Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | March 17, 2010

a weight obsessed world

I was just reading an essay in the NYTimes entitled “For Obese People, Prejudice in Plain Sight” and a number of things jumped out at me, starting with the first sentence:

“As a woman whose height and weight put me in the obese category on the body-mass-index chart, I cringed when Michelle Obama recently spoke of putting her daughters on a diet.”

This hit me for a few reasons. First, I am also right on that edge of being considered obese by the general BMI scales and when I went to the writer’s website, she looks like she’s probably a similar weight. Since I’ve lost weight from morning sickness, I am actually now only on the very high end of “overweight” but a measly 3 pounds from being considered “obsese.” I don’t consider myself obese. I’m not thin, but I’m actually somewhat comfortable with my weight. As I said before getting pregnant, I had about 25 pounds to lose to get to the weight that my body is truly comfortable at. Well, according to this website I found to calculate your BMI, that would still have me in the upper range of overweight. Now the website does have a section that explains the limitations of using the BMI, but it’s hard to find. People discuss BMI and never talk about the fact that the index may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build. People go crazy over these charts but the fact of the matter is that genetics plays a big role in everything. My family has big European bones and big muscles. We are not destined to be petite little things.

Second, children are not supposed to be on diets. I don’t even agree with adults being on diets, you are supposed to follow healthy eating habits on a daily basis, not for a specific period of time. Diet is from the Greek word diatia meaning  literally a “manner of living” (thank you merriam webster). Children are supposed to be encouraged to eat in a healthy way, but you shouldn’t focus on their weight. I had actually been reading another blog post earlier today about that exact topic – Eating Disorder Prevention (Part 2): How to Raise Kids Who Love Their Bodies (and Don’t Diet). I have had concerns with weight since I was a little girl. I dieted as a kid, never made a difference. I actually wanted to have an eating disorder, how sick is that? And I knew a lot of people who had them. I didn’t come to grips with my body image until I moved to NY and I almost didn’t take a job because I was concerned about working at a magazine where appearance was everything. Now that I have a child of my own, I want to make sure that she doesn’t grow up with a skewed body image. We focus on healthy eating and being active, but she does like to graze, so I just watch it and make sure that it’s fruits and vegetables.

But the article itself was interesting because it also talked about the prejudices that people have towards overweight people. I don’t personally have prejudices, although I do have fears when I see someone who is morbidly obese as I am always afraid that I will become that person. But on the flip side, I do think that there are a lot of things people can do to try and be healthier. My husband found an article the other day about a woman in NJ who would actually like to be 1000 pounds; she’s 600 pounds now. What kills me about this woman is that she has a three year old child – how can you run after a toddler at that weight? How can you teach your child about a healthy lifestyle like that?

Weight is a really touchy subject. It’s disturbing how far from healthy living our society has gotten. I hope that I am teaching my child well and that I am doing right by myself. I guess in the end, that’s all we can really ask for.


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