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 Outdoor physical activity is outdated and has been replaced by video game controllers, computer programs, and On Demand cartoons.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.”