It's been an hour since I began attempting to write a new post summing up the #ashamed twitter party. So far I've started over four times and finally decided my mind is just too riled up to think straight, so I'm taking the easy way out and reposting the column that went live on Owning Pink yesterday about the aggressive anti-obesity ads and their connection to a rise in eating disorders. Last night's chat garnered more than 41 million pageviews with 450 participants, led by Leah Segedie (@Bookieboo), contributing over 3,500 tweets opposing the negative and shameful tone of the Georgia Strong 4 Life campaign.Impressive numbers. And yet, somehow not enough to spur Strong 4 Life into committing to a more positive approach to bringing awareness to childhood obesity.
Not yet, anyway.
SHAME CAUSES NEW EATING DISORDER?
I'd like to ask when it became mandated by society that the most obvious of details will be ignored/and or denied by the masses until experts step in slap us in the face? Because doctors are now reporting a new type of eating disorder in children attributed to aggressive anti-obesity campaigns.
According to this article, Australian doctors are now treating an onslaught of healthy children being driven to starvation. Victoria's three leading pediatric services are treating children at the upper end of the medically-accepted healthy weight range who have lost up to a third of their body weight so they can stay thin.
Let me repeat that for you: Doctors are now treating healthy children who have lost up to a third of their body weight because they want to stay thin.
And they are attributing aggressive anti-obesity campaigns as the cause.
Essentially, these children are suffering from anorexia nervosa symptoms such as distorted body image and the amount of weight actually lost but who, when all is said and done, have starved themselves down to the lower end of the healthy weight range. How long before the same trend is documented here in the United States?
Georgia? I'm Looking At You
We can't talk about children and body image and obesity without touching on the Georgia's Anti-Obesity campaign, aimed at children.
Mom bloggers are speaking out against the Strong4Life campaign, and rightly so, with some 23 million twitter impressions logged during a recent twitter party hosted by Leah Segedie of Mamavation, who believes the ad campaign will only mentally harm the obese children targeted. Another leading voice in the outcry is that of Sue O'Lear of Mrs. Fatass, who challenges supporters of the campaign and their belief that the absence of shame itself is actually the root cause of obesity to begin with.
You already know how I feel about the topic. I was an eating disordered child on the higher end of the healthy weight range who alternated between starvation and binging and purging who grew into a mother with the same issues who has a daughter whom I am determined will grow strong and confident and happy with her reflection.
Shame is not a part of that equation.
Focus on the Positive
In my home we avoid the words "fat" and "diet" and instead focus on positive terms such as "healthy and strong" and how nutritious foods and regular activity give us "good energy." When strangers comment on how big my daughter is (she stands about 49 inches tall at four years of age) I gently rephrase the statement by substituting the word "big" for "tall." She's four and thinks it's hilarious to arch her back after a particularly good meal to emphasize the happy little Buddha pooch and I love that.
I grew up listening to adults in my family cry about the size of their thighs, who was on a diet and which one, who in the family still hadn't lost the baby weight, and well-intentioned "You're getting a little big, aren't you's?" contradicted by sugar highs disguised as pinatas followed up with cake and ice-cream.
I'm not vilifying my family. No one intentionally set out to shame me into eating disordered thinking, eating, and body image. Their intent was most probably the opposite: to help me grow into a woman without their weight problems. And I'm willing to bet that those behind the Ashamed ad campaign have positive intentions, as well. But, as the Australian doctors treating the newest form of eating disorder are stating, physical health cannot be the only consideration.
Emotional health and positive messages are paramount to addressing the issue of childhood obesity without creating a new generation of broken spirits.
Before I go, I'd like to share this. At one point in the chat, Strong 4 Life tweeted me directly and stated that the billboards will not be coming down. My response was simple.
"Why the hell not?"
But when I asked if anyone on the team responsible for the ad concept had ever suffered from an eating disorder or been an overweight child, I got no answer.
Not surprisingly, the "so seriously
, ever trained a puppy? how's beating them and making them cry working for you? Not so good?" tweet also was left without a response.
Why bother explaining yourself when you believe those opposing you are in the wrong? I'll answer that for you...
Because we aren't going away.
And for the record? Strong 4 Life has every fucking reason in the world to be ashamed.