First, thank you so much for all of your kind words and good wishes after my post on Saturday. I really appreciate the support! (One thing that makes this community so great!!) I see the podiatrist soon and will let you know what happens.
Friday I mentioned briefly that I had attended a program titled: “Weighty Matters: Effectively Communicating About Weight & Health.” The panel was sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and STOP Obesity Alliance. When I first read about the event on NEDA’s website, I found it a bit odd that these two organizations would be joining forces, but when explained to us Friday morning, it seemed like a perfect fit. Both organizations are concerned about how the media (news and entertainment) portrays body image, weight, and health. The goal set forth was to create a productive discussion between panelists and also audience members in order to devise productive guidelines for media to follow while reporting on health and weight issues. Both organizations feel something needs to be done about the unrealistic images portrayed in the media and also that the media has a responsibility to clarify what is healthy and fit.
Panelists included: Emme (model & NEDA Ambassador), Dr Max Gomez (Medical reporter for WCBS-TV), Kate Dailey (reporter for Newsweek), Wendy Naugle (Deputy Editor, Glamour Magazine), Dr. Donna Ryan (President, The Obesity Society), Jen Drexler (Partner, Just Ask a Woman), Joe Nadglowski Jr. (President & CEO, Obesity Action Coalition), and Dr Ovidio Bermudez (Past President, NEDA). Also in the audience were Laila Ali (Muhammad Ali’s daughter) and Matilda Cuomo (former First Lady of New York).
Here are a few key points I wanted to share with you:
• Overwhelming consensus that there needs to be a shift in focus from appearance and weight to health. The link between body image and weight needs to be broken.
• Society tells us to eat all the time (marketing, culture, etc) but we’re not supposed to look as though we do.
• Media shorthand says thin = healthy and fat = unhealthy. As of yet, there is no language to describe the spectrum of what health looks like.
• Media often reports studies without putting results into context or linking one study to another (and often time’s results are conflicting).
• Obesity is not easy to live with – quality of life is greatly diminished, psychologically and physically.
• There is a worry that the emphasis on weight-loss (not health) will trigger eating disorder tendencies in some people. Thus, the need to focus on health.
• While the diet industry is expanding, people are not getting healthier.
• The diet industry is ‘teaching’ how to lose weight rather than doctors and health professionals.
• Doctors need more training on nutrition and weight loss to effectively communicate with patients.
• Health insurance plans need to cover weight loss and nutritional counseling.
• The goal of the food industry will always be profits, but they do need to take some responsibility. People need to vote with their dollars. Don’t support companies that don’t support health.
• A decrease in weight of just 5-10% can result in health improvements, making the need for some medications unnecessary and decreasing the risk of some diseases and conditions.
• People need to take responsibility for their own condition and habits.
• The media and corporations need to start talking to women (and men) how they talk, and understand the issues they face every day.
• Media should focus on healthy habits – being active and eating right – rather than numbers on a scale and appearance.
• The focus needs to be placed on parents - their actions and words. When a young boy is referred to as a ‘big boy’ it is seen as a good thing, but a ‘big girl’ is a concern. Also, parents need to set good examples when it comes to eating and activity levels.
A note about BMI: BMI measurements are effective when tracking populations over time but it is not necessarily good on an individual basis. For instance, body builders may have high BMI’s while they are extremely fit but have high muscle mass. The Doctors on the panel agreed that we should use BMI because it is a scale we have that can be used, but more research needs to be done and the fitness of a person should be determined by other factors in addition to the BMI test.
The two hour discussion could have easily turned into an all day event. I wish the event had gone longer as I feel there were more topics to cover and ideas to be shared. The mostly female audience was passionate and full of concern, yet ready to for action. I’m not entirely convinced that enough attention was really paid to the core reason for the panel – creating guidelines for the media when discussing weight – but I hope the event does lead to change, or at least more discussion. While people are encouraged to lose weight, the emphasis should be put on health not looking a particular way. It does seem to be human nature (at least in this culture) to want to look a certain way, and we probably will never completely get rid of that ‘ideal image,’ but perhaps if the media alters the way it covers this issue, then maybe more people will be able to lose weight and gain health through a sensible approach and be able to keep the weight off once they’ve lost it because they’ll change their lifestyle rather than follow a fad diet that isn’t design to be sustained.
What do you think? Do you think the news & entertainment media have any responsibility when it comes to discussing weight?
For further reading, here's an interesting graphic you may want to take a look at from The New York Times yesterday.
Workout Stats -
3x10 overhead tricep extensions
3x10 tricep kickbacks
3x10 (ea side) weighted twists
3x10 leg curls