Munchausen By Twinkies

Today there are parallel stories as it relates to our increasingly dysfunctional relationship with food. As our food looks less and less like plants and animals (as it should) our waistlines continue to expand, and Britain’s fattest lady died recently at the tender age of 40.

Sharon Mevsimler was a 45 stone mother. 45 stones is approximately 600 pounds. At 5 feet tall, she was almost five times my weight (I am 5’6″). Are you capable of carrying your own weight? Twice your weight? Three times? What’s the limit before your body gives out? For Mevsimler it was 45 stones.

Also today a woman was bumped from her Southwest flight. She was not obese, she was petite, but the obese FOURTEEN YEAR OLD CHILD next to her required two seats.

When do we say, “The fat acceptance movement has it wrong.”? When do we say that our children are worth fighting for? When do we treat this as a clinical problem instead of an issue of looking cute?

When a 14 year old child cannot fit in an airplane seat it is not time to make the seats larger. It’s time to say, “You’re fat and you need help”. When a 40 year old mother dies, and her friends and family sneak fried food into the hospital room so that she can kill herself in a bucket of chicken, it’s time for the world to take a stand.

I’m not worried about a nation of anorexics. A third of our children are fat. You can call it overweight, you can call it obesity, you can call it adipose tissue. Three in every ten kids is fat and this prevents them from playing, and maturing at the appropriate time. Our children will live shorter lives than you and I, and I promise you it’s the food and the hovering.

I beg you, please turn off the computer and kick your kids out of the house. Hand them a ball or a bucket of chalk and don’t let them inside.

And then, when they come back in the house, let them drink water and eat only foods that they can pronounce.

Moms, your kids are going to die. It’s not baby fat. It’s Munchausen By Twinkies.

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  1. I love you Jessica! I could not agree with you more if I had written this myself!

  2. Amen and amen! There is a big difference between feeding your kids healthy food and sending them down the anorexia road. If healthy eating is what they always get, it won’t be a question of “being too fat” or “worrying about their weight” it will be living healthy just like every other day.

    • It is great when life works out that way, but sometimes it doesn’t.

  3. I agree that there is a significant difference between creating a healthy atmosphere(healthy foods, encouraging activity) and promoting anorexia.

    Here is my issue- we as a society frown upon obesity and embrace unrealistic body images…healthy or not. However, there isn’t a real movement to increase the accessibility and cost of healthy foods for everyone. For instance, I have started in the last 6 months to incorporate more organic foods into my family’s diet, due to a greater understanding of what goes into our food, etc (yes, I’m a late learner). As a result, I have seen a dramatic increase in my grocery bill. The reality is that we live in a country where it is much cheaper to feed a family of four a fatty meal vs healthy a healthy meal. For example, a lb of 80/20 ground beef costs 3.50 vs a lb of 95/5 ground beef at 6.00. When you are strapped for cash–what do you choose?

  4. I think the term “fat acceptance” is used too broadly in most arguments about food, kids and obesity.

    To me, “fat acceptance” means seeing the person not the weight – understanding that people are differently sized and that some people are big and some people are little. But that doesn’t mean I think people ought to just eat themselves insensible on whatever high-fat grease-filled fast food is available. We need to improve how people eat – and on that plank I completely agree. I just don’t think that berating fat people is the way to do it. The friends I have had who are obese are drowning in a sea of self-loathing as it is. Of course they realize they’re fat. I know there are people out there who say they love being fat, but the people I know who are don’t. Not a bit. So we don’t enable them, but we respect the person inside who needs to be loved and nurtured and we support them in their goals of healthy eating. We educate. We get our government to start treating fat and chemicals like controlled substances and find ways to make fresh foods available to larger percentages of our population. We find ways to put healthy foods on the shelves of food banks and get the prices of fresh fruits and vegetables and meats lower than the price of macaroni and cheese and potato chips, so when the people on food stamps go to the store and try to stretch their monthly allotment, the natural thing for them to buy is the healthy thing. There are lots of ways to get there, education and policy being the starting block.

  5. Hi Jessica,

    Your point hits home — and it’s why my husband and I chose the camp for our kids that we did. No electronics and — gasp! — backpacking, canoeing, and hiking!!! It’s so important.

    Thanks, Jessica.

  6. I have struggled with my weight my entire life. However, the furthest I have let myself get overweight is about 65 lbs. I’m now healthy “normal” weight. But because of this I am taking extra precautions to make sure that my daughter (and any subsequent children) will live a healthy lifestyle and not have sugary sweet choices for snacks or think it’s ok to eat these foods on a regular basis. We always had donuts and sweets around our house growing up, and that will not be an option in our house. At almost two, she has been offered sweets just a handful of times as a treat and has declined them every time.

    She’ll also be encouraged to exercise more and be inside less. We live in Colorado – there are so many wonderful outdoor activities to take part in, so there is no excuse for her not to.

  7. Best written post, I have ever read.

  8. i love you.
    but sometimes it not the parents fault.
    i’m fat.
    it’s not twinkies, it’s thyroid.
    but getting that large…there is something mentally wrong with someone. eating disorder, whatever.
    a MAJOR disservice we are doing is buying our children those stupid gaming stations. even the wii doesn’t replace going outside and running around.

    as usual, my svelte friend, excellent post.

  9. This post reminds me of my recent experience.

    I was recently at Disneyland and could not get over how many obese, not just overweight, children and families I saw. I witnessed children under the age of 12 not able to fit comfortably on rides. I saw entire families struggling to walk around, out of breath and clutching something very unhealthy in their hands. It made me sad and angry.

    I am guessing (and this is only a guess) that families that can afford hundreds of dollars to go to expensive amusements parks and spend a ton of money on overpriced junk food are able to spend a few cents more on healthy foods like fresh fruit and veggies. I find it to be almost criminal to allow children to become obese. Parents must enforce healthier and balanced eating habits and, of course, need to model healthy eating and exercise habits for their children. It’s unacceptable, let alone potentially fatal, to do otherwise.


  10. sheri G

    I totally agree! My own mother lectured me on what a strict and overbearing mother I was for refusing my daughter junk food for the first 5 yrs of her life. She had lots of snacks, like celery, with cream cheese or peanut butter, carrot sticks with a little ranch, FRUIT! OMG I fed my kid veggies and fruit! My mother fed us a steady diet of whatever cheap crap was on sale, and it never included fresh fruit or veggies. Growing up our veggies came from a can or a frozen bag, and were smothered with salt and butter. So I ignored her “advice” and allowed my daughter one or two pieces of Halloween and Christmas candy, and yes she had cake on her birthday. But to see my adult daughter today, who still prefers fruit and veggies to candy, makes my heart jump with glee. She now prefers Edible Arrangements INSTEAD of cake now too!!!! She is NOT overweight, she is healthy and our family Christmas stocking tradition is to go out on Christmas eve, pick all the satsuma oranges off of our trees, and stuff them into the socks with pomegranates and one tiny, token candy cane. Santa delivers fruit to us, not bags of crappy chocolate wrapped in foil. I stood my ground with my mother, and I am proud of the fact that my daughter will make a lunch out of steamed broccoli and cabbage or brussel sprouts. Maybe weird choice to some, but darn that girl loves her veggies! I wish more mom’s were able to understand that the first 5 years of your child’s life determines their eating habits, and the cycle is difficult to break if bad habits are formed. She eats candy on occasion now, but not the volume consumed by her peers. She’s in college now, 2 states away, and good eating habits are difficult. She complains to the dining hall staff that their selection of fresh fruits (oranges, apples and bananas) are inadequate and lame, where are the fresh berries, cantaloupe, etc. and their veggies are boiled and over cooked. She has resorted to buying vegetables at the local market and making them for herself in the basement kitchen of her dorm. She struggles with the food at school, but is finding ways to work around it.

    I was not the perfect mother, I made MANY mistakes. Some were HUGE, but we got through them and learned valuable lessons. This however, I got right, and I’m glad I didn’t listen to my mother. My sister ( who I love dearly) weighs around 400 lbs. I don’t want her to die. I have told her this out of love. She continues to eat and gain weight. My mother feeds her lasagna, fried chicken, etc. when she goes to visit our parents. It’s like a mom buying a case of vodka for their alcoholic child. It makes my heart sad. My sister has never known the fun of having a boyfriend, so no marriage or kids are in her future if she continues down this path. She’ll be 36 soon. She’s missing out on so much life. I can’t say too much, for fear it will make her more introverted and eat more. I am stuck watching her kill herself slowly with food, and it breaks my heart.

  11. Zark

    I’m just a dim dad chiming in – couldn’t not.

    I too notice the very large families at Disney (and almost any gathering of the general public) and often I just gape and stare.
    I can’t understand how a parent could let their kid “go” like that.
    Themselves, fine, but man it’s your kids! Aside from health, which is a real issue, don’t you want them to be happy?
    You don’t have to be skinny to be happy, you can even be pretty darn fat and happy no prob, but you can’t be morbidly obese and generally happy. Yes, I was fat, I know firsthand.

    It’s a lot like being a smoker who really wants to quit. You can play like it’s ok, you’ll quit sometime in the future, etc. But deep down you’re getting beat by a cigarette and it just sucks. It’s a fact that you are a failure in at least one area of your life. Yeah, I know that one first hand too.

    Side note – for a 37yr old male, 6 ft tall, life insurance rates went DOWN when my status changed from non-smoker to smoker, and I lost 40lbs.
    Insurance companies use math – they don’t care about what’s right or wrong – they just want to know who’s going to die and when.
    You are, according to the life insurance industry, at more risk overweight than sucking down cancer sticks all day – yeah that’s scary.
    Of course it’s cheaper being neither overweight nor a smoker – but lord is it boring.

    So get these fat kids smoking – oh wait – no don’t do that.
    But it’s crazy to think you’d (almost) be better serving your children to hand them a pack of smokes than the “food” most of them are served these days.

    It is more expensive to buy real food, but only based on American’s unrealistic expectations of what food should cost.
    Anywhere else in the developed world folks spend somewhere around 15%-18% of their income on food; Americans spend 9%.
    So if your food budget is still less than 20% of your income when you buy the good stuff that’s just about where it should be. You’re simply paying for food instead of chemical food replacements, which are cheaper by design, not good for you by design.

    That said, I would strongly encourage everyone to not fixate so much on what their kids eat; good or bad.
    The best way to ensure your kids is a candy-junkie? Deny them candy.
    I know this one also from first hand experience.
    I was not allowed sugary cereal, candy (I got carob), or anything “good” – I got wheatgerm and goats milk – which is disgusting by the way.
    My favorite food in all the world? SUGAR! Always has been, always will be.
    First thing I did when I had some freedom from the rents? – ATE SUGAR NON STOP.

    Just like the putting of things in the mouth – if you say “no no no” to every little thing – you just create the very compulsion you’re trying to avoid.
    Plus, kids are smart. If you tell them candy is evil, eventually they’ll figure out that it’s not, and you lose that little bit of credibility.
    Best to tell them the truth.

    I guess it’s just a version of the best-practice drug talk:
    Don’t tell your kids pot will kill them, because it wont, and when they find that out they wont listen to you about heroin.

    Serve your kids food, and they’ll get it.
    Eat dinner as a family and food will mean something to them.
    Cook with them so they can learn about food and how it works.
    But don’t inadvertently create the compulsion you’re trying to avoid by denying them the things kids like.
    I mean they are born with a sweet tooth after all – yes yes, different kind of sugar in breast milk, but it’s still sweet.

    If you feed your kids carrots every day they will not necessarily grow up to love carrots.
    In fact, they’ll prob grow up never wanting to eat another carrot.
    There is no way that you can create someone who doesn’t like candy and fatty foods by denying them candy and fatty foods. On the contrary, you’ll just create a candy/fatty food junkie.
    You can however explain to your brilliant children (’cause you KNOW how smart they really are) that candy and fatty foods are crap, and eating too much of them makes you feel like crap.
    That’s the truth, and when they ultimately do it (which you know they will – wasn’t that was college was for?) and feel like crap, and crave your soup, or veggies, or some REAL food – then you win. And they’ll serve your grand kids real food, because that’s just “how it’s done” , and then you really win.

    Hopefully that didn’t come off snotty – I applaud you all for taking on the monumental task of making little people who eat real food in a country where we don’t really offer much real food.
    I more than applaud you, I BEG others to follow your lead.

  12. The issue of fat acceptance has been bothering me for some time. I firmly believe that we need to weed cruelty out of our modes of communication and interaction and that the motivation to get healthy has to come from within. BUT there is a huge difference between eschewing discrimination and propagating the false idea that it’s ok and even healthy to be obese. We need to encourage people to accept themselves while encouraging them to reach their optimum wellness at the same time. People are dying.

  13. Rita

    …Fat acceptance isn’t about saying “YEAH LETS ALL STUFF OUR FACES WITH CHIPS AND CRACKERS YO”
    It’s about being able to see a fat person walk into the room and not add any other traits along with them being fat (lazy, slob, stupid, ugly, unhealthy, etc.) Which is complete nonsense and it’s ignorant.
    Fat chick walks into the room, to at least 5 people out of the 7 she’s disgusting, dumb, and lazy.
    Like wtf?
    You don’t have the right to judge me based on the fact that I’m fat.
    You people need to get over the “Oh but it’s unhealthy” to cover up your hatred.
    ..Ugh, YOU are the one who disgusts me.

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