Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Respectfully Disagree

I read a blog post today by Yoni Freedhoff, M.D.  He writes at Weighty Matters.  I enjoy his blog and I follow it regularly.  He is an obesity medicine doc and I normally agree with what he writes.  Today, he wrote a post about a video produced by the folks at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta titled "About that "Powerful" New Obesity Video Everyone's Sharing".  For your reference, here is the video:

He writes, "Presumably the point of the ad is to cause viewers with weight, and parents of kids who may be struggling, to feel sufficient guilt, shame and self-loathing that they finally decide to change their ways." While I completely agree that there is no value in guilting, shaming or causing self-loathing in obese children or their parents I'm not sure that this is the point of the video.

Admittedly the video is shocking, but as someone who suffered from healthy privilege as Carolyn Thomas at Heart Sisters writes in 'Healthy Privilege'-When You Just Can't Imagine Being Sick right up until I was sick, I have to argue that guilting children or their parents should not be seen as the point of this video.  Like it or not, in the USA (Dr. Freedhoff is from Canada and I can't speak for Canadians--Carolyn is from Canada too!) our culture responds to shock value.  When medical organizations or providers are trying to grab the attention of patients, they have to weigh what will be effective enough to start conversation.

As I watch this video, I see me and I see the way I fed my children.  Everyone likes to pretend that exactly what this video shows is really not that unhealthy.  It is the reality of the right now, on the run lifestyle of many Americans and they don't see any harm in it--what great danger this puts them in.  I used to partake in it and my heart attack was caused by nothing other than lifestyle.  Since I have had a heart attack, I have stopped feeding my family and myself like this.  We partake on rare occasion but now my once young children that used to only ask for chicken nuggets and fries are a few years older and they balk at the thought of McDonald's.  It makes them physically ill because we just rarely eat like this.  The effectiveness of this video lies in the fact that this walks backwards right through a life that causes obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  I know that people see themselves in this.  I did and and I am here to tell you from personal experience the operating table is right where they will end up and that is if they are lucky.  Sometimes they are not so lucky and it is the table in the morgue and not the OR  where they end up.  My hope is that a video like this  has strong enough shock value for at least one person that sees themselves in it to start a serious conversation with their doctor.

As I go out into the community here in Kansas City to educate, I understand the point of this video.   I keep in mind my thought process before I was sick--before I suffered a sudden, massive heart attack.  Despite my unhealthy lifestyle, you couldn't have talked to me about diabetes, cancer or heart disease and me think that those things would really ever happen to me. How arrogant is that? It is the struggle that goes through my mind as I am preparing to talk with women about heart disease.  What can I possibly say to them that will drive home the point that heart disease is the number one killer of women and have them think that it applies to them?  I'm not really sure but I am totally honest with them about my thought process before my heart attack.  I tell them that I was like them and that it is my greatest hope that they will understand that it can absolutely happen to them.

So, congratulations to the folks at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.  It does not matter if you see this through the eyes of Dr. Freedhoff, through my eyes or have another opinion, they started a conversation and that is priceless.