It Happened This Week: Helping without Harming – A Message to Michelle Obama


young children sensitive to body image issues

Body image problems can start at a very young age.

We began and end the week with wise words from Ellyn Satter.  Today, we focus on her message to Michelle Obama to stop talking about childhood obesity.  Ellyn encourages instead a focus on helping parents set up a healthy feeding environment that will support their children’s natural abilities to choose what’s right for their health.  Her feeding dynamics model which I posted about Monday and which you can read more about here will help do that.

A few snippets from a message she sent to Mrs. Obama via

  • “Research shows that children who are labeled overweight or obese feel flawed in every way–not smart, not physically capable and not worthy. Parents who fear obesity hesitate to gratify their child’s hunger for fear s/he will get fat. Such labeling is not only counterproductive, it is unnecessary.”
  • “Provide, don’t deprive.”
  • “Optimize feeding and parenting, and let children be children.”

If you don’t understand the specifics of what Ellyn is recommending, read her newsletter discussing all this.

Ellyn also encourages us all to mount an email blizzard to Mrs. Obama at the same url and gives these tips for making our voices heard:

  • Call it a policy/other and put To: Michelle Obama and Re: Child Obesity; Help Without Harming in the message box and post your message.
  • Keep it short—somewhere on the order of 250 to 400 words. (Actually, 2500 characters—about 400 words—is the maximum the site will accept.) Your short, heart-felt message will have an  impact.
  • Start off with a sentence that summarizes your message, then develop it.
  • Address one aspect of the topic. Each of us will choose different aspects and together, we will cover what is important.
  • Send this newsletter to your fellow travelers (that is, other proponents of the feeding dynamics model), and encourage them to post their message.

Will you join Ellyn in ecouraging Mrs. Obama to help our children without harming them? I did.

3 responses to “It Happened This Week: Helping without Harming – A Message to Michelle Obama”

  1. Sarah Ikegami says:

    I agree about changing the way we encourage children to return to a state of natural weight and health. Kids remember every statement said about this stuff, it will follow them for the rest of their lives! It’s time we change our tactics and actually get somewhere!

  2. Kerry says:

    The labeling theory backs this up well – by labeling kids obese, they will identify themselves that way, and become obese adults. I agree that kids need the proper feeding environment, and there are many challenges which we need to overcome to make that happen.

  3. Marsha says:

    So glad you’re all on board with this. It is such an important message and let’s hope it gets through to Mrs. Obama. I just returned from the Binge Eating Disorders Association conference where this was a big topic, too, so know more people will be writing her.

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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