Jennifer Lovejoy, PhD, Senior Vice President, Clinical Development & Support
Amidst all the wonderful stories at the Olympics the athletic feats achieved, the medals won, the national celebrations one story stands out as unique. It is an advertisement for Nike athletic shoes, featuring an overweight child jogging alone through open fields.
The point of the ad is that every one of us has the potential for greatness and the ability to overcome whatever challenges life may hand us. Athletic achievement is not just for those who have been blessed with great genes or the financial resources to pay for the worlds best coaches. We dont have to have parents who are willing to sacrifice everything to make our Olympic dreams come true. We simply have to lace up our running (or walking) shoes and get out on the road.
This advertisement is not only wonderful for its inspirational message that anyone is capable of greatness, though. It is particularly noteworthy that a major corporation such as Nike would deliberately, and with simplicity and grace, take on the issue of obesity stigma and bias. Our society wrongly believes that all people who are overweight are inactive couch potatoes who routinely overeat junk food. This blame the victim mentality, often accompanied by cruel and pejorative comments, leads to incredible suffering for overweight children and adults. Science has proven repeatedly that obesity is a complex disease resulting from genetic, neurological and biochemical imbalances that promote fat storage, often even when individuals are following what most of us would consider a reasonably healthy lifestyle. The National Weight Control Registry, a registry of people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off for years, has shown that many of its members engage in very high amounts of physical activity on a daily basis the average being 45-60 minutes a day, every day. What many people dont realize is that lots of these successful losers are still overweight in terms of their BMI. They are highly fit, and living healthy lifestyles, and yet many of them continue to experience the stigma and insults from people who believe they must be couch potatoes simply because of their size.
So kudos to Nike for challenging the stereotype that all kids who are overweight are inactive. And kudos to every overweight person who looks inside themselves, sees their personal greatness and decides to defy the stereotypes one more day. You inspire me every day.
Dr. Jennifer Lovejoy is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development & Support at Alere Wellbeing and past president of the Obesity Society. Dr. Lovejoys clinical research program has been funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Diabetes Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and NASA. Read other blog posts by Jennifer Lovejoy.
Visit www.alerewellbeing.com to learn about Alere Wellbeings Weight Talk® personal coaching program and the Accomplish® Program, a nutritional and lifestyle counseling program exclusively for weight loss surgery patients.