To start, you should know I had dental surgery yesterday morning so I am a little behind on my Tuesday post and still a little 'under the influence' of pain meds and other drugs! So you get what you get today! I am a little torn right now about our countries 'obesity epidemic'. I am torn about how I feel about individuals struggling with this issue versus how many organizations and government agencies approach the ever growing problem in our communities, cities, states, and country.
Because of my personal struggles with obesity, alcoholism, cigarette addiction, and being a workaholic, I have very deep feelings for anyone struggling with any major life issue. As obesity is the latest I have worked to conquer and I speak to various groups about my struggles, I am constantly in contact with individuals trying to find their way "Out of the Fire" called obesity. As an individual, who was morbidly obese, I understand the stigmas surrounding obesity. I was 'just' a little chubby as a child and dealt with biting comments and bullying that come with that childhood weight. As an adult, I know my weight was the 'elephant in the room' in many situations. No one wants to be seated next to TheFatGuy on an airplane. People will consciously or unconsciously stare at you and make the 'not so quiet' comment that catches your ear. You know, that comment that cuts at your heart and soul. It was a weight that was always on my mind and in my heart. Whether fair or unfair, I know I was judged for my weight in far too many cases. And, in my mind, who could blame an employer or friend for viewing ME as a 52 year old health risk in 2008-2009 when I talked to people about career options. I feel for anyone struggling with obesity. If I had a switch I could throw to help them get on track I would hit it this instant. I wish each and every person could find those first steps "Out of the Fire".
Now comes the "Shock Jock" title! I have had many conversations inside of organizations I care about and with people throughout our community/state about our horrible obesity epidemic. I have seen some tough videos out of Georgia about obesity as they launched a campaign to combat Childhood Obesity. A good friend of mine sent me a link to a hard hitting video called Stop the Cycle which I included in my February 28th blog post titled, How the Hell Did that Happen! All are meant to catch your attention and create some type of emotional response in the viewer. Here is just a little piece of info about the campaign in Georgia:
How can these children be helped? Increasing awareness of the problem is the strategy behind Children’s Healthcare’s campaign. The organization’s research found that 50 percent of people surveyed didn’t recognize childhood obesity as a problem. What’s more, 75 percent of parents with overweight kids didn’t acknowledge their child as having a weight issue. “We felt like we needed a very arresting, abrupt campaign that said: ‘Hey, Georgia! Wake up. This is a problem,’ ” Matzigkeit told the Journal-Constitution.
And while the ads have been met with criticism, some are saying the harsh approach is absolutely necessary. “I think it’s really brave to talk about the elephant in the room,” Maya Walters, a teenager with high blood pressure who appeared in one of the ads, shared with the Journal-Constitution. “It’s very provocative and makes people uncomfortable, but it’s when people are uncomfortable that change comes.”
No parent wants to know their child as fat or obese. That is seen in the figure above that 75% of parents of overweight kids don't acknowledge the issue. AND, half of the people surveyed did not even realize childhood obesity was a problem! In Georgia alone there are over a MILLION children considered overweight/obese and their state is 2nd in the nation in Childhood Obesity. Georgia's campaign is deliberately controversial and provocative, hence the Shock Jock approach.
Well, I am leaning toward the Shock Jock approach for our national problem. I know we are not 'waking up' to this epidemic fast enough. We need to treat this with the utmost importance for our kids and their future. Our children are acquiring obesity related diseases at an alarming rate. We are literally trying to 'turn the Titanic' at this point. The iceberg is not only in sight, many of our children have already hit it! We need to treat Childhood Obesity as seriously as we do cancer. We all have a family member or know someone that has battled cancer. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of them. Unfortunately, we all know people struggling with obesity, but in many cases we do not see it as the problem it has become. I could not find a direct comparison, but below is some food for thought from 2007 State Health Facts study:
- Invasive Cancer rate per 100,000: South Carolina- 455.1; United States- 465.1
- % of overweight or obese Children (10-17): South Carolina- 33.7%; United States- 31.6% or rate per 100,000 S.C.- 33,700 ; U.S- 31,600
I know this is not an exact apples to apples comparison, but do these numbers not scare you? We already know that half of our population is not even aware Childhood Obesity is a problem. I think it is time for a little more Shock Jock on a state and national level while working to treat every individual with dignity and respect.
The time for touchy feely has passed and we must find a path "Out of the Fire" now. As the Georgia teenager with High Blood Pressure said about their ads, “It’s very provocative and makes people uncomfortable, but it’s when people are uncomfortable that change comes.”
I run a Youth Marathon program in Charleston and volunteer with a number of organizations to help combat our obesity epidemic. Please join the fight or at least spread the word that Childhood Obesity is an epidemic and is, at the very least, shortening the lives of our youth, if not killing them.
Note to ME and YOU: Uncomfortable is better than dead!
TheFatGuy (PS TheFatGuy's views do not represent any organization he volunteers to serve)