Monday, February 18, 2008

Tip-toeing around the "O" word

I had a surreal moment last week as I attended a meeting of our coalition to get kids to spend less time transfixed and inert in front of screens where they often pass the time munching junk food.

The chief motive behind the effort is childhood obesity and the resulting, astonishing rise of diabetes among children.

Our group, which consists primarily of public health professionals, is preparing an all-out effort to get child-care providers to come to a meeting where we can address the problem.

As we wordsmithed our invitation, somebody said, “Don’t use the word ‘obesity’ because many childcare providers are obese and take it personally. They’ll just tune us out and won’t come to the meeting”

Ooooooh Kaaaaaay.

After I let a politically appropriate and sensitively calibrated length of time elapse (like until the end of the meeting), I approached a colleague with the obvious question.

“If the problem is obesity and we can’t talk about obesity because the people we are talking to are obese, how are we going to make any progress?”

She didn’t blink. “Talk about fitness.”

“But fitness isn’t the problem.”

“But it is the solution.”

“But doesn’t talking about fitness offend obese childcare workers who aren’t fit?”

“Well, some of them may be fit.”

“Even though they’re obese?”


“So what’s the problem with childhood obesity?”

“The kids are at risk of developing diabetes and many who are obese aren’t fit.”

“Aren’t the childcare providers also at risk?

“Well, yessss.”


“So we talk about fitness. There’s a better chance they’ll listen.”

Unless, of course, they consider themselves and the children in their daycare to be perfectly fit — however overweight they all might be.

If that’s the case, they still aren’t going to listen.

Did somebody say the emperor has no cloths on?

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