As of today, I think I have finally lost. I just learned, via the NY Times, that "Baby Fat May Not Be So Cute After All."
Scientists are worried that their efforts to "end childhood obesity" aimed at school-age populations "may be, if not too little, too late." Too stop the horrible, horrible curse-of-fat, we must begin at birth:
Things are starting to change: late last year an Institute of Medicine study committee was charged for the first time with developing obesity prevention recommendations specifically for the 0-to-5 set. The report, due in about 18 months, will look at the role of sleep and early feeding patterns, as well as physical activity.I don't have much comment, except to note, there is always room to blame mamas:
Many doctors are concerned about women being obese and unhealthy before pregnancy because, as they point out, the womb is the baby’s first environmentI think this could quickly take on class and color connotations as well, in a society in which the mothering of poor women, particularly poor women of color, is constantly assailed and called into question. One of the doctors quoted worked on a study that asserted "compared with their white counterparts, black and Hispanic children exhibited a range of risk factors related to child obesity."
“The intrauterine environment of a woman with diabetes overnourishes the fetus,” said the study’s author, Dana Dabelea, an epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health. And that, she added, may “reset the offspring’s satiety set point, and make them predisposed to eat more.”
One of the "solutions" suggested for lowering the "risk of obesity" was breastfeeding. Black women (in the U.S.), in particular, have much lower rates of breastfeeding than other women. This might be tied up in a number of factors like the fact that many black women have low-wage jobs which don't allow for purchase of expensive pumping equipment (or breaks to pump) or the historical stigma attached to forced wet-nursing. But this could fuel the sometimes-present argument in the to-breastfeed-or-not debate that mothers who don't breastfeed don't care as much about their babies' health.
Given the blame-the-fat-mother meme, we can expect the continued condemnation of poor mothers and black mothers, who are more likely to be fat than mothers in other socio-economic and racial groups. Also, poor mothers might be eligible for programs like Food Stamps and WIC (which will provide infant formula), putting them in a position in which many people feel that their food choices should be scrutinized and judged.
Obviously, this is just what we needed: another way to assess how horribly mothers fail.
And, another way to tell kids, at an even younger age, that they fail, too. It isn't as if schools or scientists or Michelle Obama are couching their programs or suggestions in any other terms. "Prevention," "risk," "epidemic," etc. Kids are not clueless--even the little ones know when they've been judged deficient. To be fat is to be bad and immoral.
How sad that they're getting that message earlier and earlier.