This is the fourth time I’ve started this column over in an attempt to keep my objective voice out and leave the subjective to speak for itself. It’s not working very well.
I’ll start with the facts: A controversial ad campaign sponsored by the Strong4Life campaign and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is pointing the finger of fat shame directly at our children and getting plenty of tongues wagging. “Warning: It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not” reads one message under the photo of a chubby girl. Her eyes, just like the eyes of the other children featured in the ads, are accusatory. More text included in the campaign reads "Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid" and "My fat may be funny to you, but it’s killing me.”
ABC News has reported that the ads are the health organization’s answer to a survey of two Georgia towns. It was discovered that 75 percent of parents with obese children were not aware that their children were overweight to begin with and 50 percent of the parents didn’t realize that obesity was a problem. The fact that Georgia rates second in the nation for childhood obesity rates is also troubling, to say the least.
But what is even more troubling is the fact that this whole campaign was given the green light to begin with. Why is it deemed acceptable to shame our children over circumstances beyond their control? How can we expect parents to make healthier choices for our children when Phys-ed classes and recess are disappearing, pizza is being called a vegetable, and the contents of many grocery carts are determined by what can be afforded that week and not what’s on the label?
The ad campaign is striving to get Georgia to “stop sugar coating” the issues surrounding childhood obesity and is accomplishing that at the expense of our children and their sense of self-worth by reinforcing our cultural obsession with focusing on the scale instead of our health. Shame is something these children are already familiar with. They deal with it on the playground, when they go clothes shopping, and when they hide away from the world stuffing their feelings down with even more food. I’ve been there, Georgia. I am still there, and am working every day to feel good about what I see in the mirror and ensure that my daughter grows up with a positive body image. Shame only fosters more shame. And shame on you, Georgia, for thinking any differently.
What do you think? Do you believe the ad campaign will have lasting effects on our children? And will the results be negative or positive?
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