posted by meowser
Pattie Thomas, in a must-read post at the new People of Size blog (which is shaping up to be a great source for both FA and HAES info), really gets the nail driven in on a single whack when discussing Michelle Obama’s childhood-obesity initiative. Specifically, she wants to know why critics are softening their blows with “she means well, but…” rhetoric, when a little bit of digging proves this to be no more than a corporate money grab disguised as a save-the-children-for-public-health program, the likes of which people like the Obamas (and really, all nationally recognized U.S. politicians, who know which side their spelt toast is buttered on) are more than a little savvy about.
It’s a damn good question. Why do we let M. Obama off the hook here, and assume she doesn’t know exactly what she’s doing and who really stands to benefit?
Don’t get me wrong. I adore the takes on Let’s Move by Harriet and Kate and Lesley on this, and good on them for bringing the real problems with this to national attention. And I’m well aware that taking the “Big Food Is Behind This” angle can be off-puttingly tinfoil-hatty to “mainstream” people who are suspicious of fat-acceptance folks already.
But Big Food IS behind this. And they’re not exactly keeping it a secret, either. Pattie’s post provides a link to the corporations who have joined up with M. Obama’s initiative, and it’s a pretty jaw-dropping who’s-who of who makes pretty much every damn product you can buy in a supermarket and a few other places, too. Shit like this is why I gigglesnort to the point of tonsilitis whenever FA critics say we’re tools of Big Food; yeah, that’s why they’re clamoring to buy ad space on our blogs and we just won’t let them because we’re all so dripping with integrity, so they have to go over to the Enemy instead, poor things. Ow, my aching tonsils.
Why would Coca-Cola, for example, give a crap about FA? Their best selling product is a diet drink. And pretty much all of Big Food benefits generously from fatty-panic in some way, which is exactly what Pattie’s post zooms in on. To wit:
If this is a fight that Big Food doesn’t want, then why is it buying into the program so fully?
Why does any industry engage financially with a project? Because this is good for business.
The key to understanding why such companies as Pepsico and Hersheys want to be on board with a program that on the surface seems to be attacking their major product lines is to understand the fundamental underlying principle of making a profit in modern capitalism: scarcity.
She then goes on to elaborate that not only does Big Food get to make diet products (and market existing products as “weight loss friendly”) and charge out the yang for them, but people who are hungry from self-imposed food scarcity and can’t stand it any longer are likely to grab at the first thing they can get that will ease their hunger — which is likely to be a Big Food product, because they’ve got the distribution sewn up. Then, not only have people “blown their diets,” but they blame themselves rather than the diet, and start buying the premium-priced diet products again. They win the yo-yo contest at both ends of the yo-yo, see?
Not only that, but they’ve got Big Pharma in on this too, and Pattie helpfully provides a link to the list of sponsors to the Partnership for a Healthy America who are involved (although Pattie’s link is hosed, and you’ll have to use mine until she fixes it). Speed and WLS (gotta keep selling that surgical equipment!) for kids? Brand-new diet pills marketed just to the children and their freaked-out parents? Insulin sensitizers being sold to kids who aren’t actually diabetic in the hope of getting a few pounds off them? Oh boy, good times ahead. Where’s the fast-forward button on life when you need it?
And that’s not even counting the health costs of stigma. Pattie again:
Stigma of fat kids is going to increase. This not only means that fat kids are going to suffer more bullying and violence, but it may be bad for their health. There is growing evidence that many of the so-called “co-morbidity” conditions related to “obesity” may be cause by the stress of stigmatization and not the state of the larger body. So instead of creating a healthier generation, we may be creating a food-obsessed, eating disordered, stigmatized generation that will be our unhealthiest generation.
Like Pattie, I have my doubts that any of this is accidental. The reason for focusing on fat kids rather than adults is that the kids are both more credulous (not having experienced as many failed diets as their adult counterparts yet) and more desperate to fit in, and also that many will simply outgrow their “fat periods” irrespective of actual effort and thus resemble “success stories.” (See the story M. Obama tells about her own daughters’ weight for a good example of the latter. You can’t tell me those girls have to battle “fat genes” in any way, shape, or form.)
Adults have considerably more freedom of movement when it comes to escaping a mentally abusive environment; if you’re fat, there’s pretty much no forgetting that the world hates you and wishes you were dead (which is why they care so much about your health, of course), but there are certainly places one can go where people will shaddup about it for a few minutes.
Kids, on the other hand, have no exit, not with “Let’s Move” posters all over their schools to look forward to in the fall, the perfect fuel for bullies who are already pissed at them for “costing” them their soda and snack machines with their alleged wanton gluttony. It would be nice to think M. Obama really gives a crap what happens to these kids, but it would not surprise me in the slightest if she does not, and regards them as simply a fund-raising tool for B. Obama’s re-election.
You know, I really hate being such a wet-blankie, negative asshole about this. Believe it or not, I don’t live to rant, and would vastly prefer a world that gave me little reason to do so. But this kind of BS just makes me turn into a poo-flinging monkey.
Ending food deserts is a great idea.
So is giving everyone enough time and energy and support to cook decent meals a few times a week, which would involve shortening both work times and commute times considerably.
So is cracking down on work environments that slice people to ribbons, to the point where if you told them they had to stand at the counter and chop vegetables for 20 minutes when they got home, they’d throw the knife at you instead.
So is making sure everyone has a decent, vermin-free kitchen with plenty of ventilation and counterspace to cook in and good working appliances.
And that’s just what springs to mind immediately. Veggies, unlike fruit (which I think is a great idea to distribute more widely, as long as it’s edible quality), require preparation. So do whole grains, legumes, and all those other things kids are “supposed” to be having for each and every meal.
And even if everyone did eat “wholesome” food for almost every meal, we all know the actual percentage of fatties in any age bracket would not change one bit. For most people, eating “better” might make a difference of 1 BMI notch, if that (about 5 pounds for adults, less for kids), 2 at most; not 5 or 10 or more, unless you have a serious ED to begin with (in which case, being badgered to eat differently will do approximately squat anyway). But yay, we got millions of kids at the 95th percentile down to the 94th, and millions of kids at the 85th percentile down to the 84th! Child obesity crisis solved! So worth it! Everybody dance in the streets, including you lazy lumpenfatz!
Seriously, though — I wouldn’t mind seeing everyone have equal access to high-quality food, but considering who is providing the financial oomph behind Let’s Move, there’ll be a snowball fight in Yuma before this initiative even comes close to that. A Diet Coke in every baby bottle is more like it. As Pattie says, “The campaign needs to be scrapped and a true campaign of promoting exercise and healthy eating for all sizes and ages needs to be developed, and believe me it would NOT gain the kind of support that Let’s Move has.” No freakin’ poopie.