When Politicians Talk About Fat Kids, Check Your Wallet

meowser-48.jpg 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.

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16 Responses to “When Politicians Talk About Fat Kids, Check Your Wallet”

  1. lilacsigil Says:

    Well said. Then again, things like “good work conditions”, “access to good healthcare”, “good public transport”, “reducing corn subsidies (in the US)” and “safe outdoor spaces” is hard! And costs money! Much easier to shame kids and collect money from the very people who make non-nutritious food so widely available.

  2. Trabb's Boy Says:

    I come from a consumer protection background, and I hate Michelle Obama’s program like the child-hurting thing that it is, but I think you’re going too far to say it was planned as a benefit to big food.

    Much more likely, Ms. Obama needed a non-controversial “project”. She wants to improve the health of Americans. She sees obesity as a harm, as do most people, but she does know that diets don’t really work for people who are obese so she wants to focus on prevention, which means kids, and she is not allowed to do anything that costs money.

    Big food didn’t plan this, but they have every reason to get involved as much as possible, to ensure that nothing happens that affects their bottom line, so they want to be a part of every decision made.

    She should know better than to allow them at the table at all. Between the size of their wallet and the strength of their interest, their involvement guarantees that not only will nothing happen other than the spread of additional consumer information (i.e., shaming), but everybody will KNOW that the process was taken over. Probably, she didn’t get a say in the matter. She’s just a figurehead and her husband has turned out to be aaaaaaall about treating everyone as if their motives are pure.

    I think it is well worth shouting the involvement of big food from the rooftops. Discredit this piece of crap project and tell the government to work on the real problem of the vastly increased size of the lower classes — not the size of individuals.

  3. maggiemunkee Says:

    lumpenfatz has to be the best word i’ve read in days. days!

  4. living400lbs Says:

    Not to discredit anything else you’ve said, but 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) is going to have me randomly giggling for the rest of the day. Because it’s TRUE.

  5. Kate217 Says:

    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.What’s so aggravating is that this was established in 1966! The high fat diet in prevalent in Roseto for decades didn’t lead to all the health issues popularly associated that “lifestyle.” It was only when stigma became attached to that diet that the health issues appeared.

  6. Kate217 Says:

    ACK!!!! I must have messed up the close blockquote code. Sorry.

  7. sleepydumpling Says:

    Love this post. I don’t know if Ms Obama is willingly in bed with the Big Food folk, but if nothing else, they’re jumping on her whole “OMGTHEKIDZIZFAT!” schtick as quickly as they can.

  8. O.C. Says:

    When Pattie said, “we may be creating a food-obsessed, eating disordered, stigmatized generation that will be our unhealthiest generation”, I felt a chill. Increased dieting will increase obesity, while also causing poorer health. But this will be seen as causal, not correlational. And the panic will accelerate still further.

    This now looks to me like just one step in a generations-long process. A very ugly process.

  9. Blimp Says:

    Amen! Meowser is on the enemy’s trail. But let’s don’t pull any punches. This isn’t just about taking our money. This is about dictatorship, a la Mussolini or Hitler. This is fascism, where the government is run by a cabal of directors of international cartels or “world corporations”, but whose public face is an extremely narcissistic person installed into the highest government office by the cabal. Fines and jail time for “obesity” and raising “obese” children, the definition of which is as nebulous and mobile as the Nazi definition of “Jew”. The Nazis also imposed a Nazi diet even upon the “Aryan” population under the ruse that “your body belongs to the Führer” (see http://www4.cord.edu/history/arnold/hist338/mgstroms/NaziDiet.htm)

    The drive for dictatorship has the same motive today that in had in the 1920s and 30s: to maintain the cabal’s financial looting operations while the physical conditions of life grow worse and worse, and to cause any nation that threatens the cabal’s ability to rule the world to self-destruct. Hitler was an instrument of Germany’s self-destruction, just as Obama is for the U.S. today.

  10. Meowser Says:

    Blimp, if you’re going to continue to post over here, you really need to turn down the “Obama = Hitler” rhetoric. I obviously have no problem with anyone having criticism of specific policies, but really, enough with the Godwin stuff.

  11. littlem Says:

    Yeah – you know, I know I’m in the minority on this, and it certainly won’t be the first time I’ve said it, and I know Mrs. O isn’t as empathetic as, perhaps, she could be, given the fact she’s been an athlete all her life and, you know, perhaps she was a tad preoccupied with the pressures of being a woman and of color in environment after environment hostile to both.

    And, you know, being the first ever U.S. First Lady of color with the ramifications of having everything down to your eyebrows scrutinized.

    (Check Jezebel if you must; I’m not going to link here and derail my own comment.)

    However.

    I’m really not down with these diatribes I hear round and round the Fatosphere excoriating her for what Coca-Cola and Monsanto and corporations are trying to do.

    Of course they would try to associate themselves with her initiative. Everyone here is well-read and well-versed enough to know all the reasons why.

    What I’m getting really tired of — and I didn’t say I didn’t understand it, so I’d appreciate it if no one tried to explain it to me (or whitesplain it to me, for that matter, especially since I’m part-white) — is her getting blamed for it.

    I think it’s one thing if someone else can offer solutions — while attempting to manage the exact same pressures, and — effectively, mind you — beat back the exact same interests, in the face of the exact same public glare.

    But if you (universal you) can’t manage that, well …

    • meowser Says:

      I suppose there is a case to be made that the food corps are merely trying to take advantage of the increased market for diet foods that comes with this initiative. But she’s not exactly discouraging the production and marketing of worthless and marked-up diet food or diet drugs, either. And given the corporatist agenda of this entire administration, I’m having a hard time giving them the benefit of the doubt.

      • littlem Says:

        “But she’s not exactly discouraging the production and marketing of worthless and marked-up diet food or diet drugs, either.”

        Like these things hadn’t been going on — for generations, really — before any of us even know who she was?

        (Not to speak of the fact you’re assuming that’s something she, in her current capacity, would even have the authority to do. I’ll take a peek at the enabling provisions of the Constitution when I have a minute, but I have to admit I have my doubts.)

        “And given the corporatist agenda of this entire administration, I’m having a hard time giving them the benefit of the doubt.”

        Oh – this administration is so much more corporatist than Bush II? Bush I? Reagan??

        Meowser, you’re so eloquent, and I respect so much that you have to say, but I think you and I are going to have to disagree on this one.

        There’s a little axiom in some African-American and mixed race communities that a (n even partially-) Black person is never given an important job until a (n all-) White person has already pretty much FUBAR’d it.

        I’m horribly disappointed — but in part as a result of the above, not entirely surprised — with progressives who are spewing vitriol at the President like he made the mess this country is currently in.
        #comeonson

        And I think the howls of protest from those who are piling on the First Lady would have a lot more weight if I thought any of them were actively engaged in
        – working in their communities’ gardens and/or food banks
        – researching *any* company in BigAg for exposure WRT to the crap they’re dumping in our food
        – sending any reframing ideas to the Presidents’ Council on Fitness (or whatever they call themselves this week) as to how to structure these programs to make them both, simultaneously, enforceable and sufficiently palatable for public opinion for there to be hope for even marginal cooperation for implementation, without harshing on body weight
        – all — or any — of the above.

        For starters.

        But somehow I doubt it. There’s just a lot of bitching about what a terrible job she’s doing of all that.

        And one of the ugliest undergirding elements I’m hearing, though I’m quite sure no one who’s doing the yelling would be willing to even look at it, let alone admit it, is “We (NB, such an inclusive term) gave these Black people an important job, and they’re not doing it perfectly! Therefore that means they’re completely screwing it up! Oh pearl-clutch! Oh outrage!”

        And trust me, I know that mess when I see it — I’d know it for what it was even if I’d never did time on the Hill, and had some idea of the ridiculous multi-levels of complexity just putting together a coherent platform, let alone a perfect one, on this issue, required surmounting.

        Somehow I don’t remember these levels of bile — especially from the people they’re coming from — being leveled at Secretary Clinton’s “First Lady-appropriate Programs” when she was First Lady.

        Or, for that matter, that paragon of inaction, and malevolence by omission, Lady Bush.

        Something to consider.

        I hope.

      • meowser Says:

        No, I definitely don’t think Obama is more corporatist than Reagan, Clinton, or either of the Bushes.

        But I voted for him because I thought he’d be better than Bush. Or John McCain. Or Sarah Palin. Otherwise, I could have just sat on my hands. The same would have gone for any Democrat who was running for President. Unfortunately, our electoral system is so completely hosed that it’s now become impossible for anyone who doesn’t have a corporatist agenda to be elected President. This is why I am not holding my breath waiting for an HFCS or growth hormone ban from this administration, or any other one succeeding it, any more than their predecessors could have given a calcified shit about it. Nobody wants to tell the big corporations what to do, it’s OMGSOCIALISM.

        I wasn’t blogging until well into the second term of Bush II, but you can bet your ass that if Laura Bush started in on the fatties, I’d have been all over that. (Over on BFB and Fat!So?, going back a good five or so years pre-blogging, I certainly had my share of barbs for Tommy Thompson and Richard Carmona about their fatty-baiting BS.) There were certainly atrocities committed by Bush and Cheney that outstrip anything done by Obama, but since this blog is focused on fat, that’s the thing I zero in on here.

        But do you really think Michelle Obama had no choice but to pick on fat kids? I’m finding that difficult to believe.

        And for the record, Bill Clinton is a fat-hating asshole, and so’s his wife. There. I said it.

      • littlem Says:

        “even if I’d never did time”

        0_o

        I’ve had a higher typo/error percentage in general lately — not quite sure what that’s about — but clearly I’m feeling a touch strongly about this issue.

      • littlem Says:

        “Unfortunately, our electoral system is so completely hosed that it’s now become impossible for anyone who doesn’t have a corporatist agenda to be elected President.”

        I’m not disputing that. The problem I’ve got is with people blaming the current administration for it, like it’s never happened before.

        “But do you really think Michelle Obama had no choice but to pick on fat kids? I’m finding that difficult to believe.”

        Like I said, the problem I have is with people framing it like that.

        So if you — and so many others from whom I really expected better (or at the bare minimum more nuanced) — are going to continue to frame it like that (not to speak of continuing to ignore the concomitant issue I’ve raised that I suspect is contributing to it being framed like that), then, once again, I think we’re going to need to agree to disagree.


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