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And it begins… Obama girls’ diets, weight make national news

11th March 2009

And it begins… Obama girls’ diets, weight make national news

Obama girls Sasha and Malia

Part of Michelle Obama’s agenda will be to stress the importance of healthy eating and to encourage Americans to provide fresh, unprocessed and locally grown foods to their families and the families of the neediest in their communities. Reports the New York Times:

White House officials say the focus on healthy living will be a significant item on Mrs. Obama’s agenda, which already includes supporting working families and military spouses. As the nation battles an obesity epidemic and a hard-to-break taste for oversweetened and oversalted dishes, her message is clear: Fresh, nutritious foods are not delicacies to be savored by the wealthy, but critical components of the diets of ordinary and struggling families.

The First Lady’s emphasis on healthy food consumption and Victory Gardens is a great one, although I wonder if she plans to put any kind of oomph behind the rhetoric to ensure that this actually happens. Like, oh, convincing her husband and Congress to make changes in the Farm Bill to help eliminate food deserts and subsidize locally-grown fruits and vegetables so that they are both more affordable and accessible to people at all socio-economic levels.

Ever the role model, Michelle Obama invited cameras into the White House kitchen where only fresh food — nothing canned or processed — are prepared by the First Family’s chef. And in the November issue of Parents magazine, she and her husband described their decision to ditch juice boxes and processed foods. Their motivation? Malia was getting fat.

“A couple of years ago — you’d never know it by looking at her now — Malia was getting a little chubby,” Mr. Obama told the magazine.

They took action, Mrs. Obama said, when “her doctor — he really monitors this type of thing — suggested we look at her diet. So we cut out juice boxes, sweets and processed foods.”

Ruth Reichl [editor of Gourmet magazine] would like the White House kitchen to issue regular news releases that describe what the first couple and their daughters are eating. (Then parents across the country could tell their children, “You know, Malia and Sasha were eating salad yesterday. …”)

I’m sure that Michelle Obama equates fat with unhealthy, especially since the family doctor seems hypervigilant on these kinds of issues, so it’s possible that the First Lady’s concern was for the health of her child and family. Nonetheless it strikes me odd that these so-called health concerns and nutrition advice did not arise until OMG, MALIA IS GETTING FAT!! If you eat a steady diet of fast-, junk- and processed foods and yet are genetically blessed to remain thin, does this mean you’re healthy?

Improving the family’s diet is great — all families should be so lucky as the Obamas to be able to eat such a healthy diet, not to mention, have the luxury of a personal chef. Still I wonder how little Malia felt after her mother drastically changed and restricted the entire family’s diet all because she was getting a “little chubby.” I know from personal experience that being singled out in a family for weight is an emotionally crushing experience for a kid. My mother once announced at the dinner table that she was putting me and me alone on a diet, despite the fact that most of my family, including her, were (and still are) fat. I would find out much later that my mom was also teased about her weight in school and that she was probably just trying to shield me from the same harassment, but at the time, it had the opposite effect: I was determined to eat even more of the things she placed off-limits in a show of rebellion and bodily autonomy.

Add in a national spotlight and I can’t even begin to imagine the anvil-like pressures. How will these girls feel in having their diets broadcast in official White House press releases* to a global audience, in effect, involuntarily thrusting them into the spotlight as anti-obesity role models? Has anyone even asked them what they think or feel about this? Will they be able to indulge in a cheeseburger without fear of judgment and condemnation from public food purists? Will tabloids and gossip mags turn their voyeuristic eye to them next, splashing their images on magazine covers while speculating on the perceived dips and spikes on their digital scales?

After the Obama girls were invited to star on the Hannah Montana show, HuffPo blogger Casey Gane-McCalla pointed out the dangers media intrusion can hold for child stars and children of presidents and politicians:

Undo media attention and the pressure of the spotlight has negatively affected many children who have sought or been thrust into the media spotlight.

Sasha and Malia should receive media attention for being part of the first family and not as separate entities to themselves… Let the kids be kids… They should be sheltered from the media not thrust into it.

The Obama girls will have plenty of challenges and obstacles to overcome in having the most normal childhood as possible. Let’s not add disordered relationships with food and body to that list.

* Sadly, “What’s For Lunch at Sasha and Malia’s School” has already made headlines.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 at 10:41 am and is filed under Arts and Music, Body Image, Class & Poverty, Class issues, Family Issues, Fat Acceptance, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Mind & Body, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 44 responses to “And it begins… Obama girls’ diets, weight make national news”

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  1. 1 On March 11th, 2009, Alyssa (The 39 year-old) said:

    Oy.

  2. 2 On March 11th, 2009, Cammy said:

    Which one is Malia, the youngest? It doesn’t really matter, either way I don’t see how the story about getting her weight under control (baby fat! you need reserves to grow! oh wait, I forgot little girls today are supposed to be photosynthetic…).

    Michelle’s activism about food highlights what a fine line there is between promoting healthy eating and promoting unhealthy focus on it. For my, my ED started with a resolution to “be healthy,” and the good intentions spiral into disordered hell. I think genetic predisposition has a lot to do with how people react to these messages. Let’s just hope that Sasha and Malia have their parents’ confidence and self-assurance and won’t let the media circus affect them too much…

  3. 3 On March 11th, 2009, Godless Heathen said:

    *sigh* More education. Because people have poor diets solely due to lack of education and not things like, say, dramatically slashed food stamp budgets, spiraling food costs, food deserts, and school lunch programs being critically under funded. Clearly we’re simply under-educated. It’s not that people frequently live places where they can’t store, prepare, or cook fresh foods, it’s just that we’re too dumb to know what to do. Oh yeah, and we’re too dumb to know that you should spend hours cooking food.

    We could take the focus off of education and put it on creating more money for poor people to buy food with, but that would be constructive and would take the focus off of shaming individuals for their limited choices. Thank you Michelle Obama, for a moment I forgot that I was a complete and total idiot. It’s my stupidity that keeps me eating this way, not a system rigged to actively deny me food stamp coverage.

  4. 4 On March 11th, 2009, Piffle said:

    We aren’t going to win the HAES revolution in the next four years, so let’s make their ideas work for us. I see no downside in encouraging programs to get fresh fruits and vegetables to all people, if they think it will promote thinness then we can use that. Meanwhile we need to keep working on getting the messages out about ED’s and so forth.

    I do feel sorry for the Obama girls, their father uses them shamelessly, while I like many of his policies, I really disapprove of his parenting.

  5. 5 On March 11th, 2009, Christine said:

    “A couple of years ago — you’d never know it by looking at her now — Malia was getting a little chubby,”

    Sounds to me like they’ve got a kid who bulks up before a growth spurt. Sheesh, what a non-event.

  6. 6 On March 11th, 2009, Jen said:

    Godless Heathen I’m with you; theres’ nothing wrong with promoting fresh fruits and veggies for these programs but the problem is that the programs are needed in the first place!

  7. 7 On March 11th, 2009, Sarah said:

    I saw this today and just sighed. This sadness came over me and I thought, here you go, girls. I guess you lose your innocence especially quickly when you’re in the public eye.

  8. 8 On March 11th, 2009, Synj said:

    What Christine said, yeesh.

    That’s exactly how I grew. I’d pudge a little to get some extra growing energy (OMG, one belt hole) and then “fwoosh!” two pants sizes taller in two months. You should have seen the desperation the year I went through 4 pants sizes and 5 shoe sizes in one school year, I still won’t wear capris b/c they remind me of a childhood in high waters!

  9. 9 On March 11th, 2009, spacedcowgirl said:

    GROSS. First of all, she’s a growing child, and as long as she is eating a reasonable amount and variety of foods (which I think is a pretty flexible concept in kids that young) then her diet shouldn’t have been scrutinized in that way. I get a major ick factor from that doctor. Second, big negative points to the President for casually tossing off that kind of remark in the press. I would like to think that he or Michelle would have some idea how harmful and stressful that type of thing can be to a young girl–like she doesn’t have enough stress and scrutiny upcoming without the press feeling greenlighted to report on any weight “struggles” she may or may not have in the future. I agree with you… I don’t have a problem with cutting out juice boxes and processed sweets if that is what the family considers necessary for health (though I’m not a huge fan of such dietary micro-management as turning juice boxes into evil anathema), but the children’s weight should not be what precipitates such a move.

    Also, is it too cynical of me to have a teeny tiny little suspicion that the desire to have “non-fat” kids might not be totally decoupled from the then-Senator’s political aspirations? Imagine the “childhood obesity epidemic” attacks that might have come from the right if one of the girls were even the tiniest bit overweight. Or rather, don’t imagine, because it’s too scary.

  10. 10 On March 11th, 2009, ItsTheWooo said:

    Fatness is a good indicator of insulin levels which is a good indicator of health. High insulin, high weight, low health. Some people are genetically blessed to eat whatever they want and not gain weight. Those people fall into two categories:
    1) low insulin in spite of a diet high in sugars and starches (thus healthy in spite of a poor diet due to genetic resistance… this is common in young people and certain lucky people genetically)
    2) high insulin, but without showing the symptom of weight gain (thus “metabolic obesity” even if weight is normal because of an unusual genetic resistance to weight gain… this is very rare).

    I think we should start testing insulin, not weight. Insulin is what causes heart disease, it is what indicates diabetes progression, it causes cancers. Obesity gets blamed for all of this but the reality is it is insulin and secondary anabolic hormones/steroids (e.g. estrogen and IGF also cause a lot of problems but they are mostly directed by insulin).

    Until we get to that point, weight is still the best barometer of health – that is, likelihood of having high insulin – because of how intimately insulin encourages fat sell hypertrophy.

    It’s like, chest pain is a really good indicator of an MI, but it can also be angina, it can be nothing at all… that’s kinda of like obesity.

    The fact that little obama slimmed down instantly when president obama got rid of the sugar juices and other processed food indicates that little obama did have hyperinsulinemia mediated obesity, in which case her obesity was NOT healthy but rather a symptom of a diet too high in starch and sugar for her body to handle.

    Most obese people will find that they lose weight when on such a diet, because most modern obesity is the result of mcflurries from mcdonalds (hundreds of carbs of sugar) in lieu of the classic pot roast dinners that were healthy and moderate of decades before this “obesity epidemic”.

  11. 11 On March 11th, 2009, ItsTheWooo said:

    As for people who think this is OMG TERRIBLE… let me say, I wish to heck my parents did this for me when I was just a chubby 6 year old, because then I would have been spared the physical and emotional trauma of ever having been 280 pounds. There is nothing healthy about childhood obesity, most of the time it is a direct result of kids eating sugar and starch and other crap food, and that obesity is a sign that insulin and blood sugar levels are abnormal… and most of the time it will progress into severe obesity as well as numerous physical and emotional health problems.
    Educate yourselves. Hyperinsulinemia and high blood sugar cause epidemics of disease. It all gets blamed on obesity, but that’s because of the complicated politics involved in fingering the real culprit (sugar and starch, upon which numerous industries rest). Most real scientists understand this, but industry is busy busy obscuring the truth so that most people have their own half cocked ideas about what is causing disease.

  12. 12 On March 11th, 2009, Rachel said:

    ItstheWooo — My doctor gave me some info on PCOS (which I am being tested for) and it confirmed what you said. PCOS causes both weight gain, often obesity, and insulin resistance. In this case, it’s the PCOS and attendant insulin issues that are to blame for much of the health issues someone with PCOS has, not their weight. Weight is but a symptom. While it is true that PCOS can be better managed by adhering to a low-glycemic diet, it still does not address the larger endocrine issue at play, which is the PCOS.

    Spacedcowgirl: don’t have a problem with cutting out juice boxes and processed sweets if that is what the family considers necessary for health… but the children’s weight should not be what precipitates such a move.

    Absolutely. I’m all for healthy eating and I wish my own parents had modeled it better for me while growing up. If Brandon and I ever did mess up and have kids, I’m sure mine would be the one downing pixie sticks by the dozen at the homes of friends because we wouldn’t have that kind of food in our own home. But if the concern here is health, then why did the family doctor wait to advise them on healthy eating only after Malia gained weight? Shouldn’t healthy eating be recommended for all people and families, regardless of weight? Thin people need veggies too.

    Piffle: I see no downside in encouraging programs to get fresh fruits and vegetables to all people, if they think it will promote thinness then we can use that.

    Sure, we need more programs encouraging consumption of fruits and veggies, but I don’t see how equating consumption of them with thinness will benefit anyone. Not only will it result in further discrimination against fat people — who must not be eating their veggies because they’re still fat — Michelle Obama’s posturing is all talk and no action. It’s not enough to just simply open your ample kitchen overflowing with the freshest, organic foods available prepared by a personal chef and expect the masses will follow suit because, hey! the Obamas eat this way. Often times it’s not for a lack of want that people don’t eat these foods, it’s more of an affordability and accessibility issue. Preparing meals based on fruits/veggies requires a lot more time and culinary know-how than it does to order a bag of food through a drive-thru window. Many working families simply don’t have that kind of time or nutritional education to make nutritious meals that also taste good. Fast and processed foods are convenient, often cheaper and they taste a heck of a lot better than carrot sticks.

    It’s been shown that most people retain the same dietary habits they developed in childhood. If your family did not eat nutritious foods or make it a point to consume fruits and veggies, chances are you won’t do that as an adult, either. So on and so on, the cycle continues. We not only need to find ways to break the cycle, we need to focus on efforts that will help sustain and encourage dietary choices over the long run.

  13. 13 On March 11th, 2009, sarah said:

    Oh, FFS! Isn’t it overwhelming enough being the daughters of the frigging president, without the media being privy to everything you put in your mouth? I absolutely cannot believe that Michelle announced to the world that Malia had been getting “chubby.” That’s incredibly insensitive. And, good point, Rachel, it’s so interesting how the Obamas’ concerns about their “health” just *happened* to coincide with this poor kid’s weight gain.
    I really like the idea of ensuring that everyone–not just the wealthy–has access to nutritious foods. A balanced, healthful diet should not be a luxury. It’s just so frustrating that this must always be couched in terms of OMGTEHFATZ!!11! And this whole holier-than-thou thing when it comes to foods–all the “canned and processed foods are straight from the devil” nonsense. I agree that a steady diet of processed “food products” is likely not very good for anyone, but I am so sick of the damned Food Policing/Snobbery that goes on. Heaven forbid that someone actually *enjoys* the occasional package of Twizzlers or glass of Hawaiian Punch. I like brown rice and big salads and fresh fruit, but I can also cheerfully put away a pound of Jelly Bellies–and I think life is too short to wring my hands over those “empty calories,” if I’m getting pleasure out of consuming them. Sheesh.
    I admire the Obamas for many reasons, but this crappola is not one of them.

  14. 14 On March 11th, 2009, sarah said:

    Ooops, it was Barack who said “chubby,” Michelle who talked about the doctor’s recommendations. Need to read more carefully.

  15. 15 On March 11th, 2009, sarah said:

    @ItsTheWooo: who said Malia was ever “obese?”

  16. 16 On March 11th, 2009, La di Da said:

    @Rachel – I showed up with a mild bit of insulin resistance on my most recent round of tests, and the Dr I saw (who diagnosed my hypothyroidism) said that it was probably caused by the untreated hypothyroid as well as having LOW androgens associated with adrenal fatigue. I’d often wondered if I had PCOS, but since high androgens are one of the big indicators for that, it was ruled out. I also had well-below-lab range vitamin D, which is apparently now coming to light as a possible factor in insulin resistance, so I’m taking 10,000IU a day to get that up. The Dr also prescribed me replacement hormones (DHEA – which she emphasised is not the “miracle anti-ageing” hormone it’s often touted as, but should be carefully prescribed only in cases of deficiency) and I’ll be starting low-dose cortisone soon.

  17. 17 On March 11th, 2009, ItsTheWooo said:

    Rachael – Prior to losing weight and going on an extremely low carbohydrate diet (which I now maintain 6 yrs and counting) I had every insulin related disease one can have at 20 years old… severe obesity, hypoglycemia, mood disorders, PCOS, I had not yet developed diabetes and cancer but I’m sure I would have in 40s at that rate.

    Let me say this about PCOS. Doctors will tell you PCOS causes all of those things; in reality PCOS is another symptom of high insulin & glucose intolerance. PCOS does work to reinforce the blood sugar/insulin problems, because PCOS will result in excesses of sex steroid hormones which then go on to raise insulin and cause insulin resistance… but ultimately the PCOS is a symptom. Millions of women are being mislead to believe they have this incurable condition that is out of their control and they are destined to become extremely obese, diabetic and get cancer (not to mention the horrible symptoms of PCOS itself, hisirutism and acne and mood disorders and infertility).

    My PCOS was *terrible* before I found the diet. I had acne all over face and back, so much excess hair growth, I was losing hair on my head, I had only one period in my life up to that point (at 20 years old)… I felt disgusting. My testosterone was 99, my DHEA was over 6.

    As soon as I went on a low carbohydrate diet, the acne went away… within days I’m talking, days. I had acne since 9 years old (the beginning of puberty, and the beginning of PCOS symptoms). By next month I had a menstrual cycle. The hair growth stopped.

    PCOS doesn’t *cause* diabetes, cancer, obesity… carbohydrate (sugar/starch) causes PCOS, diabetes, cancer, obesity. PCOS is entirely curable if not controllable when one follows a proper controlled carbohydrate diet (or, if necessary, takes medications to control liver glucose output e.g. metformin, but this is usually only required if the metabolic disease has progressed to an advanced degree or if there are atypical causes for the PCOS)

    What causes PCOS, a novel by moi

    To understand why PCOS is a symptom, one must understand a little basic anatomy and physiology regarding female reproduction.

    The ovary contains follicles. Follicles come in two flavors: primordial follicles, and graaffian follicles. Primordial follicles are those which are not yet “cooked”, the gonadotropins FSH and LH have not yet allowed these follicles to progress into a mature, peri-ovulatory follicle. When a follicle has been sufficiently stimulated to mature, it becomes a graaffian follicle, and the process of selecting a graaffian follicle suppresses the development of any other primordial follicles for the time being.
    When mature, a series of neurotransmitter and hormonal events trigger the graafian follicle ruptures at ovulation. In normally cycling females one follicle is matured per cycle which ranges from 21 to 45 days depending on her own health/genetic status.

    The primordial follicles are not inactive; they respond to gonadotropin LH and insulin, and make precursor substances which the graafian follicle then converts into estrogens. These precursors are otherwise androgenic, they must be converted to estrogen by the maturing follicle. This is why during the periovulatory phase estrogen is climbing and climbing – the maturing follicle is making lots of estrogen from the precursors made in primordial follicles, LH is rising in response to that high level of estrogen, and this goes on and on until finally estrogen reaches a critical point, which triggers a surge of LH, a release of prostaglandin and rupture of the follicle. Then estrogen crashes, LH falls, and then the corpus luteum begins to function (about a day or two after ovulation) and one enters the luteal phase marked by consistently high levels of estrogen and progesterone.

    Okay, that’s just a basic background on how ovaries work and how hormones are made.

    What happens in women with PCOS is that they containg genetic vulnerabilities to have primordial follicles which are unusually sensitive to insulin. My hypothesis is this represents an antiquated birth control method to prevent pregnancy during famines, which would have been extremely adaptive during evolution because pregnancy during nutrient stress is absolutely fatal.
    Genetic traits which make her ovaries extremely sensitive to insulin mean she makes more hormone precursors at any given time (since it is insulin & LH which makes these primordial follicles make hormones). Insulin decreases during starvation, but if she has follicles which are hypersensitive to insulin, she makes more precursors when other women would make less. This in turn means her level of testosterone is slightly higher than other women, because these precursors are in excess and androgenic. The slightly higher level of testosterone in turn will suppress leptin. Male hormone testosterone suppresses leptin, female hormone estrogen increases leptin. Women with ovaries hypersensitive to insulin will have a ratio of testosterone to estrogen that promotes lower leptin. This pans out in studies of PCOS, even though often quite obese and hyperinsulinemic (both conditions promoting high leptin), women with PCOS always have less leptin than non-PCOS women all other conditions equal.

    Leptin mediates hypothalamic amenorrhea (it does not have a role in PCOS much, but it DOES absolutely cause HA). When leptin is deficient, hypothalamic amenorrhea will occur (that is, the brain will stop making gonadotropins, and reproduction/hormone production drops dramatically).
    So, if you put the pieces together you can see that ovaries which are extremely sensitive to insulin will result in infertility during starvation. Ovaries hypersensitive to insulin make more testosterone, which in turn will suppress leptin, which allows for very easy development of hypothalamic amenorrhea under even mild nutrient stress. This is adaptive infertility because it can easily be turned around when body fat and calories are high, but it prevents life threatening pregnancy when these are low.

    Women without ovaries especially sensitive to insulin will have low testosterone, higher leptin, and be hyper fertile even in starvation. Of course, all women reach a point where starvation is so severe that ovulation stops, but this point is markedly different from woman to woman… women who develop HA are best built to survive famine. Some anoretics will ovulate even when barely able to find the caloric energy to support their heart rate. That’s maladaptive.

    PCOS is simply the modern “oops oh crap” disease caused by a genetic predisposition that was once very adaptive. Now that we have invented sugar and starch, we’re walking around with insulin levels that are kind of out of control, and women who have this innate anti-pregnancy-during-starvation genetic trait are going to develop PCOS from it if eating modern foods. The hypersensitive ovaries make ridiculous amounts of precursors, leading to high levels of both estrogen and testosterone, which leads to very high LH levels, which leads to even more estrogen and testosterone… it’s like she is forever stuck in the “preovulatory phase” of the menstrual cycle. Ovaries become cystic and fail to rupture because the sequence of hormonal events has been thrown off by the insulin-mediated excess of hormone precursors. Her body is saying “Okay, lots of hormones, release the egg!” but the egg cannot be released for a variety of reasons (too much testosterone; too high estrogen which does not drop sufficiently; follicle not yet mature enough to rupture; LH unable to fall due to inability for estrogen to drop sufficiently; etc etc etc).

    But, the point is this: all hormone imbalances constituting PCOS originate from an ovarian hypersensitivity to high insulin levels; therefore, all PCOS originates from hyperinsulinemia.

    Eliminate hyperinsulinemia, you eliminate PCOS (much like every other modern disease, for that matter… all, at root of it, are caused or at least nourished by hyperinsulinemia).

  18. 18 On March 11th, 2009, Meowser said:

    How old is Malia? Seven? That means they were freaking out about her weight when she was four or five years old. Good goddess. Even then they were thinking about her as window dressing.

    **headdesk**

  19. 19 On March 11th, 2009, Piffle said:

    Oh, I agree we need action, that’s why I said programs to “get” fresh fruits and vegetables to all people; it’s access that’s the biggest problem, not people’s desires or abilities (not everyone has the time or skills to make an apple pie, most can eat an apple with peanut butter though). I recall reading about a really neat program somewhere which used a fruit and vegetable van to get fresh stuff to poor neighborhoods; it was a huge success, sold lots of produce. There’s demand there, people want the food, we need to get it to them. I’d also love to see a program to set up neighborhood kitchens, where there would be the equipment to make cooking possible. Each would have ovens, stovetops, mixers, processors, pots, pans, and the littler tools for cooking. Perhaps supplies of bulk staples like flour, spices, and suchlike. Lots of families couldn’t afford the basic investments that make cooking possible/easier; but a shared resource should be possible. A bit like public libraries.

    If Michelle is all talk and no action on the issues, then she’ll be more of a hindrance than anything, particularly if thinness is the goal. Just more blather. I’m hoping for real help, like the veggie van program. Or a program where people could come and get a meal for a token amount; like soup kitchens on a grand scale, but without the stigma, such that anyone of any economic class could be found there. In my dreams, local politicians would be required to eat there at least once a week. For those, I’d live with the blather.

  20. 20 On March 11th, 2009, Entangled said:

    I find the thought of putting out press releases about what two children are eating really, really horrifying.

    Also, in re: some of the comments here, just because changing a certain thing in one’s diet works for you does not mean that it works for everyone and doing what you do would solve all the world’s health issues and we’d all lose weight, have more energy, and live forever.

  21. 21 On March 11th, 2009, Rebecca said:

    People did not “invent” sugar and starch, nor are they dropping dead from eating “modern” foods. On the contrary, they are living longer than ever.

    “Sugar” and “starch” are other names for simple and complex carbohydrates, which are simply types of organic molecules. Almost all food has some type of simple or complex carbohydrate in it. Fruits and vegetables are full of simple carbohydrates.

    If you have a metabolic disorder, then eat what works for you. It doesn’t give you the right to preach to everyone else about your “superior” diet.

  22. 22 On March 12th, 2009, Valerie said:

    It irritates me that a parent talking about his child’s weight in the national press. That is a betrayal, pure and simple because he’s basically sanctioned the scrutiny of his child’s body. She’s not a formaldehyde soaked frog in biology class. She’s a CHILD.

    Food snobbery- Sarah, you said exactly what I was thinking but I wasn’t able to express. I also have to second Entangled’s comments. The Woo is basically spewing the same old good food/bad food rhetoric (complete with a giant corporate sugar conspiracy) that most of us come to FA blogs to get away from.

    Furthermore, I am offended that someone chooses to trivialize mood disorders and cancers by essentially asserting that eating low-carb and not being fat is the cure all. Being that I am the FOURTH generation of my family to deal with major depressive disorder, I assure you that sugar has nothing to do with it. Seeing as how I have family members who battled smoking-related cancers even though they never smoked… I’m not real hip on the whole ‘lifestyle cancer’ theory either.

  23. 23 On March 12th, 2009, ItsTheWooo said:

    I challenge anyone here to follow a diet like protein power for 4 weeks. Come back after 4 weeks and tell me honestly that you do not feel better, more energetic, solve health problems, and have lost weight.

    This isn’t some frutarian vegetarian new age crackpot nonsense. This is eating the way we were genetically adapted to eat.

    I find it ironic that so many fat advocates embrace the concept of sugary starchy low meat/vegetarian diets but eschew the concepts outlined here (that perhaps fat storage may be a benign sign of metabolic disease; that perhaps certain modern foods promote disease and symptomatic weight gain?). It’s almost like being overweight is a sign of some kind of strength, to the point where there is *resistance* against eating in a way that will cause weight loss even if it’s healthy!

    Just because being fat is morally neutral, doesn’t mean it is absolutely good (i.e. a sign of good health) and this is a concept fat advocates have a hard time getting.

    It’s frustrating as hell to know that PCOS and high insulin can pretty much be CURED by reducing carbohydrate, and being *insulted* by people who have no idea what they are talking about. Do research, educate yourselves. This isn’t some diet guru bullcrap, this isn’t diet industry nonsense, this is the most modern science. In a few years this will be common knowledge, people will have a hard time ever understanding how we were so wrong (in thinking that very low calorie diets and low fat diets and vegetarian diets were ideally healthy).

  24. 24 On March 12th, 2009, ItsTheWooo said:

    Oh and I didn’t say low carbohydrate eating and not being fat are the cure all, but thanks for putting words in my mouth.

  25. 25 On March 12th, 2009, Rachel said:

    ItsTheWoo: Many of my readers are recovering from all shades of eating disorders and yet others from disordered eating. I appreciate your motivations, but please tone down the whole food restriction talk. It really isn’t appropriate on a site when the mere act of eating itself constitutes an emotional, physical and moral struggle for many readers.

  26. 26 On March 12th, 2009, keshmeshi said:

    How old is Malia? Seven?

    Malia is the oldest, but not by all that much. She looks 14, but I think she’s actually 10.

    Because people have poor diets solely due to lack of education and not things like, say, dramatically slashed food stamp budgets, spiraling food costs, food deserts, and school lunch programs being critically under funded.

    I don’t see why it can’t be both. It stands to reason that, if poor communities have gone without access to much food other than fast food for generations, they’ve probably lost a lot of cultural/traditional knowledge about how to prepare healthy, tasty food. Even once you reintroduce fruits and vegetables into these communities, you still need to educate people on how to prepare them and demonstrate that these things can taste very good and, of course, make you feel a lot better than a preservative-laden cheeseburger.

    While poor diets are frequently related to class, there still are many middle class families in the U.S. who could benefit from more/better education about good, nutritious food. Budgets are tight, especially right now, but, with some extra education, more middle class families maybe could be convinced to prioritize buying nutritious food over other expenses. Middle class people have at least slightly more flexible budgets than the truly poor.

  27. 27 On March 12th, 2009, Lori said:

    If sugar/starch caused PCOS, then we’d see a lot more of it than we do. I know several women with PCOS, and I see no evidence that they eat more sugar or starches that I do, or anybody else does. Obviously it’s more complex than being a matter of sugar/starches causing it. A lot of people think they have the diet that is the cure-all for everything, but that’s generally not how human bodies work.

    While I’m very glad that Obama rather than McCain won the election, I think the Obamas are pretty obsessed with image and appearance, so this doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s still sad, though.

  28. 28 On March 12th, 2009, Rachel said:

    Does anyone else seem to find it sad that there seems to be more focus on Michelle Obama’s “toned arms” than on the fact that she has a law degree from Harvard?

  29. 29 On March 12th, 2009, Valerie said:

    Rachel I find it sad but not surprising. For years we’ve had to listen about Hillary Clinton having fat calves, being a ball buster, and riding on the coattails of her husband. Funny how the fact she went to Welsley and has a law degree from Yale never enter into those conversations.

    I wish there was some sort of Jimney Cricket/Tinkerbell-type character that would land on these peoples’ shoulders and say ‘I guess you say these things because you know they’ve accomplished more in their lives than you ever will.’

  30. 30 On March 12th, 2009, Rachel said:

    Random trivia for the day: Hillary Clinton first requested that calorie counts be included on White House menus. The policy continued through the Bush years. No word on the Obamas’ preferences.

  31. 31 On March 12th, 2009, Sarah said:

    ItsTheWooo, nobody cares about your advice. We’ve heard it all before. The thing about fat acceptance? We don’t do “diets.” It’s accepting that a person can be fat AND healthy through following what is right for them. (Yes, I said fat and healthy. I hope your brain didn’t explode hearing that.) The majority of FA activists have done their research on the “obesity crisis” that is constantly touted by health professionals and the media – most of it is overblown sensationalism mixed in with an outright loathing for fat people based on personal aesthetics. We don’t buy into the lie that weight is the only factor that represents “good” health.

    I weigh 300 pounds. I have not one health problem to speak of. My blood tests are absolutely normal and my blood pressure is 110/70. EKG results are perfectly normal. I suffer from very little pain – a busy day on my feet can be cured by OTC medications. I eat pretty much what I want and I have a positive attitude on life. Mental health is just as important as physical, but I noted you didn’t mention that.

    Please tell me where my fat is harming me? Or do you want to continue your thinly veiled fat hatred attacks here?

  32. 32 On March 13th, 2009, DaniFae said:

    I am so sick of the food snobery, canned/frozen food isn’t inherrently evil. Canned vegitables are a cheap, and nutritious option, especially in the winter, and I will go as far as some being full blown pantry staples, like canned tomatoes, or beans, as long as you remember to check the lables to make sure there are no aditives you don’t want. The logical disconnect with packaged food as a whole, makes me want to scream. Chips, twinkies, soda, most prepared frozen foods, aren’t that good for you, conversly if you approach food logically, and check the ingredient lists, you’ll find that things like frozen/canned veggies, boxed dried pasta, even totally processed foods, like veggie burgers, are actually good for you. I am so tired of the general opinion if you aren’t eating nothing but fresh food, then your eating nothing but fast food. (End rant)

    As for saying your daughter was getting a little chubby (which at her age don’t MOST girls get a little chubby?) to the national media, it’s disgusting and amoral, you shouldn’t use your children to push any of your political agendas.

  33. 33 On March 13th, 2009, ann said:

    THANK YOU SARAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

    “The thing about fat acceptance? We don’t do “diets.” It’s accepting that a person can be fat AND healthy through following what is right for them. (Yes, I said fat and healthy. I hope your brain didn’t explode hearing that.)”

    AND,

    “Please tell me where my fat is harming me? Or do you want to continue your thinly veiled fat hatred attacks here?”

    I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. 34 On March 13th, 2009, ann said:

    I maybe this is off topic and maybe it isn’t but may I just say that every single time I check out this blog and I see the red gingham across the top of the page and the photo of that little girl eating that big piece of chocolate brownie/cake and LOVIN it, I AM HEALED!!!! every single freakin time, I am healed.
    Thank you Rachel!!!!

  35. 35 On March 13th, 2009, Rachel said:

    Ann — Sadly I am planning a redesign of the site in which the cake-eating girl will go away. The new logo should be pretty cool, though.

    Danifae: I am so sick of the food snobery, canned/frozen food isn’t inherrently evil.

    I actually prefer to buy frozen veggies over fresh because A) they last a lot longer, giving me more bang for my buck and B) they’re sometimes healthier than fresh because they’re picked and then flash-frozen, unlike fresh veggies which have to travel a distance before they end up on supermarket shelves.

  36. 36 On March 13th, 2009, ann said:

    Thats ok Rachel, that little girl is in my heart
    and I’m sure your new loga will be fab!

  37. 37 On March 13th, 2009, Meld said:

    I don’t think there is a problem with Michelle choosing a healthy diet for her girls. My sister would give me a hard time for spending extra money on an organic diet for my girls. She is happy shopping with the people in wheel chairs, suffering from diabetes, at Wal-Mart. We struggle to pay our bills and we are not on welfare. . . AND we are sure to buy good food as often as possible and cook good meals for our girls. Thank you for setting the example for America, Michelle!!!!

  38. 38 On March 13th, 2009, BigLiberty said:

    Does anyone else read about these high-profile anti-fat-child stories and hurt, remembering what it was like as a fat child?

    I hurt for Malia. And I’m angry. I don’t know what else to say, except that I don’t want the personal anti-fat opinions of powerful politicians to have any effect on how *I* want to raise my future daughter or son.

    It’s bad enough that this poor little girl’s body is being talked about all over the damn news, but please don’t use the power of the office to enact policy that will have *my* little girl’s body subject to the same demoralization and scrutiny. Because that’s the next step: first talk about Malia, then talk about other fat children, yadda yadda — and then before you know it, there are anti-obesity “programs” in every school.

  39. 39 On March 14th, 2009, La di Da said:

    Meld – That seems rather classist and ableist. Disabled people are often low-income and have no choice except to shop at places like Wal-Mart. Not everybody in a wheelchair is suffering from diabetes side effects. And nobody gets diabetes because they buy food from discount stores instead of the organic grocer. If anyone tells you that eating junk food causes diabetes, they’re lying: nobody knows quite what causes either type 1 or tye 2 diabetes. For a start, for type 2 diabetes at least, you need to have a certain genetic profile. And many diabetes researchers, at least the ones that aren’t funded by the anti-obesity industry, theorise that stress is actually the biggest trigger for type 2 diabetes. One of the biggest factors in the poor health of those living in poverty is stress: job insecurity, food insecurity, unsafe neighbourhoods, etc. And some people will still get type 2 diabetes despite buying local organic produce and maintaining a “normal” weight.

  40. 40 On March 14th, 2009, FatNSassy said:

    There are causes any president MUST support. For instance, no U.S. president can be too critical of Israel. No president can be too threatening to corporations. Any viable candidate would have had to support the bail out bill. And presidents must address the obesity “crisis” because it is part of the agenda of the power-elite. Not only does it ensure billions will be transferred from the middle class to the real “fat cats’ (vultures that they are), it helps to provide a guilty, distracted population. I honestly don’t think that simply educating any politician is enough. The public must be aware of the role special interests play in politics. Until we are free of that, obesity and all the other sacred cows will constantly be first and foremost. We need to break the power of Pharma!

  41. 41 On March 15th, 2009, Liza said:

    ItsTheWoo –

    I have followed that kind of diet. After a few weeks I felt tired, hungry and lethargic. Amazingly enough, when I added back quality foods I felt great.

    Probably because we weren’t “genetically adapted” to live on protein powder. Maybe because it isn’t found anywhere in nature.

    I am one of the people who reads here who doesn’t have an eating disorder. If what you are saying is this outlandish and offensive to me I can’t imagine what reading your “facts” would be like for someone still struggling with recovery. I know this isn’t my blog, so I don’t have the cease-and-desist authority that Rachel does, but I would like to back her up and issue my own STFU — what you are saying is drivel and widely untrue. You are doing nothing but adding to the issues that people who struggle with their food already face.

    Also, amazingly enough you aren’t the only person here with PCOS. I was first diagnosed at 17 (am now 25) and have tried pretty much every treatment out there. A low-glycemic diet didn’t do much of anything for me. It certainly didn’t cure it. I may have lost a few pounds but none of the various tests and levels used for PCOS changed significantly. So to say that I was “cured” by my diet simply because I was slightly smaller is, in fat both “diet guru bullcrap” and “diet industry nonsense.”

    Bye bye now.

  42. 42 On March 15th, 2009, Liza said:

    I meant *in fact* not *in fat* but hey, maybe that works too since I am such a fatty fatty fat fat after all.

  43. 43 On January 31st, 2010, KATHY =( ^-^ )= said:

    I really don’t see Malia as being chubby/fat,her sisters face is wider (probably baby fat) but what about their Dad’s SMOKING habit??? Is that really heathy? I don’t believe he is completely off the smoking thing. He has to curb it in front of the public. So it’s nice to have a good diet but the way they went about it was not nice to the girls. Their dad should talk about a NO SMOKING campaign..

  44. 44 On February 2nd, 2010, Michelle Antoinette "let them eat locally grown" said:

    I am tired of Queen Michelle with her expensive wardrobe and huge staff telling me how to shop and how to live. Send me a hundred dollars or so a week and I promise I will spend it on fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables — although it will be difficult during winter-time unless I put in a root celler or take up canning — oh, that won’t be fresh, will it?

    This woman lives in a fantasy world. I do not need her hanging over my food budget for a media-grabbing “teachable moment.”

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