Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shape Up or Ship Out

Our society is getting bigger and bigger. Ironically, while most of us are getting bigger, many clothing retailers are making their sizes smaller. When did it become cool to be a zero?

So, I have started my new job. I am the Executive Director of a non-profit committed to ending obesity in Rhode Island. Sadly, I think I will have a job for a long, long time. And until I can get rid of the excess baby weight that I gained, I feel like I am not just the ED, but I should also be a client!

Sitting in the park the other day, I was saddened by the many terribly overweight people I saw. I was happy that they were getting out (many are probably far more active than I am) but curious about what had led them to this place - heredity, genetics, environment, metabolism, economics, ignorance, medical conditions?

I wonder whether or not obesity is in the place that alcoholism or AIDS was years ago. Is it harder to draw attention to or sympathy for something that is perceived to be avoidable, preventable or easily treatable? Is it agony for a parent to admit that their children are overweight or obese without taking on some responsibility or enormous guilt? Can we avoid blame and work towards a solution? I believe that we can.

In the US, 1 in 5 children is obese and 1 in 3 is overweight or at risk for obesity. Forget the purely medical impact that can have on their lives: a future riddled with conditions like diabetes, hypertension and chronic aches and pains. The stigma of being heavy, the inability to be active or fit into the trendier clothes, the emotional and psychological impact is unbearable to consider. Legislation is finally happening all over the country to bring back good old gym and to ban sugary beverages and crappy snacks from school vending machines. But is it enough? I don't think so. Not by a long shot...


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