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Advertising puts presure on kids to be slim

By Kristen Haveman

Thank god for advertising — you can learn so much that you may have never known.

Lessons such as being overweight is not healthy and the best way to get people to stop being fat is to insult them publicly by saying things like, “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid.”

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a pediatrics hospital in Georgia defends their new obesity ads by saying it’s time to stop “sugar-coating.” In this case, they seem to mean they need to stop sugar-coating their words and not the food we eat, which may in fact be more helpful.

The ads were mimicked from the shock ads for anti-smoking and anti-meth that proved successful in the past. There is a difference here — most smokers and meth addicts are adults. Even underage smokers are making a choice. However when it comes to diet, the age group of some of the children in these ads their diets are still completely controlled by their parents.

So guilt trip the parents; might work….

Except the kids are still seeing these ads and how is it making them feel?  I can remember a few years ago reading about increases in anorexia and bulimia in children. Apparently that’s not a worry anymore, as long as a kid is not fat right?

Let’s not forget that these are children in these ads. Imagine the pressure on these particular children to slim down. They are now literally the “poster-child” for obesity. Pressure can be a good thing, but children are generally not emotionally equipped to handle severe pressure. It’s why we have seen child suicides and homicides committed by children because of bullying. Not to say these kids will go on a rampage — but extreme dieting or exercising, maybe.

If bullying worked on kids there would already be fewer chubby children and more children who loved baths and didn’t pee their pants. Anyone who remembers their childhood knows that the fat kid, among others generally gets picked on. Kids are much crueller than most adults and the parents who don’t recognize that their kid is severely overweight are probably ignoring more than just that. They are ignoring the fact that more than likely their kids are being picked on.  They have shut it out maybe because they don’t know what to do. Telling them they are fat is not going to help that.

Georgia has high obesity rates. That does need to change but perhaps officials should look at constructive ways to change that, not just point fingers. Money has always seemed to be a bigger motivator than name-calling anyway. An ad about how much obesity costs in doctor’s visits, especially in the United States, may have parents thinking harder about changing habits.

So just remember that next time you hear little Johnny yelling “Tubby” across the schoolyard he may just be trying to save a life — or so some people seem to think.