Saturday, February 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Strong4Life

Strong4Life, I am going to tell you a little story, an extended analogy if you will. It may seem at the beginning like it really doesn't apply to you, but it does, so please bear with me.
Think back to your high school days. The jocks were really kind of jerks. You could think of other words to describe them, but you try to give them the benefit of the doubt. There is this one jock who is worse than all the others. He's just mean. And your best friend is going out with him! What? She's compassionate, sweet, smart, funny...all the things this guy is NOT.
So you ask your friend, "Why are you going out with *him*? He's such a jerk!" and your friend tells you that he's really not like that, that he is such a great guy once you get to know him. You're really skeptical. I mean, you saw this guy push the clumsy kid out of the way in the hall and laugh when the kid fell. He said it was the kid's fault for being so clumsy and that if he would just get some grace he would be able to get out of the way. What an impression that made on you!
You are active in interscholastic activities, so you have come into contact with jocks that are nice to the kids that aren't in the "in" crowd. Those kids are so much happier looking than the ones at your school!
In the meantime, your friend invites you to hang out with her and her boyfriend one weekend. You are filled with trepidation. You've seen with your own eyes how mean he can be to people. But she's your best friend, and so you say yes.
It turns out that this Alpha Jock really*is* a nice guy. So you ask him why the meanness in school? He tells you that all jocks are jerks in public. That's the way it has always been.
You're not sure he will listen, but you tell him about how his actions make the other kids feel. How even though he might feel bad privately about how his actions hurt the kids in school, there are kids that look up to him and will think that what he is doing is OK - the same way that he thought it was OK because that's what he has always seen. You tell him about the other schools you have seen, and how much happier everyone is there.
Some days, it feels like you are just beating your head against the wall trying to get him to see that his outer persona makes it so hard to see what a great guy he is on the inside. If your conversations are overheard at school, the cheerleaders call you names and tell you to toughen up and get with the program.
Still, you feel like there is a possibility that maybe, just maybe, you can help this guy see the error of his ways and make a change. You know how hard it is to change your public face. After all, he's got his whole image invested in being this jerk. He may lose his position as Alpha Jock if he starts showing how kind he really is. You tell him how he could really be a trendsetter, a leader rather than following the status quo. "Imagine a school where it's not the same kids playing intramural sports all the time...where they all feel comfortable playing" you tell him.
You keep hoping your efforts will lead somewhere, but so far, nothing has happened.
Strong4Life, you are the jock in this story. I know that your program is FULL of awesome ideas and that its core is good. But the public campaign is, to put it bluntly, mean. I know you would lose face if you were to change the public face of the campaign now and admit that the advertisements were misguided. 
It would take a lot of courage on your part to publicly change everything. I believe you have that courage deep inside you, directors of this campaign. I don't just come to your page and make posts that seem like they are against you. I believe in every post I have made I have pointed out that you have really really good ideas. I just wish they were inclusive of all kids.
It's not just you, it's our whole society. We are all guilty of being quick to lay blame somewhere and not look deeper for more lasting solutions. 
You have an AMAZING opportunity here to be a groundbreaker - to be the first institution of your size with your scope of influence to promote healthy eating and active play explicitly for ALL kids. Calling this initiative to have a healthier generation a war on obesity really does leave out the kids who are average sized and smaller. Imagine your new tagline - "Calling ALL kids to be Strong4Life!" or "Everyone can be Strong4Life!" You could reach so many more people. And you would have overwhelming support for that. All the blogging moms, all the fierce fatties, all the just regular people like me. The NIH, Jillian Michaels, the NEDA....I can't speak for these last three, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they would be more than happy to get behind a revamped campaign.
Please take my comments into consideration. I really just want to have a rational conversation with you all on this. Think of how much MORE good you could be doing if you didn't have to focus so many resources on detractors. 
You have always given my comments good responses; I always felt that you were being fair and not dismissive. Even though this one is the size of a small novel (that was an attempt at humor, please laugh a little here), I hope that you give it the same thoughtful response that you did the others.
Thank you for reading this through to the end.

(this was also posted on Strong4Life's facebook wall this morning)


  1. Hey. I saw you commented on Fierce Freethinking Fatties & figured I'd come put your blog on my RSS. I'm a fat Aspie too, and I just restarted my own blog. Check it out if you want, but just wanted to say hey & you are in fact not alone. :)

  2. You just made my whole day better, you have no idea! Today was the day from hell because I had to go off meds for some medical testing...and got to go to work all withdrawn and anxious! So checking in and seeing the first ever comment (which means you're like, the first ever reader who's not from some Russian spambot) yahoo!