If you're like me, you're in Olympics withdrawal right now.
Barring some frustrations over manipulative TV coverage by NBC, I was swept up by the beauty and drama of the Games, as I am every four years, and always get a little bummed that it'll be another four years before the next summer games.
But among the poignant moments of athletes with bodies chiseled according to their sport was an inspirational commercial that drew official kudos from the Obesity Society.
As part of Nike's “Find Your Greatness” campaign, which I loved as a whole, a commercial showed an obese 12-year-old boy slowly jogging the distance of a lonely country road. A British-accented narrator speaks with a cadence that seems to match the boy's jogging:
“Somehow we've come to believe that greatness is a gift reserved for a chosen few, for prodigies, for superstars, and the rest of us can only stand by watching. You can forget that. Greatness is not just some rare DNA strand. It's not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We're all capable of it. All of us.”
It was a powerful Olympic message that I hoped touched millions, as it did me.
The Obesity Society praised the commercial in a statement last week “for deliberately, and with simplicity and grace, taking on the issue of obesity stigma and bias” and underscored the message that “individual athletic achievement is within the reach of everyone, whatever their starting point. ” Amen!
Patrick O'Neil, president of the Obesity Society and director of the Medical University of South Carolina Weight Management Center, knows all about the obstacle of ridicule in regaining control of one's health and chimed in on the Nike commercial.
“Fear of humiliation can be a bigger barrier to exercise than physical discomfort,” says O'Neil. “Hopefully the Nike video of the young jogger will encourage viewers to challenge their stereotypes and to empathize with, and honor, exercisers of all sizes.”
Over the years, I've seen obese and overweight people participating in local road races and Sprint triathlons, and they usually get cheers and support from onlookers and fellow participants. I hope that the commercial will inspire more to come out and take the first steps to a fitter future.
A new survey
On a related note, a new survey by the Institute of Medicine, published Aug. 2 in the online New England Journal of Medicine, revealed that the public places the greatest responsibility for solving childhood obesity at the feet of parents, not the government or schools.
The report says opinion data, quantifying public attitude, is key to developing effective strategies for change because of the complex interaction of environments, including schools, workplaces, communities, media, food and beverage systems, and individuals.
The problem, the survey identified, was that only 18 percent of Americans identify factors such as exposure to junk food, limited availability of healthy foods in poor neighborhoods, and the lack of safe places for children to play as causes for childhood obesity.
In fact, 64 percent identified “personal factors” such as overeating, watching TV and lack of exercise as the biggest causes.
As expected, opinion differed along political lines regarding which sectors — schools, government or parents — should be most responsible. Conservatives were less likely to say responsibility should lie with schools or governments.
“Respondents attributed even less responsibility to federal, state and local governments. All respondents, regardless of their political worldview, believed that parents bear the primary responsibility for addressing childhood obesity.”
Unfortunately, such public beliefs about obesity render prevention messages vulnerable to counter-messaging about personal responsibility, such as the recent charge by the Center for Consumer Freedom that the Institute of Medicine has joined the ranks of “food nannies.”
Relating to the Nike commercial, the report also recognizes that obesity-prevention strategies and messages should avoid unintentionally increasing weight- based stigma, stating that “the case for addressing the obesity epidemic cannot be made at the expense of obese people.”
The Institute of Medicine's review describes “stigmatization directed at obese children by their peers, parents, educators and others as pervasive and often unrelenting, leading these children to suffer substantial psychological, social and health consequences.”
Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.