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Read the Eating Disorder Coalition's letter to the Office of the First Lady re her ...

By May 7, 2012 - 3:45pm

Read the EDC's letter to the Office of the First Lady re her Let's Move! campaign.
The Eating Disorders Coalition is thrilled to share with you our letter to the Office of the First Lady re her Let's Move! campaign.

IF YOUR ORGANIZATION WOULD LIKE TO SIGN ON IN SUPPORT OF THE LETTER, please contact: kmacdonald@eatingdisorderscoalition.org
(We had over 40 organizations (in addition to over 45 Members of Congress) sign on to the letter in July of 2010 and we hope for many more this time around.) The letter will be mailed in mid-May, so please contact us ASAP with your support.

May XX , 2012

Mrs. Michelle Obama
First Lady of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mrs. Obama:

Thank you for your leadership to improve the health of our nation’s children and adolescents through the Let’s Move campaign. Let’s Move has brought an unprecedented amount of attention to childhood obesity and the importance of physical activity, thereby addressing one of the most serious health problems among our youth. While we applaud the overall mission and many benefits of the program, we are concerned with the significant increase of eating disorder behaviors being reported among our youth. Therefore, we urge you to broaden Let’s Move’s current focus on obesity and weight to one that promotes health overall.

On January 24, 2012, the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital published a national poll on children’s health examining the association between school-based childhood obesity prevention programs and an increase in eating disorders among young children and adolescents. The study found that 30 percent of parents reported at least one worrisome behavior in their children that could be associated with the development of eating disorders. Additionally, seven percent of parents reported that their children have experienced attacks on their self-esteem due to eating habits. These statistics are extremely troubling and demonstrate the urgency to address eating disorders in obesity prevention initiatives.

A substantial amount of evidence from eating disorder research explicitly demonstrates that when an important agent in a child’s social environment (e.g. parents, school officials, and peers) endorses a preference for thinness and places an emphasis on weight control, children are more likely to develop risky behaviors. Such behaviors include binge eating, inappropriate dieting, excessive worry about fat in foods, food content and labels, refusing family meals, and too much physical activity. Indeed, research shows that educational programs that specifically focus on weight management increase the prevalence of body disaffection, low self-esteem, weight bias, and weight-related teasing and bullying among children and adolescents.

Unhealthy diets and habits can negatively influence children’s physical, emotional, and educational development and well-being. Additionally, dieting is a risk factor for the development of an eating disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), undernourishment impacts a student’s ability to excel academically, and anxiety, depression, and suicide are more common in people with eating disorders. Eating disorders can result in long-term health issues, including heart and kidney failure, cognitive impairment, muscle atrophy, and sudden death. In fact, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

While we understand that obesity and eating disorders have distinct health impacts, we believe that the prevalence of these disorders indicates the need for comprehensive and well-coordinated interventions that support healthier environments. Because of its overall goal to promote positive life choices among our nation’s youth, Let’s Move’s mission is compatible with the messages and interventions that address eating disorders. Therefore, we urge you to de-emphasize the campaign’s focus on obesity and weight, and broaden it to the overall promotion of health.

To this end, we recommend the elimination of language that negatively portrays overweight body images, such as “fat is bad” or “overweight people are unhealthy,” at all implementation levels of the program. Such language can have a detrimental and long-lasting impact on a child’s relation to and appreciation of their body. Educators and all personnel participating in the Healthier US School Challenge must be trained to understand weight-based stigmas and how to avoid promoting them. It is also essential that they learn how to promote children’s self-esteem, body satisfaction, and respect for body size diversity. Our youth should never feel pressured to conform to a “standard” or “acceptable” body image.

In addition, educators must be trained to understand the development of eating disorders, how to detect them, and how to not inadvertently promote disordered thinking and behaviors among children. Lastly, we believe that educators should incorporate information about eating disorders when teaching children about healthy food choices. We also recommend that the Let’s Move web site include a link to the Office of Women’s Health site, which has comprehensive and evidence-based information on eating disorders.

In July 2010, we addressed these concerns and offered similar recommendations to your office. Unfortunately, we have not seen any of our proposed changes being implemented. Coordinated efforts among elected officials, community leaders, educators, parents, and young people are crucial to finding sustainable solutions to these public health problems, and improving the physical and mental health of all children and adolescents.

Again, we commend your unprecedented leadership to promote healthy lifestyles among children with the creation of the Let’s Move campaign, which has started to transform the cultural and social factors that contribute to our country’s high rates of obesity. However, we truly hope that you will take our genuine concerns into consideration and incorporate meaningful changes into the Let’s Move campaign in order to give it a more comprehensive approach that addresses the full spectrum of behaviors imperiling the health of America’s children.

Thank you for your consideration of our request, and we look forward to hearing back from you.


Alcee L. Hastings
Member of Congress


Group Leader

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