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


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
5 Minutes for Mom


Join thousands of other moms in discovering what is truly healthy.

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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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2016-11-16T11:04:50-05:00 January 24th, 2012|Activism, Featured|61 Comments


  1. Shalini March 6, 2012 at 2:16 am - Reply

    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.

  2. Meagan February 16, 2012 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Thats so sad! I cant believe thats what our society has become. Thats just wrong. And we wonder why so many children have HORRIBLE self-esteem problems! This is awful πŸ™

  3. Tasha February 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Yes, I very much dislike this ad campaign. It just makes me want to cry, but maybe that’s the point. It definitely has got some attention, and in a way has created a surge of action. I’m not saying I agree with it, I just wish they hadn’t used children as the focal point, but I get it.

    My sister was obese all through childhood, and although I was not in her shoes, I very much felt her pain. The depression, the self-hatred and anger, the pain. I remember all to well what it was like for her. Still to this day she suffers, not from weight issues, but from the self-esteem issues. Once affected, it never goes away.

  4. Vern February 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    I respect your passion, feelings and personal history about the issue, but I disagree with a great deal about what you said.

    I seriously doubt the campaign was to shame children. I think you’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion here. If there is any attempt to shame anyone – and I don’t think there is – it would be directed at the parents…and rightly so. Sometimes people need a browbeating of truth. But if a little shame is what it takes to motive someone to slim down their child for the sake of the child’s health, so be it.

    Feelings are important (particularly in children), but at some point feelings can’t take priority. Responsible parents would respond to a child’s obesity and say ‘Yes, you are big and I know that bothers you. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can change this by making changes in our habits.” Then parents must take action.

    You can dance around feelings only so long before the only option left is to do something. Because in the end, doing something about obesity is the only way to fix it. Feelings about the problem will not solve the problem.

  5. kitchenmage January 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    I can’t get beyond my assessment that this is simply state sponsored and tax-payer funded bullying of children by professionals. It’s just insane, particularly at a time when everyone is supposedly so concerned about children being bullied. This is just…gah…evil, evil stuff.

    Also, poor kids in the photos. I did some educational film work as a kid and still have vivid memories of wanting to die when one of the films showed up in my classroom. It was about riding buses. I was thin and had a pretty new dress and I was still humiliated by my friends seeing it. Imagine the poor kids on those posters…

  6. Rebecca January 28, 2012 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    Wonderful post: spot on! I am sorry I missed your Twitter event but thank you for your leadership on spreading the word that we cannot shame people into changing. I am hopeful this campaign will cease and some creative, safe and meaningful alternative solutions will come out of this discussion.

  7. Kristie Finnan, RD, LDN January 28, 2012 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    I am horrified by this campaign… I could go on a huge rant right now, but will simply say this will do nothing to cure the Obesity epidemic- only shame, embarrass and mortify those who are overweight. How does this advertisement teach healthy eating and excercise?

  8. Pam S. January 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    It is a shame that people think the way to “cure” the overweight people of our country is to shame them into dieting which never works, or shame them as children so they will change the way they eat as they grow older That also does not work, in fact most often they will eat more because of the shame they have been put through. To tell a child he/she is fat or obese is abusing them and cruel. Changing their lifestyle and what they eat and the way they eat will be the only thing that will help them in the long run. It also helps if the parents also participate in this new “lifestyle change” As a parent of a child that was obese as a child and entering into adulthood, I know the hurt that others can cause by making stupid remarks to this child. I also know the hurt they feel when their own parents/parent make remarks about how fat the child is. Smart parenting is to encourage them to eat well and the right foods, balanced with exercise as a family, as well as the family joining in on the smart eating and exercise. If a child respects themselves, they will feel better as they grow. I am happy to say that my child is now a healthy, happier adult. He has struggled with weight loss but as conquered it by losing 190+ pounds. He exercises and has changed his lifestyle to healthy eating habits, and teaches his children the same values. So, the states that are encouraging this type of stereotyping of its’ children need to take a step back and rethink their campaign tactics and remove the offensive ads immediately!

  9. Heather Bauer (@HeatherBauer_rd) January 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Looking forward to the chat tonight!

  10. Kristina @ Love and Zest January 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your voice in this issue! This ad does the opposite. It labels, stigmatizes, and strips this child of her voice. We don’t have a war on obesity, we have an issue of accepting individuals for the beautiful people that they are.

    I’m not saying that most of us wouldn’t benefit from eating a more balanced diet, including more food groups at each meal, etc….all the nutritional tenants that people already know. But as a society, why do we want to place blame, instead of owning up?

    It’s not really about “the food”, but more about what we “do” with the food. Are we practicing gentle nutrition and honoring our bodies? Do we give ourselves a license to eat? Or do we put foods on a “good” or “bad” list? Do we eat when we’re hungry and stop when we are satisfied? Or are we apart of the clean-your-plate club? Are we modeling behaviors that we’d want our kids to adopt?

    We have to empower our kids by leading by example! Children hear the unspoken messages, and we should take responsibility to foster a safe environment for our kids to develop and grow a healthy relationship with food and their bodies.

  11. Cathi January 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    I know many people aren’t going to understand what I’m going to say but…here goes. Society does NOT except “fat”. Period. You can be a thin drug addict or thin a alcoholic or a thin person with an eating disorder or even a thin felon and society is more excepting and nicer to you than if your over weight. People/children who are over weight do not need to be shamed. They already know and it already hurts without finger pointing.

  12. Nicki January 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    I have been working in the health and fitness industry for close to 30 years and this ad campaign just tops it. I am horrified to think that adults, likely parents had the idiotic idea to think this was a good idea? You are without question victimizing these beautiful children. There is NO question there is a worrisom future for our kids with less activity and more unhealthy food choices, but this is NOT the way to handle it. Very often I get parent that came to me wanting their child to lose weight (because all their friends are skinny, yes, they say that in front of their kids). We have this horribly mixed message we give to people, kids includes about fit vs. fat. Who ever developed and approved this ad campaign needs some serious repremanding. Degrading people seems to be the norm these days, I see on commercials all the time. I’m disgusted and very disturbed that “professionals” believe this is acceptable and ultimately effective It’s unacceptable and in my opion, completely destructive.

    Nicki Anderson, President
    Reality Fitness, Inc.

  13. Hope January 26, 2012 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Excellent post Leah!! The one good thing about the campaign is that it’s starting a conversation about what causes obesity and hopefully good will come out of that. I never thought about it, but there is so much more behind how a child got to be overweight!

    I wasn’t a fat kid, but I’m right now a very overweight adult and not happy about it. There are so many points when we can just gain weight without realizing it:
    like kids who don’t have control over their environment.
    or people who experience loss and eat to cover up the pain
    or like for me for grad school where I worked 20 hours a day, ate from a vending machine and didn’t work out.

    Beyond that shaming the “fat kid” is bad, the one big takeaway I got from this is to just always know what’s healthy and watch eating and exercise as a lifestyle.

  14. Kim @ The Family Practice January 25, 2012 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    I don’t get that from these ads at all…. I get the sense that its probably really crappy to be a heavier kid – that you don’t really get to enjoy being a little girl when you are worried/self conscious of your body.
    I also get the impression, from these ads, that being overwieght isn’t their fault – I think it serves as an impression upon parents.
    I guess I can’t argue the way it makes you feel and since it obviously hurt you its not a good ad campaign.
    Just to throw it out there though: I don’t think you can look at the world this way for the rest of your life, you can’t read offenses in everything or life will be shitty forever.

    • Carys January 26, 2012 at 7:24 am - Reply

      I agree with you completely Kim! The ads are hard to view but they aren’t offensive. Get your kids healthy πŸ™‚
      And Leah does take everything like “its out to get her” so much anger in her post its unreal!
      Enjoy life, eat healthy, get moving
      Don’t let every little thing stress you out or it won’t matter how healthy you are

  15. Rita @ Healthy Mom, Sexy Wife January 25, 2012 at 9:39 am - Reply

    Unfortunately marketing tactics have really confused most parents into thinking some of the items they are giving their children are healthy when they are not. People need to educate themselves and stay away from the processed and fast foods especially when they are parents.

  16. Rebecca Scritchfield, RD January 25, 2012 at 9:12 am - Reply

    These ads are discriminatory. Sick sick sick. It feeds the dieting and weight cycling that is metabolically damaging to the body. It fuels the most common eating disorder – binge eating disorder because the dieting and restriction leads to overeating and can lead to development of the disorder, depression etc.

    One thing I will add to Bookieboo’s comments is that it is possible to be healthy and be overweight or obese. People can develop realistic healthy behavior and they are just not necessarily going to get thin. The motivation really needs to be about health, self-care, and healthy living — at ANY size. If you don’t know about Health at Every Size — the book, the community. Take a look. If you are an “evidenced based person” the data clearly show that you can be metabolically healthy and have low risk for diabetes and heart disease and be overweight or obese. You can be “thin” underweight and have metabolic abnormalities that increase your risk of diabetes and obesity.

    I hope everyone LOVES how they take care of themselves each and every day! #meFIRST

    peace and goodbye!


  17. Mary @Sweeping Me January 25, 2012 at 7:49 am - Reply

    What MOM would let there kid be on a poster like that………UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  18. Mary @Sweeping Me January 25, 2012 at 7:49 am - Reply

    As a mom and being overweight ALL my life. I am F***ing mad.
    There is no other way to describe how I feel……

  19. Martha Fish January 25, 2012 at 7:48 am - Reply

    I can’t even walk my kids through a video store without suggestive covers and phrases leading them to make their own conclusions. I couldn’t drive to Pittsburgh praying my kids didn’t ask what the giant ad with the words “Adult Store” really meant, and wondering what my explanation would be. So, take these ads that children are exposed to and ask yourself how you will explain it to them. And pray that they do ask you what it means and that they don’t come to their own conclusions. Regardless of a childs current weight condition, it has an effect on the way they think. Children are the ones paying attention to ads with eye catching photography and words. Do I really have to take an ad from a cause that thinks they are making a difference and explain to my children that it’s an example of how NOT to approach the situation? I guess so. This ad sickens me. Think people, THINK!

  20. Lisa - Hannemaniacs January 25, 2012 at 6:58 am - Reply

    Ugh, this is heartbreaking. Thanks for the encouragement to let them know this is wrong. I also posted something on their Facebook wall this morning:

    I can support your mission, but I cannot support using this approach. You’re sending the wrong message. Making children feel ashamed of who they are is never OK.

    • Martha Fish January 25, 2012 at 8:25 am - Reply

      Well said. The mission is right. How they thought this was the way to help it is BEYOND me. If you look at their Tweets, they still defend it. I mean, admit that it was a bad idea, already!

  21. Beverlie January 25, 2012 at 6:54 am - Reply

    I like these comments from everyone involved. There are truths in many. You also realize that the South (and I am from the South) have a great amount of obesity in general. Being an overweight kid can be very hard. It is us parents who should be keeping our kids from becoming obese. Don’t bring in to the house, or give them the kind of food that takes them down that road. Make them go out of the house and play and get involved in sports or even neighborhood games.

    TAKE THEM TO THE Y once in a while for family night, and really it goes on and on. Teach your children to accept people for who they are and when your kids friends come over to play, give them a snack that is healthy. Really we all know what to do.

  22. Lisa @ Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy January 25, 2012 at 6:43 am - Reply

    Posted the following on their facebook wall:
    Saddened by your ads. You’re right life isn’t easy as a child when you’re overweight. But it’s also not easy if you’re skinny, or tall, or short. Do we need billboards taunting the tall kids too? Or maybe the ones with glasses? I think you’re goal might be right but your tactics are ALL WRONG!

  23. Shondra January 25, 2012 at 6:34 am - Reply

    To me, this ad seems directed at the parents (or adults) not to the child. It seemed to be telling me that there is a problem in our nation and this problem will make it difficult for this girl to enjoy life to its fullest. This ad does not seem to place any blame on the child, or anyone for that matter, it just seems to point out a problem and how difficult that problem can be for a child to live with obesity. Obviously, every child is different and needs to be treated with kindness, respect and honesty when it comes to dealing with anything in life. We are all motivated in different ways when it comes to fixing a problem or dealing with a disease. It is our jobs as adults to find what these children need to get healthy. But as for this ad, i dont see how anyone could feel it places shame or blame on the child…..

  24. Jeannie January 25, 2012 at 5:45 am - Reply

    Couldn’t agree with you more. Not only did I have I had problems with my weight all my life but as anyone who is overweight can tell you they know without it being pointed out. I was tormented in school by & very shy then came home to my alcoholic father and mother, who only had enough money to feed us macaroni & cheese etc. I was in pain and for a minute food stopped that pain, just like drugs. I tried everything to lose weight & lost and gained it back, finally exhaused & in pain I tried to commit suicide because I was fat and I knew no one could ever love a fat person. Fortunately, I didn’t succeed and I still fight my weight.. Some child will probably take their own life because of those ads either with anorexia or by their own hand because they’re fat and I guess that will make those folks with fancy degrees feel really good about themselves to know that they will have gotten rid of one more fat person by any means possible. Those signs are disgusting and do not address the problem as more than one person has commented it’s f family problem as well as a national problem.

  25. Michelle Mangen January 25, 2012 at 5:09 am - Reply


    I saw these a few weeks ago and was mortified. My son was diagnosed with liver disease in Jan 2009. He’s overweight and I accept responsibility for “starting” the process by not preparing healthier meals. I took shortcuts with buying prepared food for many reasons.

    Since being diagnosed and due to moving from WI to FL he’s had three different doctors. His first doctor was at least tactful in explaining to him that weight loss was important to help “get better”. The three doctors he has had in FL….not quite so tactful. Two of them have been downright cruel to him (one which angered me enough that I had really mean thoughts).

    He’s a teen. He knows he’s overweight and he’s incredibly self-conscious about it. He reads labels. Our entire “menu” has changed yet he eats too much. For him it’s about portion control and emotional eating cues….and I haven’t been able to figure out how to help him without further calling attention to the matter.

    Shame is no way to “fix” anything.

    • Eric Kane January 25, 2012 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      While I feel very sorry for your son and accept that you’ve taken responsibility for some of your earlier choices, I would like to politely suggest that you should be ashamed. Now, go out and learn more about a healthy diet (NOT a diet) and take pains to educate your child and help him to live a more well-rounded life. It’s not shame that is bad. It’s what we do after that counts. Good luck!

  26. Indigo January 25, 2012 at 3:19 am - Reply

    Rather than simply attack the ads or those whom wrote the ad campaign. Why not start our own ad campaign? Obesity is a Very Real Problem in this Country and costs Society as a whole a whole bunch of money. Obese people are at Much Greater Risk for Type 2 Diabetes (and then losing limbs, kidney failure), obese adults take more sick days from work, suffer from knees problems at a higher rate, at Much greater Risk for heart issues. All of these issues come at a Very high Medical cost that is shared by Society as a Whole. I sincerely believe if we want to change this we need to put our efforts into encouraging people to move on a regular basis & work to make Healthy food more affordable than Cheap overly processed carbs

    • Sissie simmons January 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm - Reply

      I think if healthy foods were more affordable, alot of people would eat healthier. I know I would. I believe we as a society like to label people and that is wrong. Most of the kids I know don’t exercise at all, because there to busy playing video games. To put pictures on posters and ads of over weight children is wrong, the problem can be addressed in a different way I’m sure.

  27. Lisa January 24, 2012 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    Blaming the family is the wrong tack, too. Yes, some heavy kids probably have families that eat unhealthily and don’t exercise, but genetics have far more to do with weight than people want to admit. My parents and sister were always “healthy” or even underweight. I was always heavier, although looking back at pictures, nowhere near as fat as I felt. We ate the same foods, got the same exercise, but I was never and could never be as thin as my sister. I have completely different genetics than her and my parents, because I am adopted. My birth mother is heavier, as is my half sister. I do not have the genes to be skinny like my adoptive family. In fact, I would look anorexic if I weighed the 110 lbs my sister does, despite the fact she’s 4 inches taller than I am.

    • Mamavation January 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm - Reply

      I’m not going to lie to you Lisa. I was always told I was “big boned” BUT I’m sure if my own mother was also an active mom, I may not have followed in her footsteps. She was also a very overweight woman when I was growing up. Genetics have a factor, but environment confounds everything. I think the family needs to take responsibiliy with the obesity epidemic.

      BUT I’m not the type of person who thinks making a mother feel ashamed is the way to go either. Mamavation is all about mothers role modeling healthy behavior for their families so their children have a better life. It’s a positive thing. But we also identify how our actions affect our children. We also take responsibility there. Most of the women in my community are overweight learning gradual change. It’s not like we are looking around at each other pointing fingers about who is doing what. Kinda the opposite.

  28. Jenn Kunz January 24, 2012 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    These is a big different between pointing out a problem and “shaming children”. There is no shame in an obese child saying that it is hard to enjoy life when you’re battling obesity. Sounds like that’s what you yourself experienced.
    Check out what some of the kids featured in the ads had to say about why they got involved:

    • Jenn Kunz January 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      I guess: if it were an ad that says “Having cancer takes the fun out of being kid” and showed a kid battling cancer, would anyone say “how dare they shame that kid with cancer”! No, everyone would say “man, we really need to stop cancer”.
      Why do people associate shame with pointing out that an obese child has a problem?
      Obesity is a disease. Pointing out that this preventable disease is causing health and social problems for children is not “blaming the victims”- it’s acknowledging a problem, laying the groundwork for solving it. We’re not going to cure obesity by pretending it doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t cause problems. “Curves” and a healthy body image are great… obesity and hypertension are not. These children were not tricked into being in the ads- they got involved because they want to bring early attention and support to a health problem that kills more americans than any other.

      • Mamavation January 24, 2012 at 11:12 pm - Reply

        I think you have completely missed my point.

        I know there are a lot of people who are angry at the parents of those children. I’m not. I think they are gullible, but that is not where my outrage lies.

        I’m thinking about the children. All the children, that are driving by these images. Here is what I’m seeing: (1) child number one with no weight problems sees these images and thinks…wow, there is something wrong with that fat kin in my class? and then (2) child number two who has a weigh problems sees these images and thinks…wow, I am disgusting and awful and people should be ashamed of me….. That is my point.

        Not okay. Target the audience with something that does not confound the issue. This is disgusting.

  29. Ann at Mundane Magic January 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    I live in Georgia also. Wondering if you have seen the television advertisements? I’d love to know what you think of those. I have mixed emotions…I want my kids to be healthier than me and they are whole grain, whole foods, vegetable eating, balsamic vinaigrette type of kids.

    As an overweight person I know that people judge me all the time. I have three beautiful children ages 7-15 who are growing quickly and in a healthy manner. My husband is 6 foot 4 inches and a cyclist. I have a legitimate pituitary gland injury because of the last child’s birth emergency and I am only 5 foot 2. Let’s just say I am the “one of these things is not like the other” when you look at our family. But no one really cares that there is a reason for all of my problems…they only see the superficial. It’s a good thing my parents instilled confidence in me as a child!

  30. Mamavation January 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Another sad thing about this campaign is the parents that ARE affected by this ad are going to go home and put their kids on diets, which will further injure their children. There are no resources, no help, no understanding…nothing in these ads that actually HELP THE PROBLEM….other than giving parents a scapegoat about the symptom of the problem…not the problem. Oh, heaven help me! This is soooo frustrating!

  31. ellen January 24, 2012 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    That is sad- truly sad. As you mentioned Leah, it is stuff like that that causes eating disorders. How many young girls see the picture in their heads when they are normal or stick thin when they look in the mirror?

    Shame doesn’t work. Support does…. and love.

  32. Deanna January 24, 2012 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    This is so sad.!!! I am sure the kids dont want to be chunky…. and to exploit them like this is uncalled for…. why not get them help without posting their faces all over… Its a parents responsibility to keep a child healthy and this is not healthy.

  33. Jodi Shaw January 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Okay, I didn’t get mad when I saw this. I actually cried. And you are so right because it is counter-productive and only goes to harm a child instead of help her. When I was a kid growing up I was that big also, in fact I’m still struggle with my weight after my last birth (some oh five years ago) and I’ll tell you my father and brothers used to call me fat, georgie porgie who ate the pie, jodi big bodie (like body) and all it did was make me a closet eater. Meaning I wouldn’t eat in front of anyone and when nobody was looking I would sneak food and eat and eat and eat to try to fill the hole inside of me that was SHAME for how I looked and not who I am. I am now the mother of three wonderful boys and I work hard to lose weight, and yes it’s coming off slowly but I’m now doing it for the right reasons, not looks, but health because I want to feel better. You are also right that children are a product of their parents. Both my parents ate food bad for them and thus so did we, greasy foods, fried foods and they both had heart attacks before the age of 55. It is sick that we put emphasis on how kids look instead of getting to the root of how they feel.

    Thanks for sharing this with us and your feelings!

  34. Cathi January 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    I was that child too. Between my mother and my boyfriend/first husband I was full blown anorexic by the time I was eighteen. I delivered my first child prematurely weighing a whopping 100 pounds. My marriage ended because I never was able to maintain 93 pounds and he was embarrassed to be seen with me. Especially in front of his firefighter colleagues. But … leaving me was the best thing he EVER did. Nevertheless…whenever my mom or first husband said one word to my children about what they were eating or their weight … I was in their face telling them to knock it off and leave the kids alone. Society is bad/mean enough. I have to wonder who is sits on the councils that think up advertising/posting such as those. πŸ™

  35. Kelly Lynch Ring January 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    At the moment I have no words, just tears.

  36. workout mommy January 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    this is just AWFUL! I fully agree with you Leah!! This is a terrible campaign! πŸ™

  37. Jude (@CrunchyMetroMom) January 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Two things:

    1) Did any of these posters have boys or were they only showing images of fat girls? I’d like to know if this was deliberately sexist on top of the general offensiveness of the campaign.

    2) It’s terribly upsetting to me that people run alarmist ads that don’t actually have a chance of fixing the root causes. You’re right about needing to address how the family is eating, how much activity the kids (and the rest of the family) are encouraged to have, etc. These ads only show the outcomes and don’t even touch on what could be at work here: families living in “food deserts” where healthy food isn’t readily available and/or affordable, families untrained on how to prepare healthy meals – and then EATING THEM TOGETHER, families not paying attention when the pedi says that the child is creeping into a dangerous weight.

    These ads strike me as ignorant and offensive – as well as completely ineffective at actually solving anything. Whoever’s funding that org should cut off their lifeline…or at least FIRE their ad agency and any MDs they have on staff or under contract.

  38. Jane January 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    I just want to add one more level to the disgust. The girl in that picture was hired to pose for it. The entertainment industry (including modeling) being what it is, it is unlikely that she will be hired other than to be “the obese one.” And she is a minor therefore her parents are making money (which they may or may not be saving for her) on the fact that she is overweight.

  39. Samantha January 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you for putting it more eloquently than I could. I’m sitting here trying not to cry.

  40. Lynda January 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Bravo! I could not agree with you more.

  41. Angela January 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Agree to disagree. I don’t get the feeling that these ads are trying to shame the children. I think are intended to be a wake up call to parents. It’s saying their kids aren’t “just chubby,” or “haven’t lost their baby weight” yet. These kids are unhealthy, obese and miserable. Serious changes need to be made, not just less fries in their happy meals. It is a scare tactic, but I really don’t think it’s aimed at the kids.

    • Eric Kane January 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      I could not agree with you more. The children are not at fault. Parents, school lunch programs, processed food manufacturers, marketing folks and a whole lot more all contribute to the problem. Something has to wake us up to the problem and if it takes shame…so be it. Sorry, but we should be ashamed of unhealthy choices many in our nation have made. It DOES affect us all.

      • Mamavation January 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm - Reply

        You might feel that way, but the truth is these ads are ineffective. Here is an excerpt from The Huffington Post,

        “But the disagreements arise when it comes to the central question: Will the ads work? While the harsh approach has proved effective in combating smoking, research has found that making people feel badly about their weight doesn’t work as an agent of change, Davis said.

        β€œI guess it depends on what we want to do with these ads,” she said. β€œIf we want to get attention to say obesity is a problem, maybe they will be effective. In terms of the social stigma about weight β€” it might actually make people feel worse about that.”

        It might be more effective, Davis said, to highlight behaviors that lead to obesity and offer help to those who want to change. β€œWe need to fight obesity,” she said, β€œnot obese people.”

        Karen Hilyard, a health communication researcher at UGA, said information about what a family can do about the problem is crucial.

        β€œWe know from communication research that when we highlight a health risk but fail to provide actionable steps people can take to prevent it, the response is often either denial or some other dysfunctional behavior,” she said.

        Hilyard added that β€œthis is a problem that has so many different causes.” She cited not just poor food choices and sedentary lifestyles, but also difficulty in finding safe places for kids to exercise and limited availability of affordable, healthful foods as playing a part in the problem. ”

        Looks like your take of just shame everyone into getting fitter might not work in reality Eric. It’s nice in theory, but application just sucks.

  42. destiny January 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    That is horrible! I too was that child, and you are absolutely right it all falls on the parents. I still am dealing with my weight issues but my kids are active, in sports and healthy and have supportive loving parents. Those posters are making it okay for people to pick on overweight children. It is never okay to pick on a child it is called bullying and absolutely will make the situation worse. Unfortunately in our society there are so many people focused on what you look like on the outside they hardly ever take the time to find out what you are like on the inside. This breaks my heart if it does not stop other places will very soon start to think that it is okay. Shame on them and shame on the parents that let their kids be placed in these ads!

  43. Nichol January 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    I’ve also seen the ad and am appalled by it. You are absolutely right. This is NOT a child’s fault. It’s the lifestyle of the family or for that child to get healthy, the adults in her life need to change. Shame on this campaign for spreading innocent children across their state…shame!

  44. Kim @ CoffeePotChronicles January 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    I’m living proof that shaming, accusing, criticizing, and teasing the fat girl causes more harm than good. My dad and anyone who could make me the butt of their jokes or insults has hurt me for life. I’m still dealing with being obese but I am slowly changing my mindset and doing something about it. I’ve had two bad days in a row recently and it’s hard to move ahead from those bad days but you just have to if you want to be successful.

    Shaming these kids is absolutely pathetic. We need to educate families, parents, and people as individuals, not make them feel worse about their weight. Shame on S4L!

  45. Jo-Lynne {Musings of a Housewife} January 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    This is horrifying. Thank you for speaking out about it.

  46. Alesha January 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    This campaign is wrong in so many different ways. It should be pulled. Let’s take it to the Twitter!

  47. Heather Murphy-Raines/ScoutsHonor January 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    Breaks my heart! It is simply abusive and one more step toward legally discriminating against people with weight issues. It’s sadly becoming the norm around the web.


  48. Tara Burner January 24, 2012 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Having been the “pleasantly plump” one…anyone remember the stupid sears and jc penney clothing catalogs (i’m aging myself) that you went shopping from in the 70’s?? well i was considered “pleasantly plump” because I had (still do) a big butt! what clothing manufacturer thought that label up should be shot cuz i was far from ‘pleasant’ but anyhoooooo

    I remember all the ridicule brought on by my father… horrendous… which then led to me binge eating and then being bulimic as a teen/20’s as well as literally pulling out all my hair (yes I finally confessed this on my birthday blog post on 1/20)

    Shaming kids is not going to do anything but create issues..

    Like you said “The lifestyle of the entire family is the problem. ”
    EXACTLY to that!

  49. Lindsay January 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    I live in in Georgia and drive past these billboards every single day. Every time I see them I feel so sad for the children in the ads and I think that someone somewhere is using that ad against the child at school to torture them. Because that’s what kids do. There has to be a better way to fight obesity that doesn’t involve bullying children.

  50. Shelley (@momma_oz) January 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    When I saw it I was HORRIFIED! I can’t believe that THIS is how we treat the problem. So angry. Seriously SPitting Nails!

    I was that girl. Shaming me never did a DAMN thing except make me better at hiding food… binging behind closed doors… eating not because I was hungry but because it was the one thing that not only made me feel better, but made me feel like I was in control. SO ANGRY

    • Mamavation January 24, 2012 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      I’m with every word dear. This looks like the work of so called professionals without any sense. Strong messages are one thing, but using children like this is just wrong.

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