Georgia has the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the country, and some child healthcare advocates say ignoring the problem is what got them there. In order to get people to “wake up,” they’re airing a new ad that’s sparking a lot of controversy for “fat-shaming” young kids, but as painful as it is, it’s necessary for people see this epidemic from a child’s point of view.
The public service announcements were created by Strong4Life, an organization whose goal is to combat Georgia’s childhood obesity problem. They started airing their “in your face” campaigns last year and drew heavy criticism for being more fat-shaming than supportive. Regardless, they’re continuing to air ads like this one, featuring a little girl “Tina” who admits:
I don’t like going to school because all the other kids pick on me. It hurts my feelings.
Critics like Donny Deutsch on the Today show this morning have slammed the ads for making kids feel even worse about themselves:
I think that’s one of the worst ads I’ve ever seen. Let’s say there’s a child at home who is a little overweight and they feel great about themselves. You’re putting an image up there that says, ‘You shouldn’t feel good.’
But Star Jones defends the ad by saying it’s true:
Being a fat person, I learned to lie to everybody when I said, ‘Oh, I feel so great.’ I didn’t feel great. I couldn’t walk. So when you’re obese, you can’t walk, you cannot breathe, you are weighing down your limbs.
So what’s the right way to solve the childhood obesity problem? In the state of Georgia alone, one million children are obese, and at least on a large scale, other methods don’t seem to be working. Yes, I have talked about certain ads like this being more “fat shaming” than effective in the past, but this particular one hits home for me.
As the founder of Girls on the Run of NE Florida, I have worked with and coached hundreds of kids over the years, and you know what? Those kids who are overweight or obese do feel differently about themselves, whether they openly discuss it or not. Our running and self-esteem-building program helps girls accomplish the goal of running a 5K while inspiring more confidence and self-worth. But the girls who were obese really do struggle–not only to run, but to build greater confidence. Not all of them, but many. It made me want to cry when I saw the embarrassment in their eyes because they couldn’t move as fast or as far as some of the other girls.
It’s a shame that it’s come to a point in our society where we need ads like this to get people’s attention. But parents need to wake up and see how being grossly overweight or obese affects their child. As much as the parents may tell them it doesn’t matter, clearly, in their eyes, it does.
Take a look at this ad and let us know what you think: