Shaming the “Fat” Kid is NOT Solving the Obesity Epidemic

UPDATE: We are organizing a chat on twitter this THURSDAY, February 16th from 9-10pm EST to discuss the implications of these ads to children. We will also be discussing the obesity epidemic and effective ways of communicating change. Click here to join us!

I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly offensive this ad is to me. I was that overweight kid years ago. I lived everyday of my life with shame about my own body.

The Huffington Post reported on these ads earlier this month. Where was I? Today I happened upon this post. It looks like the State of Georgia thought these ads were a great idea and has plastered the state with them. This is NOT one of those times where “I have no words”…I’ve got words. And I’m going to share them with you. Why? Because I WAS this girl. And I’m speaking to you as someone who struggled most of their life with being overweight, later morbidly obese & having an eating disorder, and today healthier YET NO DIFFERENT INSIDE MY HEART.

This is a public health communication campaign that has gone very wrong. Since when it is okay to shame children? I’ll tell you when. When people with fancy degrees sit in their ivory towers and decide that the people in Georgia need to “wake Up and smell the obesity in their state” (my own quote, btw.)

They should be ashamed of themselves. Not only has The Strong4 Life Campaign succeeded in shaming children all over the State of Georgia, but they are missing the point. Here you see a child who is overweight, but what you don’t see is how that child got to be that way. It makes the child look like the problem. Guess what? The child is NOT the problem. The lifestyle of the entire family is the problem. To solve this issue, everyone in that household will have to change. Everyone. More activity and better nutrition. Pointing the finger at this poor child only succeeds in making her feel worse. In fact, I would go even further to say that THIS AD CREATES EATING DISORDERS IN CHILDREN. They are made to feel more shame about who they are.

Quote from Marsha Davis, an obesity prevention researcher, “We need to fight obesity, not obese people.”

I was that child years ago. Every time someone drew attention to my weight, I spent my time eating more. Why? Because food was how I made myself feel better. If you were going to make me feel bad about myself, I was going to run to food again. Does that make sense? No. But since when does having an eating disorder make any sense?

Btw, I assure you this child knows she is overweight. It’s not like drawing attention to it is going to make her have some kind of an epiphany. Like “Wow, I never knew that…are you serious? You mean this roll in my belly isn’t just water?”

And guess what? I’m right. These type of tactics don’t work when it comes to weight. They are counterproductive. I would say abusive.

I think these ads should be pulled. They are harmful to children.

If you would like to voice your opinion you can do it directly AT The Strong 4Life Campaign. They just so happen to be on twitter and Facebook.

Twitter: @Strong_4_Life

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/S4LGA

I live all the way in California, so it’s not like I can show up on their doorstep, but some of you sure as hell can.

I’m summing this up with what has the world come to when we make children the problem? Children are never the problem. Sometimes people with fancy degrees are part of the problem. (And btw, I’m one of those people with a fancy degree…but at least I have the sense to know what is harmful and what is not.)

UPDATE: I’d like to add some links to additional posts that have covered this issue

Diets in Review
Curvy Girl Guide
Skinny Emmie
Mrs. Fatass
Lisa Johnson
Skimbaco Lifestyle
Mommyality
ShePosts
GanzWorld
5 Minutes for Mom

Mamavation
Leah Segedie is the Founder of Mamavation and Bookieboo, a blogger network. After losing over 100 lbs, she started a career mentoring women in health and since then has assisted in over 3,500 lbs lost via the Mamavation community. Leah and her work has been mentioned in Ladies Home Journal, Reader's Digest, Fitness, Women's Day, CNN, ABC, CBS, the O'Reilly Factor, AOL, Entrepreneur, and Yahoo to name a few. She works from home in her fuzzy slippers.
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Comments

  1. Shalini says:

    I agree that there must be a better way to run a campaign against obesity. Yes, the posters are directed towards parents, but it is far too aggressive. What will a child think, especially considering the words on the poster in this article? “It’s hard to be little when you’re not little?” This is very confusing for children, and they WILL believe that it is directed towards them. It takes a degree of maturity and worldliness to understand the real meaning of these posters, and that is something a child cannot be expected to have.

    This is not an instance where the end justifies the means. There is surely a kinder way to win the fight for a noble cause.

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