.  If there wasn’t, then surely Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers would be all over that potential market, and they’re not.

Further into the article, the spokeswoman for Fight the Obesity Epidemic, Dr Robyn Toomath, claims “children joining weight-loss programmes was nothing to do with fashion-conscious mothers concerned with their child’s image.”

I see Dr Toomath’s claim, and raise her this (same article):

Good Talks speaker on body image Rachel Hansen said children were bombarded with unattainable messages from the media, peers and even their parents that girls should be thin and beautiful and boys strong and muscular to be accepted by society.

Of course parents enrolling their children in weight-loss programmes is due to societal pressure.  We are all pressured to be this highly unobtainable ideal, constantly being told that we’re all too fat, that there’s this epidemic of fatness.

There’s something very wrong with all of us if three and four-year olds are saying, “I’m too fat, I can’t eat that.”  That isn’t a concern they should be having.  They shouldn’t be having any concerns, they’re children.

Like Ms Hansen goes onto say,

 …healthy body weights ranged widely for children and instead of focusing on weight, parents should instead be subtly encouraging a healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet and plenty of physical activity… parents could foster healthy habits without creating complexes by getting children involved in meal preparation, not having inappropriate food in the house, being more relaxed about their own body shape, and not “fat shaming” their children with comments such as: “Don’t eat any more chips or you’ll get fat.”

Body weights range widely for everyone, not just children.  Fat shaming helps no one, neither does making foods forbidden (unless there’s an allergy or something, then duh).  If we continue to do this, then, as a society, we are going to develop some very unhealthy relationships with food and our bodies.  Who wants that kind of future for our children?

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If you’re reading this anywhere but That Girl, Fae or a feed reader without attribution, it has been STOLEN! Who knew that my stuff was that good? ~ Fae

Creative Commons License
That Girl, Fae by R Simpson-Large aka Fae Teardrop is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License.

Fat Positivity & Fat Phobia

I wrote this post yesterday. It generated this most fantastic response post by Aeval.

I have been considerably lucky with regards to fat phobic comments. Though Mum always says as we were growing up, she was constantly trying to get me to stop eating so much and my younger, much slimmer sister to eat more, I have no memory of this. It was my sister who used to steal food and hide it in her room. I don’t remember getting teased at school until end of Form 2 (Year 8), and that was one boy calling me “fatty” once. Maybe it was just so terrible that I’ve blocked it all out, but I’m guessing I was just lucky.

Since then I’ve had the “are you pregnant?” comments (seriously, if you’re not 100% sure, you really shouldn’t ask), and comments from family members (particularly my Mum) saying that I should lose weight, though not in so many words, and that they only say it because they “care about me”. I’ve had a couple of fat phobic doctors, but generally I’ve been pretty lucky with that too (and my current doctor is fantastic!).

I don’t know where the confidence that I seem to have comes from. It’s part of the giant contradiction that I seem to be. I like to stand out from the crowd, by what I wear, the colour of my hair, my spiritual beliefs, my social beliefs, maybe I use my weight as part of that. Then we have the part of me that worries about what other think about me, what they say about me behind my back (yay, social phobias!).

Ever since I met J though, the self confidence has been easier. It’s easier to think like this. This is even in the face of my social anxieties becoming more profound once I got my depression under control.

It’s through this blog and getting my Bachelor in Political Science that I hope to reaffirm this self confidence and to help other realize their own self confidence and accepting themselves for all the awesomeness that they are.