Words and Childhood Obesity: They’re So CritiSIZEing


Here’s a little gem of a post from the Weigh2Rock website, written by a teenage girl named Sara:

I’m 270 pounds and feel awful. Plus I have 2 familys on my dad’s and mom’s side that are so critiSIZEing. They always find a way to say im fat in different words to me. I feel left out in school b/c im different and nobody wants to be with me for appearence. I have heard that i should talk to a trusting adult, but when i do i see a little smirk on their face, which just shuts me down b/c nobody listens.

Parental sabotage, anyone? How about a scoop of social exclusion? This poor girl can’t be comfortable anywhere. Heckled at home, ostracized at school — what kind of a life is that?

Sara’s lament also appears in Overweight: What Kids Say, and Dr. Pretlow considers the topics of shame and secrecy so important that Chapter 4 is devoted to the barriers they create — secrecy from friends, the loneliness of concealment, the horror of P.E. class and school weight-loss programs.

Even the discussion of obesity in Health class is a problem, as a Weigh2Rock poll indicates:

Do you think overweight should be covered in school health classes?
Yes, because it teaches about diseases that you can get: 24 votes (18%)
Yes, because it teaches about healthy eating and exercise: 52 votes (38%)
No, because it embarrasses and humiliates overweight kids: 60 votes (44%)

One of the reasons it’s difficult for Sara to find anyone to talk to is that just the challenge of finding politically correct language can shut down an attempt at communication before it even begins.

The work of Dr. David Katz has been referenced many times by Childhood Obesity News, and our pages include a guest post, “The Weight of Secrets and Shame,” that he has contributed. Today, we’re looking at something he wrote about obesity and physician-patient relationships. The difficulties are epitomized by his own professional relationship with one particular patient.

Dr. Katz says,

She avoided our kind like the plague because we had been that virulent in her life. Across an expanse of medical encounters for an array of reasons across a span of years, a whole battalion of us had abused her. We had treated her not as a patient, but as a fat patient… She couldn’t quite bring herself to tell me the specific words of insult and injury she had encountered, again and again. She came close — she told me I wouldn’t believe the harsh words (although, alas, I’m sure I would).

As a result, this patient simply boycotted the medical profession, and blew off things like immunizations, cancer and cardiac risk screening tests, and any other possible opportunities to enjoy the benefits of modern medicine. Dr. Katz takes the opportunity to apologize on behalf of his fellow medical professionals, knowing that the woman’s health may have been irremediably compromised by such self-neglect, which in turn was caused by their less-than-helpful attitude.

Multiply this patient by millions, and you start to get the picture — which is why Dr. Pretlow, who believes food addiction is at the root of the obesity epidemic, says,

Our culture needs to understand the plight of overweight people… We need to call a spade a spade and look at obesity as a disease like any other. But, the words still hurt… The words ‘fat,’ ‘obese,’ and ‘addict,’ are all words that can kill.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,” Amazon.com
Source: “Poll #37,” Weigh2Rock.com
Source: “When Doctors Judge Their Obese Patients,” The Huffington Post, 03/16/11
Image by everydayholiday.com (martin + goi), used under its Creative Commons license.

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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