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Campaigns do little to combat obesity

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Published 2010-04-28T00:00:00Z”/>


Andrea Wagner

When I was a teenager, I was walking down the street and a man hollered out of his car window, “When you wear red, people call you Kool-Aid!”

As amusing as it may be to compare a person to a man-sized pitcher of sugar water, at the time, I felt ugly.

I have always been “fat,” but I have never been unhealthy.

However, I am morbidly obese if you go by charts and graphs that categorize people by weight and height.

Last year, a Pennsylvania university caught national media attention when the school’s newspaper ran an editorial criticizing a “too-fat-to-graduate” rule, according to an article on The four-year-old policy required students who have a body mass index of 30 or higher to take a class called Fitness for Life before they could graduate.

The university repealed the policy last December saying it undermined the school’s policy of equal treatment of students, according to

I agree with health, but singling out people with a higher BMI is misguided.

BMI calculations are not a diagnostic tool and are used because they are an inexpensive way to put people into health risk categories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A person may have a very high BMI simply because they have an extra amount of muscle.

Indicators, such as BMI, are as useful as a dashboard’s “check engine light” in a car.

Instead of focusing on the numbers, it is best to look at the causes of obesity.

I was squeezing into a size 12 in junior high. People would tell me it was just “baby fat” and I would grow out of it. I am still waiting, but at 32 and after having two kids, “baby fat” has new meaning.

There’s no disputing that I think I should lose some weight. I want to.

Sometimes as I head to school, driving my minivan, eating a Burger King breakfast burrito, I feel a stab of guilt passing the Wildcat Recreation Center.

My point here is not to dispute that weight is a health issue, but that attitudes about weight are a bigger issue.

A McDonald’s billboard ad right outside my son’s preschool displays a gigantic box of fries next to the words “box of happiness.” At the same time, I hear about Michelle Obama’s new campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation.

Shows such as “The Biggest Loser” and Kirstie Alley’s “Big Life” illustrate the way people just gloss over the stigma around body fat and image in society.

Anyone on the street could tell you getting healthy is about eating right and exercising. People know how to get fat and get thin.

The bottom line is we need to think about how we categorize people. Health and beauty are not about a calculation, a statistic or an ad campaign.

At Chico State, FitU is a free program to help students with nutrition and physical activity.

“A medical establishment that equates “thin’ with “healthy’ is the problem,” according to Linda Bacon’s Web Site, who is the author of “Health at Every Size: The Truth About Your Weight.”

We need to empower ourselves, not look to advertising or political campaigns for direction. Our bodies are all different and only we can fully know them.

What a change we could make if we as individuals became smarter, healthier and stronger by ourselves.

No amount of public health agencies or informational brochures is going to get me inside the WREC or to eat more carrots and chicken instead of take-out. No McDonald’s billboard is going to sell me on a “box of happiness” unless I let them. And “Skinny Mama Obama” is not going to get me outside planting a vegetable garden because she said it was a good idea.

The change has to come from inside me, from my notion of self-worth and my willingness to literally work my ass off.

There has to be more incentive to lose weight, an inner drive that will sustain a person through a long, difficult process.

Perhaps, if a person does wear red, instead of saying they look like Kool-Aid, we might treat them like the Kool-Aid man. That guy always had friends.

Andrea Wagner can be reached at<a href= “javascript:void(location.href=’mailto:’+String.fromCharCode(97,119,97,103,110,101,114,64,116,104,101,111,114,105,111,110,46,99,111,109)+’?subject=re%3A%20Campaigns%20do%20little%20to%20combat%20obesity’)”>[email protected]</a>

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      The student news site of California State University, Chico
      Campaigns do little to combat obesity