Childhood Obesity: Abigail the Whale by Davide Clai & Sonja Bougaeva

Abigail is a sweet girl who hates going to her swimming lessons because all the other children shout, “Abigail is a whale!” when she dives into the pool. She’s obese, but she’s making every effort to do well. Her teacher notices how down she is after one Wednesday afternoon and gives her the advice that changes her life, “You are what you think.”

Abigail makes this her mantra and imagines herself as everything from “gigantic” to “hedgehog” to help her overcome her troubles. Her confidence builds and she is able to channel her positive thinking into various ways to conquer her myriad fears and obstacles. In the end, she is not only able to garner the respect of her peers, but stands up to a bully by owning her size and thinking about being a “super whale.”

Let’s be clear: shaming and bullying children who are obese or overweight is wrong. I don’t care if it’s another child or even an adult making comments on a child’s weight; concern trolling and backhanded compliments are unwarranted, destructive, and downright mean. If you care about a child’s health, you’d better be willing to be a safe, loving, and supportive champion of that child like Abigail’s teacher. Anything short of being positively encouraging is unacceptable in my book. Help, don’t hurt, kids into healthy lifestyles. Period.

Childhood obesity has been called an epidemic and families are warned and advised to do whatever is possible to raise healthy kids. The efforts between local and federal government to do something about childhood obesity is well-intentioned and is absolutely needed. The way in which we approach this epidemic is just as essential as offering appropriate help, guidance, and education. Thankfully, Howard County is dedicated to reducing the rates of childhood obesity and even has a Childhood Obesity Prevention Toolkit for Howard County Maryland Healthcare Providers. This is an effort we all need to make together, not apart, or from the sidelines.

We all need to think like Abigail. If we think we are capable of curbing childhood obesity and we take the appropriate measures, we will.

JP Landolt is the HCLS Editor & Blog Coordinator for Well & Wise. She is also a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch & STEM Education Center. She is a storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, cancer survivor, and liver transplant recipient.

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