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
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:
Jacqui Gingras, PhD
Tiffany O'Shaughnessy, PhD