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This post is written in response to the news article found here: http://www.valleynewslive.com/story/23823811/woman-handing-out-letters-not-halloween-candy
about a woman who declares she will be handing out this letter instead of candy to trick-or-treaters that she believes are overweight.

Dear Cheryl,

I wanted to comment on the very disturbing article I saw claiming that you would be handing out letters to the children who came to your door who “appear moderately obese” rather than candy.

I comment on this not because I am a registered nurse, nutrition counselor and weight loss expert, but because I was once a child insecure about my weight, and I cannot imagine what would have happened to my pre-teen psyche had I received such a nasty-gram. Looking back decades into my past, I am grateful that I never did receive this kind of treatment.

I’m not sure what gives you the right to judge a child’s health status by a two second view at the door, or what you believe your letter will do for this child’s future, but I can guarantee that the consequences won’t be positive.

Imagine a child, already struggling to fit in with peers, going from door to door with a pillowcase and a big grin on his face. He’s smiling not because he’s scoring big on candy, he’s smiling because he is enjoying time with friends, not being bullied, and for once, not being treated differently because of his size.

He reaches your door. You hand his three friends, the zombie, superman, and the pumpkin each a snickers, while he receives a letter.  His friends are curious, as is he. He opens the letter, his friends read over his shoulder, and he realizes that the letter is about him– about his weight. Mortified, he runs home, tears streaming down his face. He believes these to be his only friends in the world, and he is ashamed to show his face in front of them.

While this boy’s friends are good kids, they’re not sure what to do either. They run into another couple kids from school, and one boy warns the others about what is being handed out at “that house”. The daisy chain is now ignited and it is only a matter of time before the school bully hears about “what Johnny got when he went trick or treating”. The letter will now haunt him for years.

And while this may seem like I am playing “worst case scenario” but it actually could get worse than this: a young girl develops an eating disorder because she believes she is fat; a teenage boy committing suicide because he believes he no longer has friends; and many children, who would benefit greatly from physical activity and play, too afraid to go outside and play with friends because of fear of being ostracized by their peers. The cold hard reality is that your tootsie roll or fun sized snickers bar won’t make a significant difference in a child’s health, however your letter could just be a final straw that sets in motion a lifetime of physical and psychological disorder.

What you are doing is not promoting public health. What you are doing is bullying. While you may believe that bullying only happens on the school grounds, there is always an instigator. And in this case, the instigator will be you. Let’s be completely honest here: if bullying and negative comments actually helped children (or adults) lose weight, obesity would no longer be a national health crisis.

If your true concern is the health and well being of children around you, allow myself to explain your role and responsibility in “raising a village” as well as the roles that do not belong to you.

Your role: A warm smile, a kind word about cute costumes, and, perhaps play dough or playing cards for ALL of the children at your door, if you believe there is too much candy going around this Halloween. (I agree, there is!)

Necessary roles that do not belong to you:

–       The doctor – whose obligation is to have frank discussions with parents and families about the health status of their children.

–       The qualified health and nutrition professional – who counsels parents and families on how to make changes to their food and lifestyle in a way that encourages health, healthy weight strategies if necessary, and well being.

Unhelpful roles that do not belong to you:

–       The “judge” – Who takes it upon themselves to decide whether or not a parent is doing a good enough job raising their children

–       The bully – who purposely isolates others because of their physical appearance.

–       The “hero” – who takes it upon themselves to fix all of the problems that the parents “obviously can’t figure out for themselves.”

My plea is that you reconsider your decision for this evening, and focus on unconditional caring and acceptance. Because this is what these kids need more of. Not more ridicule, not more separation from their peers. If you are not willing to reconsider, then I hope your house gets egged.

Happy Halloween,

Ashley Palmer R.N. M.S.

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Ashley Palmer
Ashley is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition. Ashley loves her son, her husband, and lifting heavy things then putting them back down repeatedly. She is a nutrition, fitness and weight loss coach and blogs at www.youtrition.net.

 

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