Michelle Obama has taken on childhood obesity as her cause from the White House.
With more than one-third of America’s kids falling into the category of obesity and as a mother of young children, it seems like the perfect issue for our First Lady.
However, she’s already being criticized for her efforts. Here are the issues:
From Shine: “Two weeks after announcing the unnerving news that childhood obesity has tripled over the last 30 years, and unveiling her own initiative to combat it, Michelle Obama has offended critics by discussing her own “wake-up” moment—when the family pediatrician told her that daughters Sasha and Malia were becoming overweight.”
“ ‘In my eyes I thought my children were perfect,” Mrs. Obama said at the January launch of her initiative. “I didn’t see the changes.’ ”
As someone who writes about her children often, I can understand the natural inclination to discuss your own children when talking about an issue. She was making the cause personal because it really had affected her family. They are not perfect and she’s saying to America even we are dealing with this problem. While using a personal experience is effective case making, was it hurtful to her girls to say that to the national media or are these critics seeing a problem where there is not one?
I read a story a few years back about mom bloggers and the privacy of their children. The point of the story was to be careful not writing something that would embarrass your child. When I started writing my kids were babies so there was very little that could embarrass them nor would they have known. But as they have grown, I had started viewing each mention of them through that lens. Would it embarrass them to know this fact about them is on the Web
2. The second criticism was about word choice Michelle used in speaking to her own children about maintaining a healthy weight. From Psychology Today:
“While her heart is in the right place, Michelle may not have considered or been familiar with the delicate balance between preventing obesity and triggering eating disorders. She mentioned that she put her children on a diet after her pediatrician and their father felt they were getting “chubby.” Words like “chubby” don’t cause eating disorders but they are often a trigger to disordered eating behavior. As an eating disorder professional, we would strongly caution parents from using labels or prerogative words to describe their child’s weight as this has lasting impacts on a child’s self esteem. Also, putting kids on “diet” instead of focusing on healthy eating and exercise can be another trigger for eating disorder behaviors. Dieting is clearly not the answer. And, weight alone is not an indicator of a child’s health. Children’s weights dramatically vary and change particularly as they go through development stages, growth spurts and puberty. Instead of aiming for slimness, let’s focus on a healthy lifestyle that includes mindful eating, access to healthy food and exercise.”
I think that in general many women are very worried about passing on eating issues that they have to their children so I think folks are particularly tuned into words like chubby. But would that be a problem for all children? Would it depend on how it was said and how often or is just verboten?
So what do you think:
Is Michelle Obama being unfairly criticized for using her children as national examples in a family having to change some habit at home to prevent becoming overweight?
Does her word choices of chubby or diet bother you? Do you think they actually bothered her kids?
Are you personally worried about passing on eating issues to your children, particularly daughters? Are you extra careful in how your refer to and monitor your children’s eating?