• Mon, Feb 20 2012

Anti-Childhood Obesity Video Would Like You To Know That You Are Killing Your Kid

Strong4Life childhood obesity video

Remember Strong4Life, the Atlanta-based initiative to end childhood obesity one potentially-fat-shaming-but-also-highly-educational ad at a time? They’re back with a new ad that equates weight problems and heart disease in adulthood with unhealthy habits developed as a child, asserting that parents who feed their kids fast food and let them lead sedentary lives are basically killing them. Do you find it educational, or is it just portraying obese people as gluttonous dummies who don’t notice their own health problems, and parents as hapless enablers?

Entitled “Stop the Cycle,” the YouTube video was released 5 days ago, and already has over 40,000 views. Most of the comments reflect Strong4Life’s desired effect, with viewers noting that “we should all be scared by this” and swearing they’ll get their whole family to eat better, that they didn’t realize the hand they played in their child’s obesity. Which is definitely a start–even if just a handful of viewers actually start promoting more physical activity and nutritious, whole foods in their household, it’s done the trick. But can it even do that?

The trouble with this ad is that while it demonizes candy, sugary cereals, fast food and even juice in a baby bottle, it also shows the parents giving the obese teen a treadmill, which he then uses once and never again. So…they did the right thing, but it was too late? Or did they themselves offer mixed messages to the kid–both rewarding him with food, and also condemning him for being overweight? And there’s the trouble: the video simply shows “shocking” imagery, and doesn’t do anything to actually educate people on how to make a change in their lives.

Of course, that’s a tall order for one campaign that is, all things considered, doing the country a solid by taking on a serious issue with the best of intentions.  But when the doctors in the video continually assert that “you have to make a change,” studies indicate that most people just don’t know how to do that.

9 in 10 adult Americans believe that their diet is healthy–but when 33% are obese, there’s something that’s missing. And, in the case of this video (and much of the rest of the messaging around obesity), that “something” is the difference between shaming parents and actually showing them how to “make a change.” But maybe that’s a job for a different organization.

What do you think–will this video promote parents and teachers to seek out more educational sources (like Michelle Obama‘s Let’s Move! campaign, which does demonstrate how to make real changes in a body-positive way)? Or is it just placing the blame on parents without offering solutions? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Lauren

    I think this is definitely a shock tactic but you know what… you can’t blame Strong4Life for using the tactic. With 1/3 of our nation obese, we need to be trying everything we can to solve the problem. The only public health people to be blamed down the road will be the ones who didn’t try anything. Furthermore, the video correctly points out how much unhealthy foods are a part of our culture. That is something we need to change. I live in a very progressive town where the public schools are not allowed to use food as a means of celebrating the children’s accomplishments. Good behavior warrants pajama days, movie showings, or field trips. I’m a firm believer that while moderation is fine, we do need to change our society so that food is not our go-to reward all the time.

  • Darliene Howell

    I am aghast at the stereotyping and stigmatization in this video! Educational??? Only if you are propagating fear and hatred. I would classify this schlock as ridiculous but I know that there are people out there that will be negatively influenced because they are so accustomed to hearing the lies that are being spread about fat and fat people.

    The facts are that not everyone that is fat is a glutton, eats poorly and end up having heart attacks. In fact, a bulk of data has shown that being overweight is associated with decreased mortality. Research results indicate that metabolically healthy obese individuals may represent as much as 20 to 30 percent of the obese population. Obese does not necessiarily mean UNHEALTHY.

    In the study “Obesity in the News: Do Photographic Images of Obese Persons Influence Antifat Attitudes?,” results indicated that particiaptes who viewed negative photographs express more negative attitudes toward obese people than those who viewed positive photographs. Additionally, the Rudd Center studied five major online websites and the images that went with stories about weight and dieting. Almost three-quarters of the images portrayed fat people in a “negative, stigmatizing manner.”

    Healthy lifestyle habits are associated with a significant decrease in mortality regardless of baseline body mass index.

    To quote Dr. Linda Bacon, “Even the well-meaning talk about obesity isn’t doing any good. It hasn’t made people thinner – and is downright damaging. Eating disorders, poor body image, stress and discrimination are collateral damage in our war against fat. Fear of fat is much more harmful than actual adiposity, distracting us from true threats to our health and well-being.”

    Stop the stigmatization of fat adults and children and change your campaign to a message of Health At Every Size (R). Promote healthy bodies and diversity of size. For more information on Health At Every Size, you can find a general explanation on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_at_Every_Size) or find in-depth research-based information in the book Health At Every Size – The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Linda Bacon (http://www.lindabacon.org/HAESbook/).

  • The Real Cie

    If blame and shame worked, there would be no heavy people, no smokers, no drug addicts, no alcoholics, and no-one would be mentally ill because we’d all have just pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and quit that stinkin’ thinkin’.
    There is a strong correlation between obesity and lower income levels. These people may have access to food but it may not be the best quality food. Their neighborhoods may be too dangerous to walk safely in, let alone ride a bike or go to the playground. Strong 4 Life’s ads are placed primarily in poorer neighborhoods. Shaming parents who may be doing the best they can with their limited resources is not helping anybody. Nor is encouraging the bullying of fat kids by shaming them on billboards. Strong 4 Life’s campaign stinks.
    Instead of blaming and shaming, how about talking to people and finding out what is going on in their lives rather than pointing fingers and telling folks to stop shoveling their family’s faces full of fast food? That may not even be what is going on. If these people do not have access to adequate, healthy food or opportunities to exercise, these questionable shock tactics only achieve making people in an already bad situation feel worse about themselves.

  • Tess

    “Or is it just placing the blame on parents without offering solutions? ”

    Actually, the strong4life.com website DOES offer a lot of practical, creative strategies for changing family eating habits and becoming more active.

    I live Georgia, where the program originated, and I see daily what’s happening to a whole generation of kids. I own a resale clothing store and it’s not unusual to have a mom shopping in the ladies’ plus size department for a 6th grader. There’s no one in the grocery store produce department but a line around the block at the McDonald’s drive-thru. Years of just telling folks to eat less and exercise more has had little or no effect.

    It’s time for these in-your-face, wake-up-call types of campaigns. Nothing else has worked…

  • JoLaine

    I am a Wellness Coach who works with women who have struggled with their weight. Unless you have been fat, you can never know how awful it is to be fat in this society. The Strong4Life ads do HARM. The women I work with are already so ashamed of themselves that their self-esteem is non-existent. They believe all the hype that if they just had enough will-power or more intestinal fortitude that they could be thin and beautiful. The truth is that losing a significant amount of weight and keeping it off for life is almost impossible. What a terrible Catch-22 to be stuck in! ” I’m fat, therefore I’m lazy, stupid, ugly and unhealthy. But dieting doesn’t work and only creates unhealthy eating patterns that actually make me fatter than before I started dieting.”
    “Health at Every Size” is the only sane approach to our growing hysteria over weight. EVERY person, regardless of weight, is encouraged to eat healthy food, get plenty of physical activity, and perhaps most important, STOP DIETING!

    • denny

      The women with unhealthy body weights you work with are more probably health concious and aware than the average person, since the average person does not hire a wellness coach. This awareness is where their shame comes from. They should know that seeking help is a good step, and that their weights are not about being lazy, stupid, or ugly– but it is about being unhealthy. I do not believe that people can be healthy at any size. Also, as a wellness coach, you should know that everyone is on a diet, since everyone eats. Some diets are more healthful and appropriate than others. If you’re not providing yourself with adequate energy through your diet, then your body will not function properly. This includes overeating. If you ingest too many calories (units of energy), you will gain weight and your body will not function properly. Extra weight is a stressor; it makes all your organs work harder.

  • Mo

    I have read the above comments and understand everyone’s points; however, I agree very strongly that something drastic needs to be done.
    And if drastic means teaching parents to teach their kids to cook or get them involved in cooking and choosing colorful fruits and veggies, call me extreme.
    Rewarding kids with unhealthy food perpetuates the emotional triggers
    that we learn to associate with love. I love the idea of rewarding kids/students with pajama day, movie day, field trips… I grew up in a family where diabetes and heart disease were and are prevalent. I have made my mission to lead a healthy and tasty lifestyle. I opened my own healthy baking company and am in school to become a certified health coach to inspire others to make better and truly tastier choices, NOT by shaming, but by making it FUN and tasty.
    This video is a graphic wake up call…NO SUGAR coating..pun intended.

  • Anna

    The Anti Obesity drug makers and diabetes drug makers take in 10 billion$$$$ every year with no cure!!

    Food Chemicals are the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis

    The FDA and Drug makers know this and are laughing to the Billionaire$$$ bank

    The food chemicals break the gut(insulin) and this is the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis

    A filmmaker has been reversing diabetes and Obesity WITHOUT MEDICATIONS in now 10 countries and the drug makers do not promote the story

    just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

  • Deb Burgard, PhD

    People think we are in a crisis because they don’t stop to think about the actual data. The data show us that our weights went up from 1980 to 2000 by an average of 15 pounds. That is it. In 2007, the authorities decided that “overweight” for kids should start at the 85th percentile rather than the 95th, and doubled the kids they considered “overweight” overnight. Doctors are saying they are seeing Type II diabetes in kids and teens but they did not look for it before, so we will know know for sure what the change in prevalence is. It probably is going up in frequency, but is still so rare that the CDC site says they don’t have enough documented cases to say so far.

    When you see a “headless fatty” in the photo accompanying a headline about “two-thirds of the adults are overweight or obese,” that person is usually only representative of less than 2% of the population. Actual people in the overweight and mildly obese ranges, which are the majority of people, may not even have an average amount of body fat, and would not appear to be “fat” in the photo. People in the “overweight” range live the longest of anyone, and mortality does not begin to rise until BMI > 35.

    Here are children in the 95th percentile deemed “obese”: http://health.msn.co.nz/healthnews/8425452/healthy-active-boy-labelled-obese-by-nurse

    Perhaps the reason that parents are not labeling their children the way the BMI cutoffs label them, is that the BMI cutoffs are wrong. I find it curious that the public seems more willing to trust an arbitrary formula that was never meant to screen individuals, over the knowledge parents have of their own children’s well being.

  • wriggles

    I’m getting fed up with the permissive culture of hatefulness towards fat people with the “something must be done” as a pathetic excuse.

    Since when does “doing something” equal being a total shit? Like Peta, these people seem to think you can go out of your way to vent the ugliness of your prejudice as long as you can get a positive outcome.

    No, if you can achieve something through negative means, you can achieve it through positive means the choice is yours.

    Attacking children and legitimizing their bullying by saying, you’re being bullied, so change to please them. Just to manipulate actions, without considering the fall out, is irresponsible.

    Follow that through to the lessons we are teaching children. Whoever decides to be the meanest and nastiest person decides everyone’s existence.

    Do not exercise your courage and resist them to keep the faith with yourself.

    Power of any kind =morality. Politically speaking this is a form of facism. Perhaps if people spent less time hating and more time reading, they might have realised that if they’re brain can’t alert them from the intelligence of empathy.

    The only “sugarcoating” going on is towards the hatred masquerading as concern, it’s about time those who deal in understood that if they have no respect for the distress of others, they should expect the same.

  • Leen

    It is up to us parents to educate ourselves and then our children about health and nutrition, and then to lead by example. There is no excuse, due to the readily available resources such as the internet, for childhood obesity. In my opinion it is a matter of choice and denial. I think there are a lot of people who would rather deny their lifestyle choices contribute to their health problems because it is easier and I think most humans would rather choose the path of least resistance. It is easier to visit the drive thru than the grocery store and stove. It is easier to buy OJ by the gallon than to juice a gallon of fresh frutis and veges. It is easier to take a bunch of pills and make excuses about genetics than it is to spend an hour taking a walk to the park. It is easier to claim disability and cash a free check than it is to get an education and a job.

    Come on people, it is about educating yourself and using that knowledge and experience to educate our young. It seems as though a lot of people would rather teach their children to make excuses and live in denial than face the truth and work hard to have a sense of self respect. IF you really want respect and don’t want to be shamed, then work hard to prevent it by showing you respect your body and self enough to take care of it. If you love yourself enough to make the harder choices and sacrifices, it will show on the outside. Face the truth and take responsibility for all of your choices.