Wednesday, October 30, 2013

North Dakota Woman Wants to Give Letters to Obese Kids: So Angry I Could Spit

Imagine walking up to your neighbor's child and saying, "I bought presents for all of your friends, but I don't think you deserve one so I'm giving you a flag that says, 'LOSER'. You can show your flag to your parents. They will know why." Now imagine the hurt in that child's heart. Imagine yourself as that child when your friends all look at you and giggle. Put yourself in the place of that child. Imagine how terrible you'd feel knowing that aside from all of your friends taunting you about what they consider to be a defect in your personal appearance, that the neighbors (grown adults) want to point out too. Do you feel that? Imagine how disgusted you'd feel about yourself. Now imagine going back to school tomorrow and facing the almost disguised giggles and the outright snickering with fingers pointed in your direction.

Stop. Are you happy with what you've created? Are you proud enough in yourself? You bullied a child. In typical fashion, you reached out to someone smaller than you, with less clout than you, and you've made them feel both huge... and incredibly small at the same time.

A woman in North Dakota has decided it would be a good idea to hand out letters, instead of candy, to children on her trick-or-treat route that she deems to be overweight. Obviously, she has chosen to be anonymous because even she knows her decision would lead her to being ostracized in the community. I'm sure she probably started this with the belief that only obese people with obese children would be offended.

Unfortunately, she forgot the human factor. We didn't all grow up in the thin group. Personally, I grew up fat. My parents weren't the cause. You could have shamed me until the moon turned blue. I'd have just gotten fatter or I'd have stopped eating altogether and my body would have decided to grow thicker body hair to heat my ever withering frame. Those are the reactions to eating disorders, to one extreme or another. THAT is what shame does to a child.

I'm sure this woman does not consider this to be shaming behavior. She's wrong. No matter who this letter is aimed at, the child will know who the letter came from. When other children reveal the contents of the letter, and they will, classmates will have witnessed the letter being handed out and to whom. Children whose parents receive this letter WILL be called out by classmates. Shaming will occur.

Let's talk for a minute about eating disorders. Eating disorders don't only occur on one end of the spectrum. People who overeat to fill a void suffer the same issues as those who under eat. In both cases, organ damage, self-esteem, confidence, levels of happiness, and realistic body image face a powerful blow. In one case the person feels they can never be thin enough to reach the goal and continue to try until their organs give out. In the other case the person feels there is no hope, so they eat until their bodies cannot support their organs and eventually those organs give out.

This, my friends, is what shame causes. It causes people to forego natural activity and behavior and hide it away. Thin people will never feel thin enough. Heavy people will be so ashamed that they won't seek help. How long does this have to go on? How many people will we see shunning fitness programs because they grew up with a neighbor who couldn't even give them a piece of candy on Halloween without singling them out for being "fat"? How many kids will stop eating because they worry that next year they might get that letter?

Ms. North Dakota, whomever you really are, I hope you realize your actions are nothing short of bullying. This might be legal on your doorstep, but morally, it is completely ill-conceived and hurtful. Take a moment, before Halloween arrives, and consider the following; You had enough time to consider writing a letter, buying paper and envelopes, printing it, and throwing your plan on social media, but that time could have been spent; Encouraging young people to participate in a program at the local park, inviting your neighbor child to walk with you and your pet, playing at the YMCA or YWCA, or countless other programs. This time could have been spent at the local after school program where you could have lovingly taught children a better way of living. You could have volunteered with a group of children in a local youth organization and gone on a hike explaining the importance of healthy food when sustaining their bodies.

There are SO many things you could have done with your time... and there is still a little time left. Grow a heart. Get some compassion. Learn what it really takes to reach children. Shaming parents and person doesn't work. Example does. Reach out. The world is waiting. Instead of ruining a childhood holiday, think of the end goal and choose a healthy response. Isn't that what you're asking them to do?

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