Framing obesity

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years (CDC). It is an epidemic and it’s going to cost our country big bucks. I’m happy that Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move campaign to focus on this issue. Who doesn’t want to fight “obesity?” It’s just…

“Obesity” implies eating too many calories. But the assumption is that nutritional needs are being over-fulfilled. Not so. I believe you can overeat the wrong foods and miss vital nutrients.

Instead of having a discussion about obesity, I wish it could be framed in the language of “nutrition” or “nourishment.” Because I’d like to include all the kids, fat and thin, big and small, in a larger discussion of food.

I see lots of thin kids at school and they are eating the same foods as the obese kids. Are they eating the right calories and fats to nourish their bodies? Somehow I don’t think so. They must be just eating less and maybe not enough of the good stuff.

I think I know why the Let’s Move folks chose “childhood obesity” as the enemy because it’s an easy win — who can argue? If they instead tried to focus on nourishment or nutrition, they would lose people. Let’s face it, “childhood obesity” conjures up a picture of “a fat kid” (not politically correct but true). In our thin world it’s easy to say “let’s fight fat!”

What about “childhood nutrition?” I see a cornucopia with squashes and gourds (see above). “Nourishment?” Hmm, I see my mom is making chicken soup with buttered bread. No enemy there!

Don’t get me wrong: being obese is a big problem. I wish the obesity problem wasn’t thought of as “just being fat,” because there’s a chance most kids are undernourished regardless of their size.

NOTE: I apologize if this post offends you. It is not meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. I removed the line that offended people.

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74 Responses to Framing obesity

  1. Anonymous April 3, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    You bring up an important point about framing. Talking about obesity does not always gets us to the right solutions. Obesity is about so much more than the individual choices people make-it's about the places where people live, work, learn and play and whether those places support health. Here is a great article on the "o" word and why the focus on obesity is harmful to community health: http://preventioninstitute.org/component/jlibrary/article/id-66/288.html
    .

  2. Anonymous April 3, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    "You're simply taking photos of lunches and posting them. You're not doing anything to change them, just whining about them."

    I couldn't agree more!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Shannon April 3, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    Mixed feelings here. I didn't like the line either, but I also agree with those who said it's your blog, your thoughts and you shouldn't have to change things for others.

    Having said that, I loved this post (up to the now removed line). I was a fat kid in the 70's. My mom didn't let us drink soda, we had lots of recess, we brownbagged lunch, we had gym every day and we were allowed free range of the neighborhood to play with the other kids (yet another thing kids today are denied). I don't know why I was fat as a kid other than the fact that my mom was fat and her mom and her mom (that's as far back as the photo records go). Maybe it is something I'm doing, maybe not, but I'm sick of people pretending that whether you are fat or not is the only issue in health. I have low blood pressure and low cholesterol and no, I don't take credit for that either. I also inherited that from my mom. It doesn't make me a better person than some thin (or fat) person with high blood pressure.

    I wish the focus would be on health, not weight. Because as has been said, there are many thin people who eat badly and have health problems (that may or may not be related to their diet) and yet, that gets ignored because they are thin. I really think it's a puritanical issue with this country. Eat crap and be unhealthy, and as long as you *look* like you don't, no one cares.

    Overall, love your blog though. I don't have kids in school but your project is making me want to storm into the local school and find out what they are feeding the kids.

  4. Anonymous April 3, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    For all of you concerned about the what food has done to our people, I, like some of those who've commented before, recomend watching "Food, Inc." and "Supersize Me". Both are very powerful films that everyone should watch.

  5. Anonymous April 4, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    Just as it is her blog, there is such a thing called free speech (you suburban types love to think in a herd mindset) and people do have a right to disagree.

    I just find it hilarious that she's being called brave for eating these lunches and blogging them. No, that's cowardice. Brave is the child who eats this lunch day in and day out as a primary meal and then has to face the rigors of academics on such an empty calorie meal.

    Your blog is worthless. It's doing nothing in the form of activism, nothing in the form of change, just doing what about 3k blogs out there are already doing.

    White whine indeed.

  6. Mrs. Q April 4, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    If you don't like the blog, please don't read it. Find another use of your precious time on this planet.

  7. Anonymous April 4, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    Too bad you're about to be outed. 🙂

  8. Anonymous April 4, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    And too bad you don't like being called out on being a coward. All you're doing is whining. Do you expect some bigwig on your school board to read this, get an epiphany and change school lunches? Honestly, what is the point of this? So you suburban liberals feel good for participating in the cause of the month? Please. Get off your high horse, try teaching and when you're ready to take action, then come back.

    White whine.

  9. Mrs. Q April 4, 2010 at 2:26 am #

    Anonymous – oh really?

  10. Abby April 4, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    I was an obese child until just recently (I lost fifteen pounds woo!), and something I take issue with is the idea of "BMI".

    I'm still technically "overweight" according to BMI because I'm five feet and one hundred thirty pounds. And I lost fifteen pounds. I'm a sophomore in high school and done growing, and because of my BMI I may not be able to pass physical education (of course I also have congenitally bad knees which means I can't complete the mandatory mile run). I may have to appeal to the school district so I can have a pass in PE.

    BMI, like the broad way of looking at childhood obesity, doesn't take into account body types and the variables that come with them. When you look at me you wouldn't think overweight (as I'm classified); I'm healthy. Our society shouldn't be so quick to label things. A lot of these kids may be a little heavier looking because they're going to grow. A lot of the chubby kids I grew up with are tall and thin now, you've just got to give them a chance.

    Changing subjects, I grew up on elementary school lunches, and my school had a salad bar. This healthy choice probably saved my elementary school health until I started brown bagging it in middle school. Now in high school, I only get a hot lunch when it's cold out, and I never exactly enjoy it. The grease is exponential, and I try and salvage my fairly gross meal with an Odwalla smoothie.

    If any of you have read Fast Food Nation, it's mentioned that the FDA sends the lowest quality foods to the school lunch program. Just something to think about..

  11. Julie Hedlund April 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    Where has your blog been all my life? lol I am so passionate about this issue. Our school district is very fortunate in that it's hired Chef Ann to overhaul school lunches. It is now in it's first year, and my daughter loves the food. I don't have to feel guilty about giving her hot lunch when I don't have time to make her one.

    Your point about nutrition is so true. Overweight or obese people are referred to as "over-nourished" while people going hungry are referred to as undernourished. In fact, obese people are typically both overweight AND undernourished. The focus should be first on getting them to eat healthfully and only then on losing weight.

  12. Amanda April 4, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    Well, I think Mrs. Q was making a good point. Obesity is a really touchy subject though, and it's hard to say much of anything about it without people getting defensive.

    The thing is… what I thought Mrs. Q was saying was that not only are obese people unhealthy, but lots of skinny people are too, so we shouldn't just be picking on the "fat kids". Which is kind of ironic because then a bunch of overweight people get all offended.

    I'm about 15 pounds overweight, according to my BMI. For several months now I've been struggling to lose that stubborn weight, researching all kinds of different diets, analyzing my food, etc.

    Recently I got a change in attitude. I was so focused on those stupid 15 pounds I wanted to lose, but I think what I should really be worried about is that I get winded if I have to climb a flight of stairs.

    I guess my point is, I'm not obese, but I'm probably unhealthy, and might even be more unhealthy than someone who's official BMI says they're 30 pounds overweight but they DON'T get winded climbing stairs.

    The thing we should focus on is HEALTH, not WEIGHT. People probably won't like hearing that, because a bunch of skinny people might end up being labeled as "unhealthy" when before they could go, "ha ha, at least I'm not fat." Because maybe they are eating as many calories as they burn, but 1,300 calories a day from McDonalds probably isn't much better for you than 3,000 calories a day from McDonalds.

  13. Deborah April 5, 2010 at 12:29 am #

    I saw a bumper sticker a long time ago that really stuck with me: "Eat Less, Walk More." Now, of course, it was on the back of a car so that's sort of funny, but it highlights the problem: these lunches are carb-heavy (and frequently gross, but I don't have to tell you that!) but no one wants to say "hey, let's do less test prep and more recess," or "let's have dance class AND gym class instead of another math class" … Seems to me that this emphasis on "data-driven education" forces us all into more tests (and thus more sitting!) instead of into a curriculum that emphasizes bodies and minds…

  14. Anonymous April 5, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    Mrs. Q!

    You rock! You are such a hero and those people who are saying they are leaving because you offended them are completely misunderstanding that you are making the very valid point: thin people can be as unhealthy as obese/overweight ones. If anything, you are not judging but making the opposite point! Ridiculous that some people can't see that but when you are so sensitive about your own weight sometimes that gets in the way of seeing when people are trying to help. The sad thing is that maybe if they had a Mrs. Q in their lives to start when they were kids they wouldn't be in the situation they are in now…

    Obviously, there are also many people that are green with envy over the popularity of your blog. Envy and jealousy get people no where. They just wish they'd thought of this idea themselves but not only does it take an idea but it takes follow through and good writing skills, passion, your frankness, and your sense of humor.

    Do not fret! Your faithful readers are here and not going anywhere! I'm on the East Coast where there are many undernourished skinny minnies.

    Rock on hot stuff!!!! No need for further apologies. I would move forward and don't look back. Don't give them the satisfaction of a comment. Just keep on keepin' on and educatin'!!!

  15. Anonymous April 5, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    Mrs. Q!

    You rock! You are such a hero and those people who are saying they are leaving because you offended them are completely misunderstanding that you are making the very valid point: thin people can be as unhealthy as obese/overweight ones. If anything, you are not judging but making the opposite point! Ridiculous that some people can't see that but when you are so sensitive about your own weight sometimes that gets in the way of seeing when people are trying to help. The sad thing is that maybe if they had a Mrs. Q in their lives to start when they were kids they wouldn't be in the situation they are in now…

    Obviously, there are also many people that are green with envy over the popularity of your blog. Envy and jealousy get people no where. They just wish they'd thought of this idea themselves but not only does it take an idea but it takes follow through and good writing skills, passion, your frankness, and your sense of humor.

    Do not fret! Your faithful readers are here and not going anywhere! I'm on the East Coast where there are many undernourished skinny minnies.

    Rock on hot stuff!!!! No need for further apologies. I would move forward and don't look back. Don't give them the satisfaction of a comment. Just keep on keepin' on and educatin'!!!

  16. mcarver April 5, 2010 at 3:27 am #

    Anonymous-I'm pretty sure the point is to raise awairness.

  17. CarrieP, fairy princess April 5, 2010 at 3:57 am #

    Oof! Well clearly your post touched a nerve, which, as uncomfortable as it might be for you right now, will probably turn out to be a good thing.

    I think you've accomplished the goal you set out to, which is to draw attention to the horrific state of school lunches in this country. In just a few short months you've probably set off countless conversations among your readers about the current state of our school lunch program. That's pretty great!

    Now that there's some attention on the cause though, and we're all foaming at the mouth for some kind of change to the school lunch system, we need a direction. We need a concrete action we can take or a plan of attack or some kind of way to channel all of this outrage into a positive outcome.

    I know it's overwhelming and the whole thing has probably grown way beyond your wildest dreams, but at this point you've got an army of folks who agree with you and they need a leader to point them in the right direction if anything is ever going to change.

  18. Anonymous April 5, 2010 at 3:57 am #

    Regarding your statement that has caused some controversy; I agree with you. As someone who weighed close to 300 lbs three years ago, I think it's important for me to be honest about how I got there and own up to it. I made poor food choices and was very sedentary. I've worked very hard to lose more than half my body weight and maintain.

    Don't take the negative comments too much to heart Mrs. Q. As someone who has struggled with weight my whole life ( now middle age) I think many of us are just overly sensitive to the truth.

    This is my first time posting although I've been reading since the beginning. I enjoy your blog very much.

  19. SchlubbyNProud April 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

    I like how the commenter who called you a "coward" (for hiding your identity) chose to post as "Anonymous".

  20. Avni April 6, 2010 at 1:09 am #

    In regards to all of the people that are saying this blog isn't changing anything, I completely DISAGREE. I'm currently a senior in high school, and I've always thought the school lunches are gross and unhealthy. But I showed this blog to a few of my friends, who found it interesting, and we've been keeping up with it and learning from it. And that's how your blog is helping! It's educating, and teaching people to be aware. The other day, I asked the lunch lady a few question about the food, and after hearing her answers, will no longer be eating the school lunches. Thank you for making me more healthy!

    Keep doing what you're doing. There will always be a few negative people out there, but you have so much more support than people who are against you.

  21. Julie April 6, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    "I was unaware that one had to be model thin in this country… I must be overweight and unattractive because I'm over the recommended BMI and heavier than a stick figure…"

    I've read Mrs Q's blog thoroughly and this post twice, and still I did not find anywhere that even hinted she thinks we all ought to be model thin and if we're not we're unattractive. I suggest you read it again because I think you're missing the point! Nor I have ever seen any evidence that Mrs Q decided to do this blog in the first place for fame or glory. In fact, her very first post states "The reason I'm eating school lunch every day is to raise awareness about school lunch food in America." Which is exactly what is happening, although I imagine she's as surprised at her growing following as anyone. "It's doing nothing in the form of activism, nothing in the form of change…" Oh, do I ever beg to differ!

    All the negative posts here only serve to highlight the fact that so many people would rather cover their ears and eyes and lay blame left and right for their problems without having any desire to wake up and take responsibility for their own actions.

    I agree with anon who said "when you are so sensitive about your own weight sometimes that gets in the way of seeing when people are trying to help." I honestly doubt that any of the people leaving negative comments are pictures of health, inside and out, whether they be thin or fat. You guys gave yourselves away with your huffy storming off!

    Anyway, keep on trucking Mrs Q, you're on to something… "just doing what about 3k blogs out there are already doing." Exactly, the time has come people so you better start listening up! 🙂

    PS. "subdivision soccer moms"? What? I can't be a childless, world travelling, city dweller and care immensely about the pickle we're in regarding food? And it's hardly the cause of the month, it's the cause of our time, leading as it does to so many other "causes" down the road.

  22. Anonymous April 6, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/race_class/othergirlsstuff.html

    This is a very interesting article about obesity, race, and class. 🙂 It's important to remember that while processed food is not cheaper than buying, say, potatoes, lentils, and other such easily bulked items, it is cheaper in terms of time.

  23. stephanie stewart April 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    To the very negative anonymous poster: Seriously? This is how you decided to use your time? Mrs. Q is too nice to say it but you are a despicable person. Utterly. To berate her and threaten her for making a mostly true statement about obesity? Your response says a lot about the type of person you are, and none of it is any good. Turn around, peace and contentment are in the other direction…

  24. Kara April 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm #

    I've delayed in responding to this post to think about "obesity".
    I come from a family where everyone is heavy-set. We say "big-boned" because we do have larger frames, which calls for larger muscles and results in possibly larger fat deposits. But, I am lighter than my mother was at my age (24) or either of my aunts or my grandmother.
    The eating habits and nutrition habits of my family in the 60s and 70s when my mom and aunts were growing up were significantly different than habits of today. we all know this. Habits change with culture. But I don't believe nutrition was a focus then as it is now, so those habits have been reinforced and never changed through to now. My grandmother and grandfather are hypertensive, my a great aunt is prediabetic, and my aunts were obese, and my mother is. They are all trying to change their habits to become healthier.
    Onward to my habits. I eat healthy, I do sneak candy here and there, but its almost always chocolate, never hard candy, or gummy snacks. Most of my sweets are dried fruits (which have an inordinate amount of sugar in them). I don't exercise like I should, but I do ride horses, do a lot of walking, and some swimming. In high school I was always running and always active. I have maintained a fairly healthy lifestyle. Despite all that I still have quite a few large fat deposits where everyone gets them: gut, legs, hips, butt.
    I had a friend in high school that ate all sorts of junk food, was sloth-like in her activities, and didn't really take care of herself and she has always been rail thin. As were all of her relations.
    Sometimes we are not "fat" because of what we eat or what we do for exercise, sometimes we are just "fat" because of our metabolisms and family history. granted, that does not give us the "right" to be obese and not care.
    I don't think its a question of "fat" but more a question of "health". I know heavy people that are healthy as a horse: good cholesterol numbers, no sign of diabetes, no heart or respiratory problems. But, they stay active and eat healthy.
    The debate about "obesity" should not be about body image, but about nutrition, health concerns, and long term effects of terrible nutrition and terrible health.

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