5 Problems With First Lady's Obesity Campaign

Michelle Obama's project exaggerates the issue, for starters
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2010 12:16 PM CST
First lady Michelle Obama announces a campaign to combat the rapidly growing problem of childhood obesity, Feb. 9, 2010, in the White House in Washington.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) – Kate Harding loves 90% of Michelle Obama's childhood obesity initiative—but she has a real problem with the 10% that is "whipping up fear and disgust of the very fat children you're supposedly trying to help." Her objections, in Salon:

  • Exaggeration: Childhood obesity is painted in the most frightening possible way. ("Our children may live shorter lives than their parents.") The truth is, childhood obesity levels are no longer rising—so enough with the "fear-mongering."

  • Exaggeration, part 2: Kids aren’t nearly as lazy as the campaign makes them out to be. Other problems contribute to teens' poor self-care that are ignored in favor of the glitzier ones like video games.
  • Thin is not fit: "It is possible to be fat and fit," writes Harding. Looking simply at BMI isn't enough.
  • Misjudging the public response: Campaigns like this can inadvertently create body image issues and lead to eating disorders.
  • Underestimating the negative impact: "I'm sure you don't have anything against fat kids, Mrs. Obama. But you know who does? Other kids," Harding writes. Why not turn some focus toward getting rid of that stigma?

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