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Apodaca: Respect, kindness will do more than banning word 'fat'

July 06, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

A lot of nonsense gets spewed around the blogosphere and on TV "news" shows, where talking heads have lots of air space to fill with mindless blather. Controversies are manufactured and outrage is overplayed to manipulate audiences.

That makes it easy to dismiss a recent media-manufactured tizzy over a California mom's announcement that she had banned the word "fat" from her daughters' vocabulary.

But as irritating and insulting to our intelligence as these minor media obsessions can be, they sometimes succeed in attracting attention because they hit us in a soft spot. They speak to our own insecurities, inhibitions and sometimes, yes, even our pain.

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And so amid the faux indignation over whether the "F" word is a "bad" word, we might actually have an opportunity for some real insight about how we view our own and others' bodies.

The kerfuffle began when author and comedian Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, who also writes a parenting blog, said she outlawed the word "fat" after one of her daughters was told at summer camp that drinking soda would give her a fat tummy.

"I was horrified," Wilder-Taylor reportedly told ABCNews.com. "They are too young to be thinking about dieting or whether they are too fat or too thin."

The announcement sparked a predictable backlash from critics who derided this decision as an example of extreme helicopter parenting and political correctness. It prompted supporters to bemoan the body-image pressures on young people today, while others saw it as an opportunity to talk about the lack of civility in our society. Some responders said they had barred other words in their homes, including "stupid" and "shut up."

ABC assembled a panel of svelte, toned commentators to discuss the sensitive subject with an "expert." News outlets across the country picked up the story. And Wilder-Taylor, who started it all, probably sat back and relished all the publicity.

It's interesting that this tempest comes at a time when other topics relating to Americans' weight issues have been prominent in the news. Just last month, the American Medical Assn. for the first time officially designated obesity as a disease that requires medical treatment and prevention efforts.

The AMA's decision, though not technically binding, was seen by many as an important step in the evolution of our thinking regarding obesity, just as we have over time developed new ways of looking at other health issues such as alcoholism and addiction.

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