Monday, July 20, 2015

Can You Be Anti Obesity and Anti Fat-Shaming?

Here's an interesting matter to ponder:
A team of researchers at Georgia Southern University found an alarming rise in the lack of self awareness among children and teenagers in the United States. Specifically, way more overweight adolescents are oblivious today to the fact that they ought to lose weight than were in decades past—and it's a big problem.

....Adolescents, for instance, are 29 percent less likely to correctly perceive themselves as being overweight than they were almost twenty years ago, according to the study's findings. And the drop-off is the most pronounced among younger children—overweight 12-year-olds are almost 40 percent less likely to understand that they are overweight today.

....Solving the problem isn't as simple as telling people that they're overweight. There's too fine a line between promoting health and facilitating body image issues for that to be the case...."We must be very careful when we, as parents, teachers, or health care professionals, make an effort to correct the misperception among teens," said Zhang. "It has to be a pro-health, not anti-obesity, campaign."
Setting aside this writer's freakout about overweight kids, we have here a serious question. What if it is true that stamping out the bullying of fats kids leads to more kids being fat? Should we countenance fat-shaming if it leads to less diabetes and so on?

Or is that a red herring, and what's really going on is that many 12-year-olds compare their bodies, not to the thin people on television, but to their friends and families, who are also overweight?

Honestly it is hard for me to imagine that anyone could live in America and not be bombarded with "thin is good" messages, so I wonder about this poll. But maybe this is just another example of American kids being told so often that they are great that they start to believe it, like that study that showed Americans were much worse than Korean or Japanese kids at math but rated their own abilities much higher.

General question: are there any standards -- intellectual, social, medical -- so important that we should ruthlessly criticize children who fail to meet them, even if that makes them feel terrible about themselves?

1 comment:

pootrsox said...

FWIW, somewhere around 1957, my *parents* decided I was overweight. I had zero awareness that I was heavy. (So it's not a new phenomenon.)

But they took me to the family doctor, and for some months I had some sort of weekly injection. I have retained nothing of how I looked, what I actually weighed, what I was fed, or what weight if any I lost.

What I take away from that remembered experience is simply that I have had a weight problem for most of my life, and I have cycled up and down every decade or so-- by a factor of almost 1/3 of my total maximum body weight each time.

I am opposed to fat-shaming; I am not opposed to arguments for healthy eating and physical activity that cite the benefits of both in near-term as well as long-term effects.