Looking for Black and White Answers in a World of Gray

Composition in GrayVirginia Sole-Smith has black and white answers for the world of gray nuances that define the relationship of nutrition, obesity, and health. She is an outspoken advocate for fat acceptance and body liberation. Restraint is something she rejects. In a very personal profile for the New York Times, Lisa Miller describes her as both inspirational and infuriating:

“What most riles readers who encounter Sole-Smith is the calm assurance with which she lays down arguments that seem to defy common sense. This is especially true when she talks about Oreos, as she has done many times, and did again when I asked her about them in Cold Spring. Her position is, in a way, the wedge that divides her fans from her haters and draws attention online. Sole-Smith says that parents need not be concerned about how many Oreos their children eat (the same goes for Halloween candy and ice cream), and when I asked her whether a boundary – say, three Oreos at a time – might be sensible, she pushed back.”

She may not be grounded in sound principles for parenting and health. But she definitely has a formula that earns her clicks and a comfortable $200,000 income as an influencer.

Hold That Thought

Must one choose between paying attention to the harm of obesity and the harm of weight stigma? Duke professor emeritus Kelly Brownell spoke with Miller about this:

“I think it’s possible to simultaneously hold in your mind that the condition of obesity is concerning, while at the same time protecting the rights of the people who have it. You can think of many other parallels, like depression or alcoholism, where you don’t want the people who have these things to be stigmatized. There are clearly negative effects of that. But it doesn’t mean you discount the ravages of those diseases.”

Facts or Clicks?

In her book, Sole-Smith contends that childhood obesity is a myth. When the American Academy of Pediatrics released evidence-based guidance for clinical care of it, the Times gave her a platform for calling it “terrifying.” The guidance, not the disease. Pediatric endocrinologist Barry Reiner told Miller this misinformed editorial, which dismissed obesity as a health concern for children, was infuriating:

“These children are not going to have a healthy life, or a normal life span.”

ConscienHealth founder Ted Kyle takes issue with Sole-Smith glossing over facts about child health “which don’t melt away because our feelings are strong.”

Black and white answers are good for clicks, as Sole-Smith has clearly demonstrated. But for the health of children, she might do well to pay a bit more attention to facts and reality.

Click here for the profile of Sole-Smith and here for perspective on her misinformation. For a brief Q&A with BBC World News and ConscienHealth on clinical guidance for obesity care in young persons, click here.

Composition in Gray, painting by Theo van Doesburg / WikiArt

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April 22, 2024