Obesity sucks. Especially when it involves our kids. It’s not healthy, it’s not pretty, and unfortunately it’s an epidemic everywhere, especially in Georgia where 40% of kids are obese. Yes, 40 percent; almost half. Not just overweight, but grossly overweight; obese.
To combat the problem, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has concepted a new marketing campaign called Strong4Life. It shows a very real side to obesity. These are not chubby kids working out with new fitness instructor mentors, these are sad, obese children with hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and severe self-confidence and social issues. Here are some examples of different media being used to get word out about the obesity problem in Georgia:
First up, a billboard.
And one more:
I’m missing the point because I don’t understand the target or the message. Are we targeting kids? Or should we be targeting the parents who control the food, and who should be controlling the kids?
There exists a movement in response to this campaign which is promoted via social media using #ashamed. It’s lead by moms and interested people who feel like these ads are shaming kids. I have to say that I agree with them.
A brilliant blogger named Jessica Gottlieb has weighed in (no pun intended) and she says: The women behind the #ashamed movement have it wrong. I don’t believe for a single solitary second that an ad campaign will make these children feel ashamed for being overweight. I believe with all my heart that the fat that’s covering these children’s bodies might make them ashamed. It should be noted that the fat covering their bodies also makes them ill and it’s much easier to die of diabetes or heart disease than of shame. Further, these ads are empowering. In the state of Georgia 40% of the children are overweight. Georgia is at the heart of the obesity epidemic and it’s imperative that they become forerunners in the fight against obesity (italics for emphasis, mine).
Yeesh. I’m pretty sure that these kids will feel shame, and guilt!, once their classmates start seeing these billboards and videos and joke them about their weight even more. Can you imagine being an obese child and already the target of ridicule by your peers, only to become a poster child for the Strong4Life campaign? Since when do we use children for bait?
Obesity is an eating disorder, just like anorexia or bulimia. Would we applaud a highway billboard of a child wasting away and call it empowering? How about a teen forcing him/herself to vomit in the school bathroom while classmates stand on the other side of the door whispering about her? It is not empowering to shame people into anything and that includes health.
I can only question the “creative” mind at Strong4Life (especially because their website has a friendly tone and showcases positive motivation) who decided children should be used as a shock tactic to point out where adults are failing. And that’s at the heart of this: these kids have been let down by their parents and by every grownup who hasn’t stepped in to help. The fault lies in several places including promoting a culture of food consumption by the likes of Paula Dean (Georgia’s reigning butter-loving, fat laden recipe-selling, Diabetes-having queen), a disparity too far to climb between poverty and middle class that makes good food choices nearly impossible, and a lack of simple fucking education about nutrition to name a few. Ultimately a lot of people are at fault here, but it’s not the kids who are acting as mirrors and products of the environment in which they find themselves.
Obesity sucks. It impacts everyone. We’re a culture that’s growing to epic proportions and something needs to be done about it. However we motivate a state, and a country no less, to get healthier can be done without shaming the victims.