Childhood obesity

Thank you for the informative article on childhood obesity ("Big Kids," December Monitor). Like so many of us who work with people who have eating disorders, I was heartened by the recognition and new thinking about causes of and treatments for obesity. Thus it was beyond puzzling to read the quote from Gary Foster, PhD, of the Center for Obesity Research at Temple University:

"Obesity isn't a mental health condition. You won't find it in the DSM-5." Obesity is a physiological syndrome that is socio-cultural, familial and individual in its motivations. And its resolution involves socio-cultural, familial and individual decisions.

It took decades for the government to agree that smoking kills, and to go after the tobacco companies. Will it take decades to legislate against the donut, candy, snack and soda companies who consistently put profits above children's health?

Camay Woodall, PhD
Towson, Md.

Among others, the December "Big Kids" article detailed the work of Dr. Kelly Brownell, giving attention to his support of soda bans in New York City and similar measures. I am increasingly troubled by our field's attitude toward this type of legislation. In particular, I wonder, how can a discipline that prides itself on respect for individual autonomy (a core component of the APA Ethics Code) support such blatant infringements on the right of individuals to make decisions about their own lives? Is it not possible that some of us seek the hedonic value of a sugary drink more than a fit physique or extended lifespan, and are willing to trade the latter for the former? And why do New York legislators know any better about what is in my best interest as an individual?

The argument will be made, of course, that such "public health" measures are targeted at children, whose welfare psychologists (as well as the state) must protect. But this is nonsensical. If the goal was truly preventing childhood obesity (while leaving the preferences of adults unfettered), laws would specifically target children who purchase sugary drinks (as do laws restricting the sale of tobacco and alcohol). The fact that such bans prohibit soda sales of certain sizes to anyone shows that New York lawmakers have little respect for individual rights and self-determination.

Sean C. Rife
Kent State University

We are shocked and disappointed to see the cover image and cover story of the December issue of the APA Monitor on "preventing obesity." We deplore the depiction of fat boys (on page 6 and pages 58–59) shown at the swimming pool looking miserable. Fat people are told to exercise, but when they do, they are ridiculed. This is particularly offensive since body fat aids in flotation, and so fat children and adults have a natural buoyancy that helps them stay afloat. It is ironic that so much of the Monitor article focuses on increasing fitness and exercise for children when the message in the photos is that these very children will be uncomfortable when they do participate in sports. We support the Health at Every Size® (HAES) movement, a public health initiative that focuses on health for all people, regardless of body weight (see Bacon, 2010; Bacon & Aphramor, 2010; Burgard, 2009, for overviews). HAES emphasizes improving nutrition and enjoying food, and also the joy of movement. HAES clinicians strive to end bias against fat people and underscore the fact that we cannot tell people's health or fitness level just from looking at them. Health is defined as physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, and HAES clinicians focus on everyone appreciating their bodies and their appearance. HAES practitioners de-emphasize weight and dieting, and argue that because diets don't work in the long run, we are doing people a disservice by promoting such failure experiences.

Esther Rothblum, PhD
San Diego State University

This letter was co-signed by the following 87 others:

Kaye-Ailsa Rowan
Sofia University

Max Airborne
Oakland, Calif.

Nadav Antebi
Columbia University

D. Lacy Asbill
Girls and Boys
Moving Forward

The Association for Women in Psychology

Linda Bacon, PhD
University of California, Davis

Angela D. Bardick,
PhD candidate
University of Calgary,
Alberta, Canada

Leslie C. Bell, PhD
Women's Therapy Center, Berkeley, Calif.

Bonnie L. Bernell, EdD

Christine L.B. Selby, PhD
Husson University

Ellen Biagi, PhD
Northwestern University

Lizbeth T. Binks, PhD
Private practice, Baltimore

Natalie Boero, PhD
San Jose State University

Amy Brown-Bowers
Ryerson University

Jennifer Brady
Queen's University

Barbara Altman
Bruno, PhD

Association for Size Diversity and Health

Deb Burgard, PhD
University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Christy Calame
Psychotherapist in
private practice

Peng Chao
University of Pennsylvania

Joan C. Chrisler, PhD
Connecticut College

Peggy Crum, RD
Michigan State University

Elizabeth Daniels, PhD
Oregon State University Cascades

Lori Dawson, PhD
Worcester State University

Peggy Elam, PhD
Publisher, Pearlsong Press

Paul Ernsberger, PhD
Case Western Reserve University

William J. Fabrey
Council on Size & Weight Discrimination

Amy Erdman Farrell, PhD
Dickinson College

Fall Ferguson
John F. Kennedy University

Lara Frater
Fat Chicks Rule

Jeannine A. Gailey, PhD
Texas Christian University

Nanette Gartrell, MD
The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law

Amanda Gilliam,
PhD Candidate
Columbia University in the City of New York

Jacqui Gingras, PhD
Ryerson University

Kim A. Gorgens, PhD

University of Denver

Robert K. Green,
doctoral student
Fielding Graduate University

Julie Guthman, PhD
University of California,
Santa Cruz

Susan Huddis
Koppelman, PhD

American Literature and Popular Culture, Retired

Marny Hall, PhD
Psychologist and
independent scholar

Ellyn D. Herb, PhD, CEDS
Certified Eating
Disorders Specialist

Yetta Howard, PhD
San Diego State University

Joanne P. Ikeda
University of California, Berkeley

JuliaGrace J. Jester, PhD
Harrisburg Area
Community College

Kathy Kater, LICSW, Psychotherapist
Private Practice,
St. Paul, Minn.

Deborah Kauffmann

Nutrition Counseling for Intuitive Eating
Cockeysville, Md.

Judith M. Larson, PhD
California School of Professional Psychology—Berkeley/Alameda

Michael Levine, PhD
Kenyon College

Elena Levy-Navarro, PhD
University of Wisconsin, Whitewater

Michael I. Loewy, PhD
California School of Professional Psychology
Alliant International University

Margo Maine, PhD

West Hartford, Conn.

Judith Matz

The Chicago Center
for Overcoming
Overeating, Inc.

Julia McCrossin
Independent Scholar

Maureen C. McHugh, PhD
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Melonie (Lonie)
McMichael, PhD

University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Angela Meadows
University of Birmingham, UK

Laura Meyer, PhD
University of Denver

Dylan Miles PhD, Esq.
Mediation and Law
Office of Dylan Miles

Linda Najjar, PhD
Inner Wisdom
Counseling, LLC

Michaela A. Nowell, PhD
University of
Wisconsin-Fond du Lac

Lily O'Hara
Health Authority Abu Dhabi

Lisa A. Osachy, PsyD
Private practice, Pittsburgh

Tiffany O'Shaughnessy, PhD
California School of Professional Psychology

Lesleigh Owen, PhD
Black Hills State University

Elise Paradis, PhD
University of California,
San Francisco

CJ Pascoe, PhD
Colorado College

Andrea Phillipson,
doctoral candidate
Queen's University

Ariane Prohaska, PhD
The University of Alabama

Nathaniel C. Pyle, PhD
University of California, Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College

Kristin Rodier,

doctoral candidate
University of Alberta, Canada

Tracy Royce,
graduate student
University of California, Santa Barbara

Matilda St John
Private Practice, Oakland, Calif.

Abigail Saguy, PhD
University of California,
Los Angeles

Juliette R. Savitscus, PhD
Private Practice

Kerri Schafer,
doctoral student
University of Nevada,
Las Vegas

Friedrich Schorb,
PhD student
Department of Public Health

Dana Lee Schuster
Every Woman Health Club

Cathleen Sheil, MA
MD Anderson Cancer Center

Christine Smith, PhD
University of
Wisconsin-Green Bay

Stefanie Snider, PhD
Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division

Sondra Solovay, Esq.
Fat Legal Advocacy, Rights and Education Project

Lisa M. Tealer
National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance

Pattie Thomas, PhD
College of Southern Nevada
Virgie Tovar

Author and fat activist

Marilyn Wann
FAT!SO? author, activist, and weight diversity speaker

Patti Lou Watkins, PhD
Oregon State University

Jacqueline S.
Weinstock, PhD

The University of Vermont

Jason Whitesel, PhD
Seminole State College
of Florida

Julie Forrest Wyman
University of California Davis

Please send letters to Sara Martin, Monitor  Editor. Letters should be no more than 250 words and may be edited for space and clarity.