Lindsey Beyerstein writes:
If I recall correctly, Paul was very critical of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program for supposedly being fat stigmatizing. Which is odd because “Let’s Move” is about the warmest fuzziest, least fat-shaming initiative in public health history. It’s all about how great it is for everyone to run and play and add eat veggies.
Yes it is about that. But what it’s mainly about are the following claims, which have been front and center of the campaign from Day One:
(1) There are way too many fat kids in America — so many that it’s a full-blown social crisis.
(2) Being a fat kid is bad, because you are going to have lots of health problems and probably die several years earlier than thin kids.
(3) If we get kids to run and play and eat more veggies then we can reduce the percentage of fat kids in America by two thirds, back to the levels of fatness observed among children in America in the 1970s. This will save enormous sums of money in health care costs, because thin kids will end up costing much less to society than fat kids.
From the Let’s Move web site:
Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation
Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by the First Lady, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams.
As part of this effort, President Barack Obama established the first-ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and implement an inter-agency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to end the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. The goal of the action plan is to reduce the childhood obesity rate to just five percent by 2030 – the same rate before childhood obesity first began to rise in the late 1970s.
What inspired the First Lady to pursue this goal? It turns out the personal really is political:
WASHINGTON — Her daughters were 6 and 9, and Michelle Obama was like any other working mom — struggling to juggle office hours, school pick-ups and mealtimes. By the end of the day, she was often too tired to make dinner, so she did what was easy: She ordered takeout or went to the drive-through.
She thought the girls were eating reasonably well — until her pediatrician in Chicago told her he didn’t like the weight fluctuations he was seeing.
I was shocked because my kids looked perfectly fine to me,” Obama says. “But I had a wake-up call.” Like many parents, however, “I didn’t know what to do.”
Today, the self-described “mom in chief” is launching Let’s Move, a campaign to help other parents deal with a national health crisis she describes in epic terms.
The goal: to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation.
“It’s an ambitious goal, but we don’t have time to wait,” the first lady said in an interview with USA TODAY in her spacious office in the East Wing of the White House. “We’ve got to stop citing statistics and wringing our hands and feeling guilty, and get going on this issue.”
She says she intends to “sound the alarm” about the epidemic.
Once upon a time — a time known as the 1970s — America wasn’t like this. Again, the Let’s Move web site:
Thirty years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. Meals were home-cooked with reasonable portion sizes and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating fast food was rare and snacking between meals was an occasional treat.
Now call me paranoid, but some people might find just a hint of a fairly reactionary social agenda lurking amid that idyllic picture of the way we were. (It should be unnecessary to add that there’s practically no evidence for this portrait of a bygone age. We don’t actually know if kids or for that matter adults are less physically active than they were a generation ago, or if they consume more calories).
In all seriousness, note how this is being framed: It’s Mom’s job to solve this “crisis,” by making sure the kids have a magically obesity-repelling home cooked meal every night. (It would also help if there were somebody home to make sure the kids are safe when they bike or walk home from school, and that they don’t spend all afternoon with the X-Box).
Let’s Move is about creating an America with as few fat kids in it as possible — with “fat” here being defined in such a way as to put kids like Malia and Sasha Obama in a problematic weight category. (BTW the reason that five percent of American kids were “obese” in the 1970s is that the definition of childhood obesity invented ten years ago by a CDC task force simply took the 95th percentile of childhood BMI in the 1970s as the cut point for their definition of childhood obesity. Science in action!).
The campaign is defined by its very name as a campaign against fat kids. Its description of the “crisis,” and its explicit goals in terms of measuring effectiveness and ultimate success in the fight against that supposed crisis, are defined exclusively in terms of creating an America with as few fat kids as possible. And it does so within the context of a not so latent reactionary social frame, in which the problem is in significant part that Mom works outside the home and isn’t “there” for her kids to whip up a delicious and nutritious home-cooked meal that would win Alice Waters’ seal of approval.
How this isn’t supposed to be stigmatizing of fat children is beyond me. How it reflects anything that could be described as a progressive social agenda is if anything even more mysterious.