Tag Archives: shaming fat people

California Gov. Health Organization “Photoshops” Kids Picture to Fight Childhood Obesity

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Good job California.  So you passed Proposition 10 to collect a fifty-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes.  You’ve used that money to create First 5 California, also known as the California Children and Families Commission which is:

dedicated to improving the lives of California’s young children and their families through a comprehensive system of education, health services, childcare, and other crucial programs.

And the commission you created with this money, chooses to use those resources to drastically retouch a picture of a little girl to make her look fat for an ad campaign designed to scare parents into limiting the amount of sugar they feed their kids.

Awesome!

Here’s the original photo, next to the retouched version:

First of all, whatever amount of state tax money that was used to do that image retouching is waaaay too much.  I could get far better design work than that done on fiverr.com for $5 USD.

Next, I have to ask, why would we spend any amount of state tax money on shaming fat parents and fat kids in the face of the fact it just doesn’t work?  In fact  study after study shows that stigmatizing and bullying kids about their weight not only fails to create thinner kids, but also tends to trigger more participation in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking, substance abuse, binge eating and other forms of disordered eating.

So why exactly are we spending state tax money to create ads aimed at preventing childhood obesity that are actually more likely to increase levels of childhood obesity while at the same time encouraging our kids to engage in higher levels of destructive behavior?

I’m sure that some of the fear-mongering, hand-wringing, head-shaking folks that created this glorious ad campaign will ask you to “think about the children”.   They will cite statistics about childhood obesity and suggest that something must be done to protect the health of these poor kids.

To which I would reply, “Yes.  All kids deserve to be healthy.  So let’s focus on stuff that does that.”  Shaming kids does not make them thinner or healthier.  But there are some things we can do.  In fact, in honor of First 5, I’ll give you five suggestions:

1.  How about making sure kids have a safe place to play?

2.  How about reinstating some of the physical education programs that have been cut from schools for lack of budget?

3.  How about making sure that kids of all sizes have access to a variety of high-quality, nutritionally dense foods?

4.  How about we help fat kids learn to accept and love themselves so that they are more likely to exercise and treat themselves well?

5.  How about we add “body size” as a category for school anti-bullying programs.

Sure, these programs would be more difficult than cranking out a basic bus shelter advertisement.  And undoubtedly some of these programs would cost more than hiring the world’s worst graphic designer to “fatten up” the image of an innocent kid.  But given the fact that some of these programs might, I don’t know, help some kids live healthier lives, maybe we should just fund those instead.

As a final note, the folks at First  5 may find themselves facing some pretty well-organized and powerful opposition.  It’s already started in the form of an awesome homemade protest flyer at the site of one of the bus shelters:

Blog2But as some folks in Georgia found out, folks can get pretty riled up and do some pretty amazing things when you shame and frighten their children.

So maybe we should take a step back and a deep breath and try again.  I’m sure, upon some calm reflection, we can find better ways to promote good health for children of all sizes.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

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Where there is Hatred, Let’s Sow Love

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Recently my good friend Deb Lemire sent me a link to this amazing Ted talk.   Why not go take a look right now?  It’s that good.  I’ll wait.

It’s clear to me that Lynne is an amazing woman–one I’d love to meet one day.  She said many, many true and moving things in her short talk.  But one of the things I’d particularly like to talk about today is her discussion of the war on obesity, and her assertion that war is about hate.

I think it’s important to share this business about this war on obesity.  There are new people every day who join the ‘righteous’ and march out in this war.  The recruits are now younger and younger with indoctrination beginning in kindergarten and even preschool.  So what’s wrong with it?  Why not fight against this crushing “disease” which is “killing our children”?

In answer, I’d like to begin with two words: collateral damage.

I think many of us have been caught in the “friendly fire” of the war on obesity.  Many of us have seen the disapproving looks as we dare to order a roll (maybe even with real butter!) to eat with our salads.  We’ve been photographed and filmed with our heads cut off and displayed for the wartime propaganda.  We’ve been made scapegoats and blamed for everything from high prices for flying and insurance to global warming.  We have been named bad parents and some of us have even had our children torn from our grasp.  We are the butt of the joke, the cautionary tale, the perennial ‘before’ photo and the ’cause of the downfall of the human race’.

Except, for one problem.  It ain’t necessarily so.  There is little evidence that fat people raise health insurance rates to any significant degree.  Flying is expensive because of a whole host of reasons including  high fuel prices, inept airline management, a complex web of travel taxes and tariffs and poor aircraft upkeep among many other factors.  There is little reason to blame fat people for any of the problems the world is facing right now.

And even beyond those issues, there is one other.  The war can’t be won this way.  You can’t hate fat people thin.  For all the marching and the propaganda and the fabulous uniforms and billions of dollars spent, people aren’t getting any thinner.  All the money we’re spending and the people being emotionally and physically damaged in the crossfire is for nothing.  We are not making people any thinner.

I’d say that perhaps some of this money should be spent on determining what should be done to make the world healthier and happier without causing massive casualties from collateral damage, except we already know what actually works.  It’s called Health At Every Size or HAES and it’s for every BODY.  There is a lot of evidence that healthy habits are a better determinant of health at all sizes than body size.  So HAES simply suggests that we work on making healthy behaviors available and attractive to folks of all sizes, and stop trying to make fat people into thin people.

Why can’t we focus on health irrespective of size?  Why can’t we focus on making healthy options like good locally sourced food and safe places to walk and play for people of all sizes, races and economic levels?  Why can’t we focus on teaching our children to love and respect their own bodies and those of everyone around them?

We can.  As it says in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, “where there is hatred let us sow [your] love”.  So, let’s do it!  Let’s commit to being body pacifists.  Let’s throw down our weapons and walk out on the battlefields and bring aid and succor to those who are hurting out there.  Let’s find the kids who are wandering around shell shocked and bewildered and show them that there is another way.  That making a healthier body is about having a healthier community and a healthier world forged from love and not hate.  “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Love,

The Fat Chick