At first, the anti-obesity advertisements featured in a Georgia campaign seem like a cruel joke. Pudgy, round, and yes, just plain fat kids are featured in a series of print and television advertisements with harsh messages like "Fat prevention begins at home and the buffet line" and "My fat may be funny to you, but it's killing me."
Is this just fat shaming taken to a new low level? Many think so, with plenty outraged at the advertisements. But I think they just may be the kind of powerful and poignant messages parents need to hear to help their kids get healthy.
Obesity is a problem, plain and simple; Georgia holds the title for the second highest childhood obesity rates. The scariest part is that most parents don't think their obese children are obese. In research conducted by Strong4Life, co-founded by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, it was found that 75 percent of parents whose children are overweight or obese don't see a problem. That's a BIG problem.
Arguments against so-called fat shaming usually go along the lines of hey, we know we're fat, telling us so just makes us feel bad and doesn't help. I have mixed feelings on that whole debate when it comes to adults, but when it comes to these kids, they may not even know they have a problem if their parents don't. How do they have any chance of fighting it, if they don't know it's something to fight? It's a parent's job to take care of their child's health, and helping them maintain a healthy weight is part of the deal -- a very important part of the deal.
Yes, obesity runs in some families, and some people have a harder time staying slim than others, but for most, it's about poor nutrition and a lack of exercise -- things that CAN be corrected if people, especially parents, try. It's not easy, I know. No matter how many organic fruits and vegetables I bring home, my kids salivate at the sight of junk food. Hell, so do I, but we work to balance it all because I want my kids to be healthy -- it's a priority. If parents aren't making similar choices, then yes, they do need a wake-up call to do so -- no matter how harsh the message may be. It's a harsh problem.
Some say it just adds to the social stigma of being overweight, but honestly I'm not sure anything can be added there. It's there, and it's unfortunate, but calling fat what it is isn't cruel, it's identifying a problem that needs to be solved. Solving it is complex, yes, but it can't start until people recognize it as a problem.
The most worrisome part of the advertisements I see is the kids actually posing for them; they break my heart. What kind of treatment are they going to get at school when they're literally the poster children for fat kids? But they seem to be strong in support of the message. As 14-year-old Maya Walters told The Atlanta Journal Constitution:
I think it's very brave to talk about the elephant in the room. It’s very provocative and makes people uncomfortable, but it’s when people are uncomfortable that change comes.
Bravo to all of them for being courageous enough to participate.
Will these ads solve the childhood obesity problem in Georgia? Certainly not, and no, they don't offer any solutions for fixing the problem. But will they make a mom pause before picking up a bag of potato chips or detouring through a drive-thru instead of making dinner? Perhaps, and if parents need a harsh glaring message to help them make such decisions for their children and set a good example, then so be it. As the ads say, we need to stop sugarcoating it.
What do you think of these anti-obesity advertisements? Too harsh, or effective?
Image via YouTube