Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thumbs Up or Down? Do In Your Face Ads Help Parents Face Facts About Fat Kids?

Have you seen the recent debate about the GA Ad campaigns about the dangers of childhood obesity? Here is one  example of a TV ad. There are also billboards.

Here's a copy of an article from Sun Sentinel that is pretty much in your face with its opinion.

Your kid is fat -- admitting it is the first step

By Nicole Brochu
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

It's official, pathetic as the confirmation may be: We have become a nation that, at least in some corners, would rather coddle our children than be honest with them, even if facing facts can save their lives.

Facts like: Yes, Bobby, you're fat. But we can do something about that.

Georgia is using that bold approach, in hopes of chipping away at its unenviable ranking as number two in the nation for child obesity. The state's "Stop Childhood Obesity" campaign ads are powerful, provocative and just the kind of no-nonsense candor the fight against obesity could use -- in every state in America.

"Chubby kids may not outlive their parents."

"Big bones didn't make me this way. Big meals did."

"Fat kids become fat adults."

The ads' potency is only enhanced by the spokespeople delivering the refreshing message: fat kids. The children may be actors in an ad, but the truth in their words are no less real for them than for their audience.

And yet, while the nervy campaign has "won enthusiastic praise" from some health advocates, according to a Huffington Post report, it has also "outraged parents, activists and academics" who fear the ads only perpetuate the stigma already shrouding obesity.

To which I say, baloney.

This is what happens when people dance around the truth for so long. Confronting it seems so foreign, so blinding, that they'd rather keep their heads in the sand, to our children's peril.

"Billboards depicting fat kids are extraordinarily harmful to the very kids they are supposedly trying to help," the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance officials told the Huffington Post.

"Stigma is not an effective motivator," Rebecca Puhl, a Yale University psychologist and expert on weight discrimination, told CBS News.

I have news for these people. The billboards aren't "depicting" fat kids. They're showing fat kids as they are -- without mincing words, for once, about the dire health consequences.

The ads aren't stigmatizing these kids for their weight. That horse is already out of the barn. And the ads are not putting targets on overweight children's backs. The targets are already there. The only way to take the target off, and dump the health problems, is to take the weight off.

Just ask Maya Walters, who played Tamika in the Georgia ad campaign.

"This ad actually helped me, gave me way more self-confidence than I had before," Maya told Meredith Vieira on the "Today" show. Maya said she has been bullied about her weight, but not because of the ads.

Crying stigma and bemoaning the straight talk only distracts and undermines the campaign's worthy goal: to jolt awake the many well-meaning yet clueless parents who refuse to accept that their children are in danger.

As the ads point out, "75 percent of Georgia parents with overweight kids don't recognize the problem," and I hardly think other parents around the country fare any better.

It's time we try a new approach, because sticking our fingers in our ears, as enticing as this tactic has been, isn't helping.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 percent (that's 2.5 million) of America's children aged 2 to 19 are obese -- a rate that has almost tripled since 1980.

We need a little more honesty in the dialogue, and a lot more dialogue. As parents, it seems, we worry so much about hurting our children's feelings in times like these that we are putting their very lives at risk instead. If you were a parent of a fat child, would you think that was the right choice?

Accessed on May 12, 2011 from:,0,5133849.htmlstory

Here are images from the campaign (from the Atlanta Journal Constitution)



  1. The thing that boggles my mind is who are the parents that let their children become the poster kids for these ads? Are they really that desperate for exposure and/or money?

  2. I'm not sure this is the right tactic to use to get the point across. Many kids have pediatricians--why aren't they saying something about this?

  3. Tough call. We all want our kids to be happy, and we know the issues many of us have struggled with as obese adults. Still... this in-your-fat-face approach seems heavy-handed; I'm trying to provide a good example at home and lead by example. The world makes it pretty easy to go down the wrong path, but all we can do is educate and inform our children and hope they make good decisions along the way. That said, I did feel like slapping the woman at the convenience store the other morning that was buying her lil' daughter a bag of Lays, a Snickers bar and a Sprite for breakfast...

  4. Nodding my head in agreement with "pilgrimchick".


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