Victory: Strong 4 Life Billboards Coming Down

Next month, the current Strong 4 Life billboards are coming down.

Close to 700 mom & dad bloggers, fitness professionals, Registered Dietitians, doctors and other concerned bloggers rallied together for a common cause–The end of shame. We demanded the Strong 4 Life campaign take down billboards we believed created an environment in Georgia that perpetuated bigotry, increased bullying in schools, and “weight bias.” We all joined hands virtually and stood up against a non-profit with over 50 million at their disposal because they were wrong in thinking that it was okay to shame a child into better health. Trying to shame anyone into better health is ridiculous, but when you try to do it to children, the virtual gloves come off. We did this because this isn’t just a local issue, this issue effects us all as obesity prevention campaigns sweep the nation. (Having obesity prevention campaigns are a GOOD thing, but they need to be done humanely.) We all want to see the end to the obesity epidemic, but we believe in fighting obesity, not obese people. Partnering with families to help them instead of throwing daggers at them is the most humane way to get this done. My conclusion: This is a win for us all.

What did we do? Here is how we organized:

1. One  hour #Ashamed chat protest on January 27th. Outcome of 23 million impressions joined by 544 bloggers creating 4,859 tweets in support of #Ashamed. Numbers from the #Ashamed chat that night were HIGHER than most of the top trending topics on twitter that night.

2. The event was covered on Headline News, on the front page of CNN.com and then later on the Bill O’Reilley Show.

3. One hour #Ashamed chat protest on February 16th. Outcome of 41 million impressions, joined by 469 bloggers creating  3,570 tweets in support of #Ashamed. Numbers from the #Ashamed chat that night were HIGHER than most of the top trending topics on twitter that night.

3. February 17th organized a “nudging” on Facebook to Carter’s Clothing company, sponsor to Childrens Hospital of Atlanta parent non-profit for Strength 4 Life, which produced several status updates on their wall by mom bloggers and other concerned citizens asking Carters whether they “supported” the Strong 4 Life Billboards. Carters responded publicly that they did NOT support any advertising campaign.

4. From a tweet via @Nerdmom to Jillian Michaels during the Feb. 16th #Ashamed chat, Jillian Michaels responded and came out against the Strong 4 Life billbaord ads saying shame isn’t the answer on Facebook & twitter.

 What Now?

Now we must all stay vigilant. Since my background is in politics, community organizing and PR, this much I know: In order to keep shame ads away from our children, we NEED to control the rhetoric in the public sphere, i.e. the message. That means talking about shame, weight bias, the idea of “fighting obesity,  not obese people” needs to become a consistent message in the next year for all of us. In order to ensure that our children are safe in the future from these type of shaming campaigns, we need to keep pushing this agenda. This cannot stop. If it does we run the risk of this type of campaign popping up in another state with just as much funding. And we are not alone, Yale University is also doing their part to promote an environment free from “weight bias” as we tackle the obesity epidemic. You can learn more about what they are doing here.

Thank you all to who supported these efforts! And a special thank you to the following community leaders who rallied behind the cause:

1. Mamavation with Leah Segedie @Bookieboo
2. Resourceful Mommy Media with Amy Lupold Bair @Resourcefulmom
3. Type A Mom with Kelby Carr @Typeamom
4. 5 Minutes for Mom Community with Janice Croze @5minutesformom
5. Anissa Mayhew with Slightly Bent Productions @AnissaMayhew
6. Christine Young with Dates for Diapers @youngmommy
7. Cecily Kellogg with UpperCase Woman @Cecilyk
8. DietsnReview @Dietsinreview
9. Sue O Lear as @Mrsfatass
10. Amy Bellgardt with Mom Spark Media @Momspark
11. Stacie Haight Connerty with Divine Miss Mommy @Stacieinatlanta
12. Lisa Morris Frame with A Daily Pinch @Daily_Pinch
13. Social Media Moms with Kadi Prescott @kadiprescott
14. Bloggy Moms with Tiffany Noth @bloggymoms
15. Registered Dietitian Alysa Bajenaru, RD @InspiredRD
16. DrMommyOnline with Dr. Daisy Sutherland @DrMommy
17. Sugar in the Raw with Sugar Jones @SugarJones
18. Queen of Spain with Erin Kotecki Vest @QueenofSpain
19. Fitfluential with Kelly Olexa @KellyOlexa
20. Jessica Northley @JessicaNorthley
21. Loralee with Looneytunes @Looneytunes
22. Green & Clean Mom with Sommer Poquette @Greenmom
23. Runhers @Runhers Community
24. Pediatrician Dr. Jen @Playthisway
25. Fitbottomedgirls community @Fitbottomedgirl
26. Jenny on the Spot with Jenny Ingram @Jennyonthespot
27. Greeblemonkey with Aimee Giese @Greeblemonkey
28. Fun and Fit.org with Alexandra Williams @Alexandrafunfit
29. Skimbaco Lifestyle with Katja Presnal @Katjapresnal
30. Pure Natural Diva with Tania @Purenaturaldiva
31. MommyPR with Angela @MommyPR
32. Registered Dietitian Heather Bauer as @heatherbauer_rd
33. PHD in Parenting with Annie @PhdinParenting
34. Redneck Mommy with Tanis Miller @Redneckmommy
35. Kelly’s Lucky You with Kelly @girlslunchout
36. Dear Crissy with @Crissy
37. Dad Street with Josh @Dadstreet
38. Mommy Wants Vodka with Becky @MommywantsVodka
39. Princess Time Toys with Connie @Princesstimetoy
40. Dates & Diapers with Christine Young @Youngmommy
41. Good and Crazy with Carissa Rogers @CarissaRogers
42. Real Life Sarah with Sarah @Reallifesarah
43. The Virtual Assistant with Michelle Mangen @Mmangen
44. Erin Margolin @ErinMargolin
45. Tara Ziegmont @Taraziegmont
46. Curvy Girl Guide with @Curvygirlguide
47. Dr Mommy Online with Dr. Daisy Sutherland @DrMommy
48. Formerly obese blogger and fitness model Stefan Pinto as @Stefanpinto
49. Professional personal trainer and TV personality @AndreaMetcalf
50. According to Kelly with Kelly @According2Kelly
51. Momeo Magazine with Carla Young with @CarlaYoung
52. The Vacation Gals with Jennifer Miner @Jenniferminer
53. Run Eat Repeat with Monica Olivias @Runeatrepeat
54. Momfluential with Ciaran Blumenfeld  @Momfluential
55. The Soft Landing with Alicia Voorhies @thesoftlanding
56. Our Ordinary Life with Kristin @OurOrdinaryLife
57. Fitarella with Jacqueline Carly @Fitarella
58. The 818 with Morgan  @The818
59. Marketing professional Jessica Smith @Jessicanow
60 High Impact Mom with Amanda @Highimpactmom
62. Robyn’s Online World with Robyn Wright @Robynsworld
63. Registered Dietitian and consultant to Food TV Network @Tobyamidor
64. One By One Media with Jim Turner @Genuine
65. How to Be a Dad with Charlie N Andy @HowtobeaDad
66. Registered Dietitian @ScritchfieldRD
67. Registered Dietitian @MaryHartleyRD
68. Registered Dietitian @LeahMcgrathRD
69. Aspiring Mama with Pauline Campos @Aspiringmama

Additional information about what is ahead with Strong 4 Life:

Here is what I CAN report. The billboards are being phased out in March. They will come down one by one in several zip codes in Atlanta, and later replaced by the next phase of billboards. I haven’t seen the creative images from the next campaign, but I’ve been promised by Patty Gregory, Communication Manager for Children’s Hospital of Atlanta via phone conversation, that they will NOT have the same “tone” as the ones above. In fact, I’ve been told the theme is quite different this time and should not involve any negative portrayals of children. I’ve also been promised it will revolve around “one step you can take” to start down the right path. Or something to that effect. I should have more information about specifics soon. I can’t say whether I support these new billboards or their next phase because I haven’t seen all the specifics. Don’t automatically assume that I won’t like what they do next. Sometimes I may surprise you.

More of my opinion about how statistics CAN be used used for good and bad:
I don’t always believe everything I hear when it comes to the internet, studies and statistics and I’ll tell you why. Have you ever heard of the term “lying with statistics?” It basically means you can CREATE a number to suit your agenda very easily based on several things: (1) WHO is doing the asking, (2) WHO you are sampling, (3) HOW the question is asked, and (4) how many people you ask. Let me give you an example, if I asked all the bloggers who were on the list from above if they thought these depictions of children were shameful, I’m pretty sure about 100% of them would say yes. Then I could say something to the effect of “100% of bloggers sampled in social media think that the Strong 4 Life billboards are shameful.” Do you catch my drift? I know that would not be true, BUT I could say it. Then it’s up to YOU to decipher whether that is true or not, but most people really have no idea how these studies are actually created, so they don’t bother. As a population we tend to be intimidated by statistics. The only ones who are not are statisticians and people who have worked around them. So long story short, when the Strong 4 Life campaign defended their shame tactics by saying that 75-80% of parents in Georgia with overweight/obese children don’t even realize their children had a weight problem, I’m gonna say….hmmmm, I don’t think so. That doesn’t ring true to me. (Maybe if you survey a bunch of parents with children on the low end of the scale…but not the high end.) As parents we love our children, but we are not blind. And sometimes you gotta just use your bullshit meter when it comes to these things because we really don’t have anything else to go by. Strong 4 Life used this statistic to defend their communication tactics over and over again. Now the Strong 4 Life campaign is saying that 80% of parents in Georgia think these billboards are a step in the right direction. Again, my bullshit meter goes off. I’m thinking, it really depends on WHO you ask. I’m wondering if they were asking parents who HAD obese children that were bullied in school for their weight. They may have left that part of the population out of this. I don’t know how these surveys were conducted because they never released that information. They said they were going to, but they didn’t. So in my opinion, something was screwy with that study. Why else would you withhold the details? By the way, the original study  was partially funded by the State of Georgia. These are your tax dollars at work. Nice little piece of information as we are in an election year.

Help me further the cause:

1. Thank the people that helped me cause a ruckus. If you would like to help me in thanking all the thought leaders in social media that made this all possible, you can send out the following tweets. Thanking our community leaders and keeping them involved is going to keep our message strong in social media:

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed: @bookieboo @resourcefulmom @typeamom @5minutesformom @AnissaMayhew http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making diff. supporting #Ashamed 2: @Youngmommy @Cecilyk @Dietsinreview @Mrsfatass @Momspark @StacieinAtlanta http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 3: @Daily_pinch @kadiprescott @bloggymoms @InspiredRD @DrMommy @Sugarjones http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making diff. supporting #Ashamed 4: @QueenofSpain @KellyOlexa @JessicaNorthley @Looneytunes @Greenmom @Runhers http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 5: @Playthisway @Fitbottomedgirl @Jennyonthespot @Greeblemonkey  http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 6: @KatjaPresnal @Purenaturaldiva @MommyPR @Heatherbauer_RD  http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 7: @Redneckmommy @Girlslunchout @Crissy @Dadstreet @Mommywantsvodka  http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 8:@Princesstimetoy @CarissaRogers @Reallifesarah @ErinMargolin   http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 9: @Curvygirlguide @Stefanpinto @AndreaMetcalf @According2kelly   http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 10: @Jenniferminer @Runeatrepeat @Momfluential @Thesoftlanding   http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 11: @fitarella @the818 @JessicaNow  @Highimpactmom @Robynsworld   http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 12: @Genuine @Howtobeadad @ScritchfieldRD @MaryhartleyRD @LeahMcGrathRD  http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 13: @Alexandrafunfit @PhdInParenting @Taraziegmont @Carlayoung  http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

Thanks 4 making a diff. supporting #Ashamed 14: @Tobyamidor @Ourordinarylife  http://bit.ly/wGfxOX

2. Help me continue to talk about the subject matter. If we simply stop our efforts, we run the risk of this happening all over again and us potentially losing the battle. So continue to use the #Ashamed hashtag, educate your audience on “weight bias” and how it’s prevalent in North America, and continue to keep this subject matter “top of mind” for people. We all CAN make a difference.

3. Become a healthy role model in social media. Let’s face it. We need more of them. I can’t be the only one. (Figure of speech, I know I’m really not.) If we band together and do this the RIGHT way then the “experts” can’t make claims about us in general to further their agenda. If we are all succeeding in this area, we are proving that empowerment trumps shame. Period. End of story.

4. When I do find obesity prevention campaigns that I like and I support them in social media, support me by retweeting, commenting and creating buzz for them. We want to be a force for positive change. Let’s reward the organizations that are doing it right.

 

Again, I’d like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for having an open mind and heart and supporting the Mamavation community in protesting shame. YOU made a difference this year. You really did.

And thank you to @Aspiringmama who brought this issue to my attention. Her original post about it is here.

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. We were honored to be able to help positively influence this decision. How wonderful that the billboards are coming down. I hope the next ones are hugely improved.

    Thank you for leading this important initiative.

  2. I’m so very happy that these are coming down and I hope it’s a lesson learned – shock value has no place in the real world when it comes to our children….and they’re all our children.

    Thank you so very much for the countless hours you spent on this and for allowing me to speak out against them as well.

    Congrats!
    Connie

  3. Happy to help! – Erica

  4. Leah, I am so happy that you brought the issue to my attention and that I could be a part of this campaign to stop shaming the kids of Atlanta. It is something I have thought about every day since you first pointed out the ads to me, and I am both excited and hopeful that this campaign will take a new approach moving forward.

  5. Fantastic news that the billboards are coming down! I do wish the ongoing message of this work wasn’t “fight obesity, not obese people” though, because that still promotes weight bias with only a subtle word shift–the majority of people correlate obesity with behavior and choice, so fighting obesity is fighting obese people, even if it is done without a shame-centric tone. Why not “support healthy, active lifestyles” or something that didn’t encourage people to feel they can objectify and pathologize and add shame to other people’s bodies? But nonetheless, gear work on awareness about the #ashamed campaign. I truly celebrate that coup.

    • Mamavation says:

      Hey Deb! I AM actually working on this a bit. I agree with the phrase “obese people” cause that’s kinda a marker stereotype word that doesn’t help. I need to come up with a catchy phrase that communicates my meaning…which hasn’t been easy. Plus we also need to think about “sound bites” with this phrase…it needs to communicate the same message and be short and sweet. I’m totally open to ideas…

  6. I’d just like to add that another instrumental person in the drive to end this shaming campaign was Shannon Russell of the blog Fierce, Freethinking Fatties. His efforts have been tireless and instrumental in bringing the shaming to an end.

    • Mamavation says:

      Shannon is FREAKING awesome! I didn’t purposely leave him out, but he’s had his own thing going for a lot longer than me about this with a different audience. And yes, tireless is a great adjective because he has donated WAY more time to this cause than me. In fact, he prepped me for all my media interviews, etc. He’s brilliant and has been VERY instrumental behind the scenes. And Regan as well!!!

  7. Leah, seeing this post last night left me speechless. I truly have no words for what it feels like to have been a part of making this difference. Also, thank you for leading the charge and gathering so many influential voices that spoke loudly enough to be heard. And Thank You to everyone for speaking out.

  8. This series of events surrounding the ads shows that the outrage was not hysterical hyperbole that goes nowhere. Real, actionable change can happen when a groundswell of concerned folks on the internet come together to make things better. This is how social media affects positive change in the world.

    Thanks for letting me be part of that, Leah. :)

  9. I was so stunned by this campaign. I met Leah at Blissdom with @joeyfortman and heard about it for the first time. My blood boiled on the spot. My 17 year old, beautiful, smart, daughter struggles with obesity and I couldn’t even imagine what she would think if she saw those billboards. Thank you so much for your tireless efforts and for all of the wonderful bloggers who used the power of social media to force this awful campaign to cease!

  10. I am so happy this is oustanding news! our voices & our hearts was heard! So impressed how other communities & people came together. I live in Hawaii, yet this all hits so close to home for us as well. I am so proud to be a part of this campaign. Most grateful there are people like you all in this world that show themselves strong and make a difference. Aloha, God Bless & Push on!

  11. Thank you for digging your heels in on this. Some of us said what we had to say a bit on twitter and on facebook. I know I personally spent less than 4 hours total talking on twitter and facebook to Strong4Life and Carters.
    Some of you put forth a great deal of effort and time in raising awareness and pushing Strong4Life into the next phase of their campaign(I hope it’s much different than the shaming billboards!). We appreciate having people who can lead the way and speak so loudly what all of our voices want to scream!

  12. Thank you so much for your terrific work at getting these horrible billboards taken down! They’re appalling.

    However, I’m deeply concerned at ANY campaign, including a future one from Strong4Life, focused on “obesity prevention,” and find the term “obesity” profoundly offensive, as it is INACCURATE! “Obese” means “to over eat.” When in fact, so many plus size people become that size via DIETING! Undereating: the diet/binge cycle.

    By undereating to comply with a diet, people become starved and eventually binge. People who undereat calories by day and then do “make-up eating” later in the day (or when the dieter can no longer sustain the diet) end up consuming more calories and fat because the body requires this to compensate, and then some, for not having eaten enough all day long.

    Many dieters, even after they formally are “no longer on a diet,” continue to undereat by day, because of the unrealistically little food they have been taught to eat from the various diets they’ve been on, and from doctors continually admonishing them to “eat less, exercise more” so in effect, they are continuing the diet/binge cycle long after the diet is over: even for years.

    I call this “residual dieting.” Over time, it can cause profound weight gain.

    There is always a natural range of body sizes in any society.

    However, the increase in weights in America, I strongly believe, is the result of this diet/binge cycle from dieting increasingly being promoted over the past ~100 years: that dieting and trying to lose or “manage” weight through undereating and not listening to the body, and not having regular meals until full, and snacks in between as needed for hunger, is causing the so-called “obesity epidemic.”

    In short, the medical advice is iatrogenic: a medical “treatment” causing a condition.

    The medical advice to lose weight is causing the “obesity epidemic.”

    Dieting causes obesity.

    (Statistically, most dieters begin dieting while still of “normal weight” because of the present, extremely thin beautiful ideal. This starts them on the diet/binge cycle and for most, weight gain, according to the research links posted on my site. See below.)

    **

    Instead of any campaign focused on people’s weights, we need campaigns focused on *size acceptance, embracing size diversity, and healthy lifestyles for people of all sizes.*

    For health, not for weight goals!

    That’s because healthy behavior has proven again and again to be a much greater predictor of health than body size. Please google exercise physiologist Glenn Gaesser, PhD., for his articles on this subject, or visit my web site, Sonoma County Health At Every Size, for links to his articles, at

    http://www.socohaes.webs.com.

    The SoCoHAES site is intended to become a one-stop place for a library of links to medical research and client handouts for the general public on the scientific evidence providing the basis for a Health At Every Size(r) approach, and recommendations from health and nutrition experts on how to implement it.

    Please also refer to the site of the fantastic organization advocating for this healthier, evidence HAES approach: the Association for Size Diversity and Health site.

    **

    After all, isn’t it HEALTH that is the real goal here?

    Not some (narrow) beauty standard? Beauty ideals have no place in healthcare! It’s supposed to be about *health*!

    Thank you again for your terrific work. You and everyone you have helped organize, along with Shannon and others, has done a marvelous thing for the health and well being of this country’s children.

    I cannot thank you enough!

  13. I wish all of you parents receive jail sentences for allowing your children the ability to become obese.

    Thanks for ruining the american society just a little bit more.

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