The Not So Popular Criticism Of The Let's Move Campaign

June 15, 2011  |  

by Evette Brown

As her approval percentages continue to increase, First Lady Michelle Obama has undoubtedly enriched her husband’s administration.  Along with tackling sleeveless dresses, Mrs. Obama has focused her individual campaign on one of the largest issues facing Americans today: obesity.  Rather than addressing the issue in press conferences, First Lady Obama realized “the physical and emotional health of an entire generation is at stake,” and established the “Let’s Move” initiative in 2009.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the days of staying outside until the street lights come on are a thing of the past for children in America. Outdoor physical activity is outdated and has been replaced by video game controllers, computer programs, and On Demand cartoons.  Combine this lack of physical activity with an unhealthy diet and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the result is a tripling of the number of obese children since 2000.

The “Let’s Move” initiative has tackled the issue of childhood obesity with hopes of improving on the epidemic.Using a five-step platform, the initiative aims to transition children and their families into healthier lifestyles both in schools and homes.  Children are expected to lose weight and increase their time away from the computer screen which is supposed to cause them to gain their health and lose the likelihood of developing diabetes and other weight-related illnesses.

In essence, the Let’s Move campaign has a positive mission that is supposed to improve the future for our nation’s children.  Vending machines have been removed from schools and 400 million dollars has been spent on the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, but many experts wonder, is the Let’s Move campaign damaging the self-esteem of the very children it’s trying to help?

In a nation where the “thin ideal” persists and having a “bikini body” is the goal, children suffering from obesity are already at a disadvantage in their schools and homes because of their scale numbers.     According to Harriet Brown, an essayist for the New York Times, there is a stigma attached to being obese and it is causing both overweight and normal weight children to develop a negative image of themselves.  In her article, “For Obese People, Prejudice in Plain Sight,” she states that “Fat stigma affects everyone’s health – fat, thin, or in-between.”  In essence, shining a national light on such a depressive issue only contributes to the problem rather than offering a viable solution.

Several studies, including one conducted by researchers at the University of Buffalo, have concluded that obese children are often the last picked to play during recess.  According to the University of Buffalo’s findings, this blatant exclusion of the “fat kids” causes them to feel a sense of shame about their bodies.  This embarrassment leads to a continual cycle of isolation which spirals into using food as comfort.  Though the “Let’s Move” mission was created to battle the issue of obesity, according to author Paul Campos, it has painted targets on obese children, forcing them to eat more.  “The first lady would, no doubt, be horrified by the suggestion that her Let’s Move campaign, which is dedicated to trying to create an America without any fat kids, is itself a particularly invidious form of bullying,” he said.  “But practically speaking, that’s exactly what it is. The campaign is in effect arguing that the way to stop the bullying of fat kids is to get rid of fat kids.”

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  • holistic87

    A read of Dr. Linda Bacon’s thorough research in her book (health at every size) shows that this Let’s Move campaign is only contributing to the problem. This “obesity epidemic” is really based on very poor research. Our focus should be on HEALTH, not weight. Skinny doesn’t equal healthy. Even a lot of medical doctors are buying into this. This is the epidemic….a misunderstanding of what health is. There is an issue, but Michelle’s campaign is not the way to address it.

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  • Sharkie19

    Wow! You are way over the top. How else do you attack a leading health problem in America? Ignore it? You can always discover something negative in even the best things. Calling attention to this problem is the only way it will be solved. Michelle Obama’s Campaign for a healthier America does not mention weight or body shape but instead promotes healthy eating and exercise. Maybe Paul Campos should check that out…?

    • Shannon Elliott

      No let’s not not hurt the kids feelings lets just give them all gastric bypass at five.

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  • Cathy

    After reading the article and comments I felt as if the article is a bit misleading. Using quotes from Paul Campos, "her Let’s Move campaign, which is dedicated to trying to create an America without any fat kids," as well as, "Children are expected to lose weight [while participating in Lets Move] " casts Let's Move as Michelle Obama's latest fad diet when really, that is not true. Rather, it is an initiative to educate children about how nutrition and physical activity promote a healthy body. Let's Move does not say that a healthy weight is one that creates a slender figure nor does it portray overweight individuals as unhealthy. Weight does not equal health and I think that perhaps, this article simplifies the matter to just that. Yes, obesity is unhealthy but it is also a medical condition and by definition is unhealthy but not all individuals who are overweight are obese and that obesity is a medical condition diagnosed by a doctor with additional factors and characteristics besides large body mass. This is Let's Moves end game; Not to create a thinner child population but a healthier one, whatever size.

  • I thank you all for your comments. I am the author of this feature and I'm a senior at Bennett College that is interning at the Atlanta Post. Seeing the story published and the reactions of people who have read it is truly a dream come true.

    Thank you and keep the comments coming.

  • If it were that easy for parents to encourage children to eat well, then there would be no obese children. However, parents sometimes suck (even more than the government). A lot of the time, it's not their fault. The state of the economy has prevented parents from spending time to truly build their families. I'm in support of the first lady's efforts. Someone has to say something. There's nothing wrong with being obese – until of course diabetes, heart disease and hypertension come knocking. Then we turn around and expect doctors to bend over backwards to save our lives and the government to pay for it. Sad to say but those days are over. The message behind the campaign is simple. MOVE! GET UP AND MOVE!!!!! It's not trying to eradicate fat kids, just obesity. Would the author of the article prefer if all lifestyle advice came from Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie? Thanks but no thanks. I have learned time and time again to be weary of ALL media (including the Atlanta Post). I am really disappointed to find this article here. There are too many things trying to piss black people off out here and not enough to encourage us. To keep us trying and keep us fighting. Stop trying to elicit responses rooted in pain and anger and tell me something I want to hear. Tell me the top 10 things I can do to succeed in school. Tell me how to maintain sexual, emotional, spiritual and physical integrity in this society. Tell me how beautiful I am. Tell me how well I'm doing and how well supported I am by the rest of the black community. Tell me how I can reach others and inspire me so I can pass that inspiration on. DON'T tell me how obese kids are sad because someone is telling them that that lifestyle is not healthy.

  • Guest

    As a people we must be on guard for these so-called experts, researchers and organizations who in most cases are being paid by an interest that produces things that are detrimental to us. They to often come up with these so-called scientific, research or clinical studies that show something negative about black people doing things that will make us healthier, stronger, smarter, etc. When will we learn that these folks are on a mission to set us up to die young, be weak, violent and stupid so they can imprison us, manipulate us, deny us and shut us out of their society. It is getting very intense on their part these days so we have to make sure that we don't fall for the okey doke . Don't be swayed by the media. Stay positive, we know what is right in our spirit. Stay strong family! Oh, and thank you First Lady Michelle Obama for choosing a cause that so largely affects our people!

  • Sherry Sanders

    The campaign is absolutely about eliminating fat kids. Statements like eliminate childhood obesity in a decade (which is not possible), fat kids are a threat to national security or an economic drain on their cities come close to genocide. Far from being simplistic most of the researchers giving constructive criticism to the First Lady have been studying fat stigma for decades. I know I have. You are naive and in denial. I bet you don't even know 95% of obesity research is sponsored by Pharma. Or that it is not just about diets, chemicals in the environment are wrecking havoc with kids endocrine systems and weight gain is one side effect. Or that poor kids get fatter than rich kids even with the same diet and exercise. Do a little research before you point the finger at others!

  • The campaign in its current form is clearly harmful to fat children. Statements like fat kids are a threat to national security or an economic drain on their cities (on White House site) are chilling. Mrs Obama is hardly the first to point the finger at fat kids, presidential administrations have been doing it since Eisenhower with little success. Unless you consider hidden agendas that is. As we speak, a drug is being tested that is given to pregnant mothers to prevent fat fetuses. Whenever there is a fat pill in the pike, anti-fat hysteria increases under the guise of public health campaigns. It is marketing in disguise. The power-elite also uses lifestyle issues to distract the public from the ways that corporations kill us. How can anyone really believe the Gov. cares about our health when they lie about the Gulf pollution, radiation from Fukushima, the danger of Monsanto's GMOs and many other dangers? When people get sick and die something must serve as scapegoat. Obesity allows the victims to be blamed for their own illnesses!

  • Mila Savage

    Honestly, EVERY child deserves some candy or cake or a soda. They don't have to take it all out of the schools. That's dumb. Remember your childhood memories of eating your favorite things? Or going to the vending machine and buying whatever you wanted for the first time? Don't punish all kids because others have a Fat gene. No one ever talks about genetics. Some kids can't help that they are fat…it's what their parents cook, it is how they were fed before they got in school, and others just have that gene that no matter what they eat, they will be big. Let's not overlook that there is some truth to this article. But at the same time, I don't think it is being pushed and marketed correctly. – justsayin. Oh…and I love my Obamas!

  • ucantbeserious

    I think they had nothing else to write and were on a deadline to turn something in. This article is so twisted and foolish. Obese children already felt shame. The program teaches good health habits. This person is ridiculous and probably in need of some attention.

  • nic

    Why didn’t she make black poor ppl living in ghetto’s and harassed by cops her issue. I’m sorry but for someone who is proud of her race and culture I would have expected that she would make poverty stricken blacks her number one minority. Number 2 would be to get drugs and gangs off the streets. But no let’s worry about the fat white kid who is feed buger fries and a side of cooking oil by their even fatter white parents.

  • JYM

    Damed if you do, damed if you don’t!

  • Steelcitychick

    Wow…great observations by everyone on top! Thanks, ya’ll said everything I wanted to.

  • Latoya

    This article is ridiculous… obviously parents need help with teaching their kids about healthy exercise and diet as American children and adults are predominantly overweight.

    "Portray obesity in a negative light" … I miss the memo, what's positive about obesity?

    Here's a thought, maybe obese children are depressed because they’re overweight and their confidence would grow if they lost some weight.

  • Tiffany

    It's so frustrating how everyone has become so sensitive and all these "researchers" and "Activist" always have something negative to say yet aren't doing anything to actually help the cause. Yes, obesity is a sensitive issue and yes some people might be affected by it emotionally but that means that they are coming to terms with the fact they have a serious problem. She is no way, shape, or form selling the idea of a "bikini body" or anything of that nature. Her campaign is strictly about health and promoting a healthy lifestyle. I think those people who are the most offended are feeling guilty.

  • gina

    @Jeannie & The King….cosign!

    Nothing is wrong with the message or efforts.
    “Some” people will make better choices! In the 60’s it was common for many people to cook with lard and pour bacon grease on their food! Children could by cigarettes, and dentures were common. Consumers government and school education programs helped change that especially smoking for many people of my parents, my children and my generation. WOULD THE PERSON WITH ALL THE ANSWERS and ability change everybody PLEASE CONTACT THE WHITE HOUSE!

  • The King

    These researchers are stupid. This is another example of how pussified & PC the united states of america has become. There basically saying: "Lets not help fat kids lose weight because they'll feel bad about themselves, instead lets make them feel good about being overweight or obese and live with a greater risk of getting health issues or dying an early death." That confidence statement was utter crap too. Many fat peopl who have shed many pounds have gained more confidence from weight loss rather than lower self-esteem. This is a bad essay and how ironic one of the people supporting this crap is named Dr. Bacon smh.