During my December blogging vacation I read a Los Angeles Times piece in which a fitness and nutriton expert, Melinda Sothern, posited that at least some blame for the current obesity epidemic can be directed at women who gave birth during the 1950s and 60s.
Here’s her theory: under their doctors’ guidance, many women in the 50s and 60s gained as little as ten pounds during pregnancy, smoked while pregnant and fed their infants formula instead of breast feeding. These are all factors which, according to Sothern, could predispose their babies to gain weight in later life. Then this next generation, overweight in adulthood, gave birth to larger babies who were also predisposed to obesity.
While I can’t speak to the scientific soundness of Sothern’s theory, as a former pregnant woman it did trouble me to read that “[i]f yesterday’s young women may have gotten us into the obesity epidemic, today’s must be counted on to help us get out” and that “reproductive-age women may become the central focus of efforts to reverse America’s fat problem.”
There’s a fine line between giving women legitimate prenatal counseling and saddling them with responsibility for a public health epidemic that has its roots in everything from agricultural policies to food manufacturing practices to portion sizes at restaurants. A woman’s weight during her childbearing years is certainly important and needs to be monitored, but bluntly telling significantly overweight women, as Sothern does in the article, that they “should not have babies” and that they “should breast-feed for at least six months after childbirth or — better yet — take one year off from work and breast-feed” (an economic impossibility for many women), is only likely to raise hackles.
Why am I suddenly craving a martini and a cigarette?
[Hat tip: Casey Legler Hinds via Facebook]
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