Are Ads Featuring Overwieght Children Going Overboard?
Fighting childhood obesity.
Talking about weight is always a touchy issue. It's made even more difficult when the discussion is in reference to children. We all have been made aware of the problems of childhood obesity, but now new ad campaigns are making even those in the health care industry a little uncomfortable.
The ads are part of a campaign called Strong4Life. The ads are based out of Georgia and they urge parents and others to "stop sugarcoating" the problem. The ads feature pictures of overweight kids along with some disturbing messages. Some of the captions are "Warning - It's hard to be a little girl if you're not." and "Mom, why am I fat?". Some of these ads contain text that tell parents that it isn't okay to ignore the problem.
It seems to me that these ads would do more harm than good. Although I understand what they are trying to do with the campaign, I wonder what sort of damage they will cause. As someone who struggled with weight issues as a child, I don't think that humiliating parents and children is the best way to go.
For me, as a child, the message that I was fat and therefore not good enough was one I heard loud and clear. I was put on liquid diets, diet pills and so on. None of it really ever helped me to lose weight, although the years of crash dieting and pills did wreck my metabolism. Although I am not a thin adult, I have managed to learn to be ok with who I am and what I look like.
The people behind the ads say that they are trying to bring the issue to light and find that shock tactics are the best way to get peoples' attention. They are quick to point at some of the anti-smoking and anti-drug ads that have made an impact. While it's true that shock messages can get attention and make people aware of the problem, I don't think it works well in this case.
See, the thing is that fat kids know that they are fat. These ads aren't telling them something they didn't know, they are just making them feel ashamed and telling others that it is ok, and even helpful, to mock and tease them without mercy. It goes back to the idea that being fat is unforgivable and that we all have a responsibility to condemn overweight kids because it's the only way to help them.
The truth is that guilt and shame are poor motivators. In fact, when children are already struggling with low-self esteem, they can do more harm than good. The problem of childhood obesity is a serious one and in order to find a solution, I think we have to stop blaming the kids and their parents and begin to look at the larger picture.
Maybe raising attention to the need to buy more fruit and vegetables, to eat healthy as a family or skip fast food would help. More importantly, we could all start thinking about why so many kids are struggling with this issue. We could talk about how cheap it is to eat unhealthily and how expensive it is to eat a balanced diet. Eating low calorie, organic food should be easy. It is what humans have been living on since the beginning of time. Now, eating a vegetable rich, organic diet requires a lot of money.
I just think that making fun of fat kids isn't the way to make children healthier. Blaming the victim only serves to mask the problem and make children feel as though they are failures. There has to be a better way.
What do you think about these ads? Do you think they work? Why or why not?
By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer for HealthcareJobsiteBlog and Nexxt.. Along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.