Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has launched a new anti-obesity campaign, and boy, is it a doozy. The ads aim to encourage parents to set better examples for their kids, but instead, they only end up fat-shaming both the adults and the kids. Why? Because finger-pointing is the way to end this obesity epidemic, of course.
The ads, which the Atlantic first discussed, feature overweight parents basically being shitty parents. In the first one, an overweight mom is seen filling her shopping cart with all sorts of unhealthy processed foots. Behind her trails her little girl mimicking her mom’s choices and filling her own cart with the exact same foods. Does it make a point? Sure. But is it going to work at solving our obesity crisis? Most likely not. The second ad is not any better. It depicts two overweight boys bragging about whose father can eat more than the others.
When it comes to slimming down this country’s waistlines and getting Americans healthier, there are two schools of thought on the best approach: target the people who are eating too many unhealthy foods or target the system that is providing these unhealthy foods. Both have merit, according to some.
Lindy West over at Jezebel wrote:
The truth is that we live in a country where the system of food production is colossally fucked. There is a systematic campaign to trick people into eating garbage because garbage is cheap to produce. There are whole communities who either can’t afford or physically can’t access fresh, healthy ingredients.
But chelly1976 commented that it’s more of the individual’s responsibility:
um…yeah…except that there are real costs associated with the obesity issue – to everyone…it is a real healthcare issue that is linked to behavior and socio-economic issues and genetics and upbringing and all those things – just like smoking. C’mon, YOU KNOW that most obese people are not active, organically and locally grown kale eaters like yourself. You are right that obese people should not be portrayed like lazy assholes who do nothing but eat Nutter Butters all day, but you cannot ignore the simple fact that being overweight is pretty much directly related to over-consumption of calories and lack of exercise.
A positive, non-shaming approach has been proven to be the most effective, but nevertheless, Dr. Marc Manley, vice president and chief prevention officer for the Blue Cross said that the more positive approaches are not working when it comes to our country’s obesity epidemic:
To be honest, we’ve spent a lot of years promoting physical activity, a little bit like what the White House campaign is currently doing, in a very positive, sort of fun way. But at the same time we’re realizing that this problem of obesity is a really serious problem.
Manley goes on to say that their hope is that parents will recognize themselves in the commercials and have an “aha moment” when they realize that “the example of what they buy and what they eat may be sending the wrong message to their kids.”
Fine. We get that. But wagging your finger in a fat parent’s face is not the way to encourage them to make better decisions for themselves or their kids. No one likes to be shamed into behavioral changes, and no one likes to be depicted as someone who can’t control themselves. It just doesn’t work. In fact, it often backfires and causes quite the opposite result as evidenced by this study. Trying to guilt people and make them feel bad about themselves is a recipe for disaster that can only send us to the cupboards and the freezer more.
And yet, Blue Cross ignores this. They have debuted two new commercials, which are clearly aimed at reducing obesity, but instead of inspiring us to eat better and get healthy, the ads only do more of the same fat-shaming and finger-pointing:
Here is the first one:
And here is the second one:
Tell us what you think. Are these ads more about fat-shaming and finger-pointing versus inspiring us to eat better?