Hate does not equal Health

By now, just about everybody in FA has heard about the Strong4Life’s advertising campaign to shame fat kids.   If you haven’t, I would suggest you read here, here, here, or well, just about everywhere.  I’ve not written on it so far because I’ve been sick with a really nasty sinus infection, and what energy I’ve had I’ve used to directly engage Strong4Life on both their twitter and facebook pages.

The synopsis is a hospital decided the best way to deal with the “obesity problem” in children was to shame them.  They had a multiphase campaign, but the first phase, which has lasted 8 months now, involved putting up billboards and TV commercials that shamed and blamed children for being fat.  The people who decided this was a great idea have defended their actions by saying it was never targeted at children, but Shannon at Fierce, Freethinking Fatties found evidence to the contrary:  that they were, in fact, targeting children with this shame campaign.  (Pro tip for advertising campaigns:  If there is a possibility you are going to ever deny your campaign was, indeed, intended to shame and bully people, don’t say on The Today Show that you are, in fact, targeting children.  Your words WILL be around for months and years to come and will come back to haunt you.  Just sayin’.)

In doing the research that turned up the evidence that the shame campaign was targeting children, Shannon also found that “Phase 2”, which are positive, upbeat messages, showing children (of all sizes) playing and enjoying themselves, has been finished since before the start of “Phase 1”.  Giving the positive message that movement is fun.  Movement is also what keeps one fit.

Wei et al. “Relationship Between Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Mortality in Normal-Weight, Overweight, and Obese Men.” JAMA. 1999;282: 1547-1553  (This image and source material comes from Dances With Fat on this post.)

This image shows that in 1999, there had been studies out proving that how FAT one was did not really have any significant effect on mortality.  However, how FIT one was did.  The normal sized and unfit people had double the effect on mortality than either the overweight and fit or the obese and fit categories.

So, it seems, FITNESS is more important that FATNESS (or lack there of).

And yet, Strong4Life, even when having links of peer reviewed and published study after peer reviewed and published study put on their walls, stubbornly insisted they were doing this “for the children.”

As a fat woman, as a teenager who was fat and who was bullied, as a child who was NOT fat, and yet was still bullied for being “fat”, I call bullshit.  Bullying (which is what this shame based campaign is and what it leads too) is never “for the children.”

Strong4Life, you’ve had 8 months of bullying fat kids.  Enough is enough already.  You’ve been denounced by many people and agencies.  Alton Brown has denounced you, for petes sake, and he likes ridiculing fat adults!  Dan Savage has denounced you!  When people like AB and Dan Savage (who have shamed and bullied fat adults many times) denounce what you are doing, you just may have crossed a line there.  Again, just sayin’.

Take down the shame based billboards.  Take the shame based TV commercials off the TV.  Put these ads up, instead.  Show REAL solutions to the problems of child hypertension, diabetes, and other child illnesses.  STOP shaming kids for something they have little or no control over.


2 Responses

  1. Since these are relatively intelligent folks–the docs and ad-people involved–you’d have thought they’d have caught on to the fact that “shame” is an approach with a long and revolting history of failure where fat is concerned. Since it’s guaranteed not to work, then they must have some other motivation, yes? Whether they realize it or not, the effect is to torment fat kids. It’s right up there with the mess in Philly right now where they’ve managed to imply to the parents of fat kids that they’re going to put their kids in foster care if they don’t lose weight–it’s not true, and officials are having to backpedal furiously (they’d only do it in cases of under-attended to medical issues that arose from extreme obesity–though they’re awfully slow to remove the children of religious minorities who don’t believe in doctors…). I think we’re the only universally acceptable “other” out there anymore. Scary.

  2. I am shocked Strong4Life went with this angle – don’t they know shame just forces people into eating in hiding? It doesn’t stop anyone from overeating! Plus it’s just plain mean to make kids feel ashamed.

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