So, today I did something new. I went to the gym, I met with the very nice trainer, and I said, “I am the most out of shape I’ve ever been, and I hate it, and I would like to change that.” Despite my inability to operate a machine as simple as the Wallet Locker outside the exercise room, she kindly gave me a basic orientation on four of the strength training machines and got me signed up for a workout challenge.
The last time I made significant progress on the perpetual Fitness Journey was before my now three-year-old was born, and then – well, two moves in three years, started homeschooling, funds are low, it’s really freaking hot in Texas most of the time, etc., etc., suffice it to say there has been no progress. I could elaborate but I suppose I’m supposed to frame the narrative in terms of No More Excuses. Right?
Something I noticed was that nobody else seemed super-aware of my being there, which was a surprise, as I generally assume that my presence among The Fit will trigger a wave of knowing glances and whispered comments. It was like…I was at a place where people are supposed to, I don’t know, want to improve themselves. (The nice thing about the YMCA is that it welcomes folks from everywhere along the fitness spectrum.)
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t self-conscious about my weight, even as a perfectly healthy child. I remember being very upset the first time I went to buy jeans in the juniors department and I needed a regular instead of a slim. The version of me who travels back through time bops that person over the head and says “you have curves. They are supposed to be there.” Oh, well.
The thing that really stands out to me about these feelings is that shame about my body leads me not to “time to set some manageable goals for improving my health, with the help of my physician and a supportive group of friends.” No, it’s more like: “Forget it. It’s all pointless, anyway.” I hate that I have now moved to two different places and I have to meet all new people in this current version of my body. I shake hands with my new friend and think, “I hope this person realizes I don’t always look like this.”
So, here’s what I don’t understand about the anti-obesity campaign from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“We needed something that was more arresting and in your face than some of the flowery campaigns out there,” said Linda Matzigkeit, senior vice president of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta…
…Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta chose the straightforward approach after its survey of two towns in Georgia found that 50 percent of parents did not know childhood obesity was a problem and 75 percent of parents with obese children did not think their child was overweight.
“If we do not wake up, this will be disastrous for our state,” said Matzigkeit.
The goal is certainly laudable and the accompanying website is user-friendly and targeted towards educating parents about the importance of helping their children get lots of physical activity, eat right, avoid sedentary lifestyles, all that good stuff.
But the posters – to me, imagining what it would feel like to see that in my pediatrician’s office, ten years old and I’m already self-conscious about my body – they feel like a slap in the face. Some of the taglines seem like they should be followed with a “just sayin’!” and a celebratory high-five. “Fat prevention begins at home. And the buffet line.” Oh, snap!
What about the girls who are perfectly happy with their bodies just the way they are – if such creatures exist? “It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not.” Get it? Ah. I hadn’t realized I really did need to feel ashamed of my body. I thought I was supposed to not let the unkind remarks of other kids get to me.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out and if they’ll be able to monitor the success of this campaign. It just seems like the risk of making children feel more ashamed of their bodies outweighs (er…pun intended) the potential rewards in public health. I feel like the billboards, etc., are a tacit acknowledgement that yeah, it’s kind of okay to judge kids who are obese – I mean, we’re really judging the parents, though – and that’s definitely okay. “Don’t feel depressed, kids, but understand that everyone in the state is talking about your weight! Surely you’re not having dessert?”
I’ll freely admit that I’m terrified of how to handle this with my own daughter, who is lovely just as she is, happens to be slender as a reed, and already worries that she’s too fat. I try not to discuss my own weight concerns at all, and to talk about how it’s good for Mommy to take care of herself and exercise without saying “Mommy despairs of her very existence when she contemplates measuring her hips.” I try to chill out about her sweet tooth, provide healthy options, all that good stuff. My sons – well, the three-year-old is not concerned in the least that his nightly raids of pistachios from the pantry are going to harm his waistline, and the ten-year-old is more focused on how our future would pan out if he were president of a world populated by robots.
Plus, one huge benefit of homeschooling is that they generally spend hours outside riding bikes, climbing trees, doing yard work for the neighbors but rarely for their own yard (what’s with that?). I try not to make my children’s eating habits a HUGE ISSUE THAT WE NEED TO MONITOR. So I guess I’m glad we don’t live in a WORLD OF BILLBOARDS ABOUT HOW BEING FAT SUCKS WHEN YOU’RE A KID. JUST SAYIN’.