Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) and The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) Discourage Embracing Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

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ASDAH and BEDA Encourage a Focus on Health not Weight for All Children to Decrease Disordered Eating Behaviors, and the Stigmatization of Larger Children

On March 26, 2010, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution naming September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. While this move has been encouraged by many, particularly in the medical profession, it has also been greeted by some as a cause for deep concern. In particular, The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) and the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) have both opposed the resolution and continually called for a less divisive and more positive approach to childhood health.

“The most significant problem with National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is that it somehow implies that all fat children need to be singled out for special treatment or intervention,” said ASDAH President Deb Lemire. “Not only does this tend to increase isolation, embarrassment and stigmatization for fat children, its very narrow focus removes attention from the need for healthy behaviors for all children.”

At the base of ASDAH and BEDA’s concerns about National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is the understanding that a substantial number of the childhood obesity programs already deployed have proven largely ineffective.

“Firstly, we’ve seen very little evidence that school and community-based childhood obesity programs do anything to substantially reduce children’s weights,” said Chevese Turner, Founder and CEO of BEDA. “On the other hand, we’ve seen evidence that this sort of ‘intervention’ sets children ever earlier on the road to yo-yo dieting, poor body satisfaction, low self esteem and disordered eating.”

The proclamation admits that fat children are bullied, but suggests this is a reason for fat children to lose weight implying that the way to deal with discrimination is to remove children from the stigmatized group. “The ASDAH approach to bullying and intimidation is somewhat different than the approach indicated by the Senate proclamation,” said Lemire. “Our focus is on body confidence and well being for children of every size.”

ASDAH and BEDA have direction to offer teachers, parents and communities concerned for the health of our nation’s children. The Academy for Eating Disorders has an excellent set of guidelines in the “AED Guidelines for Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs” and ASDAH also created a set of guidelines called “What Should we Do about Children and Weight?” found in the articles section of the ASDAH organization website (sizediversityandhealth.org). While both documents are rich and detailed, the approach can be summed up by the acronym HAES(SM) or Health at Every Size(SM).

“We are not discouraging healthy behaviors,” said Lemire. “We are simply suggesting that all children engage in healthy behaviors, regardless of body size. Both fat children and thin children will benefit from access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity. There is no advantage to singling out fat children for special treatment and no evidence that this stigmatization results in greater compliance to healthy behaviors. It doesn’t seem to make children healthier, and it certainly doesn’t make them happier.”

About ASDAH and BEDA
The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) is an international professional organization started in 2003. It is an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization, whose diverse membership is committed to the principles of Health At Every Size(SM) (HAES(SM). sizediversityandhealth.org.

Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) is the national organization focusing on increased prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for binge eating disorder. BEDA is committed to facilitating awareness, excellence in care, and recovery for those who live and those who work with binge eating disorder through outreach and support, education, and resources. bedaonline.org

The HAES(SM) (Health At Every Size(SM) movement is a continuously evolving alternative to the weight-centered approach to treating clients and patients of all sizes. It is also a movement working to promote size acceptance, to end weight discrimination, and to lessen the cultural obsession with weight loss and thinness.

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