Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's Just Never OK to Stamp A Label On A Child... Or Their Parents

Dear Diary...

Yesterday afternoon, I came home from work and did some blog reading.  It's a great way to wind down from a long day at work - and I get to see what others have been up to.  When I started scrolling through my extremely long blog roll, two blogs jumped out at me straight away.  Mainly because it appeared they were blogging about the same thing.

The first was from Mrs.Fatass  and the second was Sean Wilson, both fantastic bloggers.  They were both sharing their views on the new Georgia Ad Campaign targeting childhood obesity.  I was shocked.  I hadn't heard anything about it... but just by reading their blogs, I knew that I didn't like it one bit.

So, I did a little search this morning and saw pages and pages of ads that look like this:

I'm pretty sure my heart stopped for a second.  The shock was just too much for me to handle.  My brain just couldn't comprehend the fact that children were being stamped with disgusting sayings like "Fat Prevention begins at home.  And the buffet line" or "It's hard to be a little girl.  If you're not".

My first reaction wasn't towards the messages that were stamped across the bottom of these images.  As despicable as they are, they hold some truth.  My first reaction wasn't considering the damage that will result for kids that are overweight and have to be subjected to these ads on the TV and around their town on giant billboards.  No, my first reaction was of utter disgust and went to the parents of THESE poor children who are standing in these ad campaigns.

Who are these children, and what the hell are their parents thinking?  I'll make a completely rash judgement call and say there was probably some money in it for them (the parents)... but what expense does that money come with?  I'm sure these kids go to school.  I'm sure these kids have some form of social network (and I'm not talking about Facebook).  I know lots of parents who would love for their child to be in a commercial.... but really?  A commercial that literally stamps their child with a label such as this one?  Someone fetch me a glass of water, I may pass out.

Sean and Sue (Mrs. Fatass) made great points in regards to this campaign that I'll hope you'll check out.  They both state that prevention begins at home, and parents should be fed some cold hard truth about the damage that's being done to children with the adults being the cause.

As a mother of three children, I think I have the right to make some points on this subject.

First, and foremost, I would never, ever, ever, ever, subject my children to such a disgusting, self-esteem crushing portrayal of a message as these ad campaigns.  Why would I want my child to look in to the faces of these poor children that have already been subjected to this horrible thing and think "wait, they may be talking about me"?

Second, prevention does begin at home.  Yes, parents are often the blame.  If I cram my face full of fast-food, eat 2 or 3 servings at dinner, and inhale a bag of chips in one sitting - then I'm showing my children that kind of behavior is OK.  It's not OK.  I'm the one doing the damage - and it's my duty to fix that damage.

Third, and I'm going to maybe piss a few people off here, not all overweight children turn in to overweight adults nor do all skinny children turn in to skinny adults.  Sometimes, there are other factors that do come in to play and even though the easiest thing to do is blame the parents, it doesn't fit all situations.

I will use my family as the scenario for this point.  I am the oldest of 6 children.  Three are girls, three are boys.  The last two are much younger than the other four, so I'm only going to talk about the oldest four siblings, right now.  When we were young, we ate the same foods.  My parents were far from being "healthy minded" people.  We ate large portions.  We ate candy.  We ate a lot of snacks.  My sister and I were always on the chubby side.  Far from what I would consider "fat" but we had a little extra weight on us.  One of my brothers also had a chubby side, one was always skinny.  Once my "chubby" brother reached a growth spurt at around 10, he slimmed out nicely.  So, there were two chubby girls, two skinny boys.  Same family, same foods.

In high school, I weighed about 140lbs.  That was considered "fat".  My brothers were both athletic.  They played football and basketball.  I was in the band.  My sister chose not to participate in any extra curricular activity.  So, of course, they toned up nicely.  Even though they both ate like horses, they were able to maintain a healthy physic.  My sister and I opted for other activities that involved less exercise, but I still wouldn't consider either of us to be extremely overweight..even if the "norm" that was portrayed by other girls of our age was to weigh 90lbs when we were 16.

Now, my sister and I are very heavy.  My brothers are still very toned and slender.  The worst damage to my sister and I happened after we moved away from home.  After we had been through some very tough times, we turned to food.  Don't remember that being something we learned from our parents, but it's how we chose to live with it. 

Now, let's add my youngest brother and sister in to the mix.  They were both on the chubby side as kids.  Once getting in to junior high, they both started playing sports.  Both are basketball crazy.  My parents feed them the same way my other siblings and I were fed growing up.  Large portions, a lot of fried food.  My sister started feeling the pressure from other girls in her grade that weighed 90lbs.  She was at that 140lbs mark, right where I was at that age.  She started to hate herself and the way she looked.  Oh, I forgot to mention that my sister was 5'6" at the age of 14 and is now around 5'8".  She started skipping meals.  She started crash dieting.  She now weighs around 110lbs, at 5'8" tall - and still thinks she has weight to lose.  Is that healthy?  NO!

My brother, again, is a big basketball player.  He's 15 and is 5'11" tall.  He weighs 220lbs. Is he fat?  No.  Do other people sometimes ridicule him for his weight?  Yes.  He's got some extra weight on him, compared to what my other brothers were like at his age, but he's far from being obese.  He's active.  He eats.  He's as healthy as a horse.

What's my point in dishing all this out to you?  My point is - there are often other factors that play in to a child's metabolism and their current weight.  Genetics has some to do with it.  Healthy eating has some to do with it.  Exercise and activity level has some to do with it.  And yes, the habits of parents are a huge factor - but even their lack of knowledge or living by a routine they grew up with is a player.

Before everyone grabs their pitchforks and torches and starts running towards parents that have children that are a little overweight (or a lot overweight), let's take a second to think.  Let's look at the situations being played out.

I know a few people that are healthy and active, yet their children are heavy.  I know parents that are morbidly obese and have kids that are skinny.  I know that I'm a parent of three children that are all different.  My oldest is tall for her age, worries about being fat, and used to get ridiculed for not being like all the other girls in her grade that were less than 5 feet tall and weighed 60lbs.  She's 5'4" (at 11), and is the perfect size for her height.  Now that she's in a school with kids just like her, she's having a much easier time with her self-esteem.  Butter is on the chubby side, which is a side effect of the medication that he's on.  We knew that he would gain some weight being on the medicine he's on, and it is monitored monthly.  He has to be careful with what he eats, and I take care of that.  Then, there's Jelly who eats cauliflower and carrots like they're going out of style.  She'd much rather have a plate of veggies than a hamburger.  But, she likes candy and sweet treats, too. 

All families are different.  All kids are different.  Our job as a parent is to set a good example.  What we need to remember, though, is that kids change overnight.  I know that it's hard on my kids to see their mother as overweight.  I'm working on that.  I just ask that we don't rush out and judge people before we know the facts, the story behind it.  We can do our part for our families.  There are ways that support can be given to families to educate them on healthy foods and an active lifestyle.  Putting innocent children in the line of fire, however, is not the way to go.  Neither would it be right to put parents in their place and run the same campaign.  Let's have some compassion.  That's all I ask.

Till next time. ;)


  1. that's a terrible campaigne!! i was a skinny underweight child. i was encourage to eat more and more because i was too skinny... did some athletics in elementary like youth basketball and softball. once i hit jr high and you had to try out then i wasn't allowed anymore, i didn't make the cut. as a end result the excersize went away. the meals stayed the same. i was plump and curvy envy of alot of girls i had the bodies of thier older sisters/cousins in thier 20s sexy and volumptous. then i got sick. and became stagnant. and i'm now i'm fat. severly over weight. its a struggle. its what happened. i fight it daily and it seems a battle that goes now where.

  2. Ignore my first comment. It should have said rates are NOT going down.

    Usually overweight children become overweight adults. There are some exceptions like your brothers, but it clearly isn't the rule. Same way with families; I rarely ever see chubby kids with skinny parents, usually the whole (or most of) family is overweight. I saw these ads a few weeks ago, and but for the thing of compensation for their parents, I agree with them.

    I do believe it's the parents responsibility to make sure their kids eat right and are healthy. It is up to parents to make sure their kids are active and not play video games or watch t.v. all day. For the first time in history, this generation of kids has a shorter life expectancy of the previous generation. This is due mainly to the rise in childhood obesity.

    Yes, these ads are a slap in the face, but maybe some people need that. Parents should try to do all they can not to subject their child to PREVENTABLE diseases caused by obesity. Childhood obesity (and the effects of it) is on the rise and not a whole lot is being done about it. Rates are not going down.

    1. Tori - I understand what you're saying, but do you think it's right that these kids are subjected to this kind of campaign? Kids are not going to look at these ads and think "Hmm, maybe I should start working out", they are going to look at these ads and think "wow, thanks for giving the bullies even more to target me with".

      And I actually know many families where there are overweight parents or parent and skinnier children and vice versa. I know kids that I met four or five years ago that were overweight, and since they've grown up a bit they've portioned out nicely.

      I absolutely agree that parents need to take responsibility for the eating habits and exercise level of their children - but this type of awareness is not the answer. That's my opinion, anyways.

      And thank you for sharing your opinion. I like hearing the thoughts of others. :)

    2. I understand and agree with what you're saying. These kids shouldn't be subjected to these ads. But since they are up, I would only hope that people (parents) take a hard look at them and themselves if their children look like this.

      In my family, my husband and I are both overweight, but our children are skinny (but they eat, just very active). I know more families like this also. But I cannot for the life of me think of a family I know personally where overweight kids have skinny parents. They are overweight too.

    3. I will agree that it's much more common to see overweight parents with slimmer children. I know of two families that have the reverse. In both situations, the parents are moderately active, eat pretty healthy, etc. One child is 10 and I wouldn't say is overweight - but on the heavier side. He participates in little league type sports. His mother told me that the doctor told her not to be worried, and this type of weight is quite common in boys his age. Once he reaches his next growth spurt, he should slim out. The other is a girl who is 6. She's also not overweight, but has that cute little chunkiness about her. Same scenario with her. Her doctor has no concern and states that she'll start to proportion out when she gets a little taller. In both incidents, the parents are not at fault. They feed their children healthy foods, and the kids are both active. Does it happen very often? No. But it's possible.

      Thank you so much for being a part of this discussion!! I do hope that parents realize the implications that can be placed on children with living an unhealthy lifestyle. I'm one of the many to blame in this. I have to make changes now to prevent my own children ending up like me.

  3. I have an autistic son. He has very finicky eating habits. He is short, he is heavy. I am working on getting him more active but a few years ago the school nurse sent me a 10 page menu plan. And she and I had IT OUT. Not cool!

    1. I'm sorry you had to deal with this, Kristi. I had a similar issue a few years ago when I refused to let my daughter participate in the BMI testing at school. I got a not so nice letter from the nurse telling me that I should be concerned with the BMI test. I had written on the note sent home that I wouldn't have my child subjected to a test of that nature - and that her doctor would take care of letting me know if there was something I should be concerned about. She responded with a note telling me that I should be concerned, and that my daughter was a prime candidate of being morbidly obese and that it was sad that I didn't see the devastation in that. Thank goodness my kids no longer go to that school!

  4. I don't think this kind of campaign works. If anything, it makes these kids targets for bullying and teasing. I feel that education and positive reinforcement is a better path than this kind of campaign.

    I would feel TERRIBLE as a child because I was bigger than my peers. I can only imagine how I would feel if my likeness or I was on a huge billboard for everyone to see.

    1. Totally agreed!! There has been just as much press covering child bullying related suicide as there has been over child obesity. Why they would consider an ad campaign that paints huge targets on these kids is beyond me.

      I can think of much more uplifting, motivational ways that parents and kids can be informed of the benefits of living a healthy, active lifestyle versus being considered "fat". Are there parents out there that are the cause of their child being overweight? Of course! But if these people think that running these kinds of ads is going to somehow reach those people, I feel they're moving in the wrong direction. No one likes to be shamed or bullied in to something. It's the whole honey attracts more flies mentality that gets the best results. In my opinion, anyway.


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