First, Do No Harm in "Childhood Obesity" Campaign & Health Care Reform

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Organization of health professionals, scientists & activists urges First Lady & Congress to focus on health instead of weight; evidence shows weight-based initiatives ineffective and unethical.

The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) is urging First Lady Michelle Obama to shift the focus of her "childhood obesity" campaign to health rather than weight in order to address the roots of health disparities and prevent the harmful effects of weight-loss dieting.

The organization is also reaching out to leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate to express concern that weight-based language in health care reform legislation will unethically institutionalize harmful weight-loss incentives and practices as a standard feature of prevention and wellness efforts.

In letters recently sent to Mrs. Obama and Congress, the medical, psychological, nutrition and fitness professionals, researchers and parents of ASDAH's leadership team outline the problems with weight- or BMI-based approaches to health and wellness. The full text of the letters, including references to supporting research, can be read at the organization's website, http://www.sizediversittyandhealth.org.

Prevention and wellness programs that target weight cause harm by stigmatizing fat children and adults, increasing the incidence of eating disorders, and failing to encourage healthy behaviors in people of all sizes, ASDAH leaders note. Weight-loss-oriented health and wellness initiatives encourage weight cycling (weight loss and regain, or "yo-yo dieting"), which has been shown to actually damage health. "It would be unethical to include anything in the health care reform package that actually promotes activities that harm health or encourage inequity," they state to House and Senate leadership.

They note to Mrs. Obama that research has shown that people can make "lasting, sustainable changes in their health practices, even though they do not change their weight."

ASDAH is offering its experts in the scientifically and economically sound Health At Every Size (HAES) perspective to work alongside the First Lady and with federal legislators to promote positive nutrition and physical activity based on scientific efficacy and access for people of all sizes.

ASDAH is an international organization composed of health professionals, scientists and activists committed to promoting all aspects of health and well-being for all populations. Its principles of Health At Every Size recognize the multidimensionality of health and well-being and promote balanced eating and enjoyable physical activity, rather than eating or exercise focused on weight loss.

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Peggy Elam or Deb Lemire
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