Tuesday, August 12, 2014

About that "Powerful" New Obesity Video Everyone's Sharing

I wasn't going to comment as I didn't want to call attention to it, but having been sent this video over a dozen times now I realize I'd better add my voice.

I'm not a fan.

It's everything that's ugly about society's attitudes towards weight boiled into a 2 minute video treatise on how gluttony and sloth are to blame for obesity....oh, and add in lazy parents.

Presumably the point of the ad is to cause viewers with weight, and parents of kids who may be struggling, to feel sufficient guilt, shame and self-loathing that they finally decide to change their ways.

Well I've got news for the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta folks who produced this ad (and that equally misguided one up above) - if guilt or shame had any lasting impact on weight or behaviour the world would be skinny, as guilt and shame are the two things that the world bends over backwards to ensure that people with weight never run short of.

And yes, parents have a real role to play in all of this, but fear and shame aren't likely to get them there.

As I've said before, childhood obesity is a symptom of a broken environment, kids haven't changed, the world around them has, and part of the world's changes (but by no means always the lion's share) include what are now considered to be normal parental feeding behaviours. Shaming the symptom without tackling the cause is likely only to add to the belief that fat shaming has a role to play in fixing the environment, and yet fat shaming is anything but helpful.

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  1. Could not agree more! Thanks for getting this side of the discussion out there!

  2. I watched the first five seconds of that atrocity and turned it off. You are SO RIGHT!!!! As someone who was fat from the age of six, I know from personal experience that if fat shaming worked, I'd weigh about -320 pounds. Life was one long string of humiliations that caused me to pull into myself and eat for comfort. You want to make a kid fat? Shame them! Both of my kids had weight issues, but I determined that while I could control what I bought and served, their weight, their body, was THEIR issue. Both dealt with the issue, each in their individual way, when they were ready. They still struggle, but their genetics are not on their side--every single relative (except "that one exception") in their family is or was obese. And you are so right: the environment has changed dramatically from when I was a kid. When I was a teenager, I worked at McDonald's. The average meal that people bought is what is called a Kid's Meal today--a small hamburger, a few french fries, and a small Coke. I mean, a SMALL Coke. And that was a once-in-a-while treat. My mother was one of the few working mothers of that generation in our suburban neighborhood, but even she made sure that we had a home-made meal made from fresh foods (some from our own garden) every night. Bad genes and bad environment: two strikes against them. Cut the kids some slack! Give them some compassion!

    1. I think that you are missing the point of the video. The point is to startle parents to wake up and realize that the way they raise their kids can have a lifelong impact.
      According to my university education, genetics only account for 25% of the influence on one's body size and so people who use the "it's genetic" card are actually using it as an excuse. The video was meant to show how allowing one's kids to have a sedentary lifestyle like playing video games, and portraying junk food, like cake, as a "special treat" is setting them up for failure. It also shows how the parents don't realize the way they have raised their son has lead him to seek out junk food, so instead they scold him when they find junk food wrappers. The whole point is to give parents and individual adults a wake up call to say, don't sweep the problem under the carpet... don't think that you have no control over it, because you do. The truth is many parents don't know how cravings work, they don't realize that different personalities will respond differently to the same messages and they don't have the nutritional education themselves to help their kids or themselves. Hopefully, this video will make adults who are parents or not, start thinking "Maybe I should start changing my ways?", and then seek out help and/or do their own research on how to eat and live healthier themselves and how to help their kids in a positive and effective way as well.

    2. This video was designed to be informative. It begins by showing you the effect (problem), then illustrates the various causes (solution). The solution is in attainable by making slight adjustments in your daily food and activity behaviors. I struggle with this myself, having two young boys to raise. People say that you're wrong for not "treating" your own children with junk food. Society didn't see this issue approaching. We "reward" our children with junk food for doing well, and "punish" the children by restricting TV and video games. The message that we're are relaying: Good people deserve to be sedentary, make poor food choices. That in turn leads to health complications. I was blessed with parents who taught me enough about nutrition, enabling me to make wise food choices. And I do eat junk food on occasion, though it isn't part of my daily routine. When we plant the good seeds, we will harvest the good fruit.

  3. Love your statement: "As I've said before, childhood obesity is a symptom of a broken environment, kids haven't changed, the world around them has."

  4. Exactly. It's like blaming the victim for the crime.

  5. This video shows the mob ignorance of the problem and has nothing to do with the solution to obesity knot of issues.

  6. While I'm completely against fat shaming, I think the pendulum is starting to swing too far in the other direction on this site. This video wasn't made for people who are already trying hard to lose weight. It was made as a wake up call for obese people who aren't bothering to try and lose weight.

    And yes, there are plenty of obese people out there who are completely apathetic toward their weight and health in general. I personally work with many obese people who say all the right things about how they're trying to lose weight. But despite their supposed strong desire to lose weight, they still can't be bothered to keep a food journal, exercise, eat even remotely healthy, etc, etc. There's always 10 excuses why they can't do any of those things (fruit is too expensive, I have no choice but to get fast food every single day for lunch, I don't "like" veggies, I don't "like" water, etc.) .

    The reality is that deep down these people have no intention of losing weight or improving their health. They may tell others or even themselves that they are trying to lose weight, but it's a lie. They should probably watch this video.

    1. I think you're on to something there, regarding the intended audience... there are some people that maybe should see this. I work with people like that, too, and I've also been around people who give their little kids fast food cheeseburgers. I have coworkers whose main decision about lunch is which fast food place to hit, and this is hardly unique. And some parents see their kids as beautiful, and not even realize that the kid is getting big.

      Problems, controversy, and conflicts arise when people who don't need to or don't want to see it end up seeing it, and they react in a very wide range of ways.

      I don't have a solution, I'm just thinking out loud. I think the best approach is to not internalize it. We're never going to live in a world where we're shielded from messages that trigger unpleasant emotions.

  7. This is not fat shaming. If as a parent you are doing things you know are not in the best interest of your child...giving them juice and french fries on a regular basis...then you should be ashamed. It is shameful to not act in the best interest of your child.

  8. Thanks for this, Dr. F.

    I approached this video from a slightly different perspective. To me, it wasn't fat-shaming, nor was it even targeting the "gluttony and sloth" of the film's main character, but it was speaking directly to the parents of such a person. And it was a powerful wake-up call, which is likely why so many people have forwarded it to you so far.

    Babies and toddlers don't do the grocery shopping in our families - their parents do. Small children don't take our family to the McDonald's drive-thru - their parents do. Small children don't pour Coca-Cola into baby bottles (as I witnessed a mother doing in the Minneapolis airport for her own infant) - but their parents sure do.

    This has to stop.

    Small children who are fed this nonstop barrage of junk food by their parents, grandparents and caregivers to make them happy/keep them quiet/distract them/bribe them/head off temper tantrums etc. tend to turn into adults with weight issues. Doesn't it make sense to encourage avoidance of a lifelong problem by reaching the adults who are paying for the food instead of trying to get on top of the problem after decades of unhealthy habituation?

    If it takes a video like this to reach that Minneapolis mother who, based on results, doesn't seem remotely aware that feeding Coke to your infant is just plain wrong, then let's try it.

    Whatever feeble attempts the medical profession has thus far made to help educate parents of their patients about healthy eating, I suggest that, based on results, it has not been working.

    So I welcome attempts like this to reach the parents who are paying for the junk food their kids eat.

    For another parent's take on your post, please read Jodi Jackson's essay: http://theskinnybitchchronicles.blogspot.ca/2014/08/i-respectfully-disagree.html?spref=tw

    1. Thank You! You actually get the point of the video.

  9. blah blah blah. I grew up fat because no one in my family cared about nutrition, simple as that. Shame doesn't help the fat kid, but it should darn well wake up any parents out there. Which, by the way, is who this is geared towards. Wah wah, real girls have curves, wah wah, big boned, dont' shame, wah wah. Guess what...you're kids are fat if you don't teach how to not be fat. Simple as that.

  10. Contrary to the opinions above, I didn't mind the video actually, primarily because it did show great evidence of the "broken environment" that you referred to.... the fast food, the convenience of prepackaged food, the preoccupation of busy moms with trying to get food in their kids' mouths with limited time and resources, the lack of time spent outdoors for many kids growing up, because it isn't safe out there any more, the lack of education for young parents to compete with corporate influences in daily advertising.....
    Disappointed that you didn't acknowledge these parts of the video as evidence of the very point you want to make!

  11. I almost killed the tab after reading so many rants about this. I was glad to see that further down the page, some people are getting the idea here. This isn't "fat shaming" anyone, child or parent. I wonder if some of the original respondents here have children...
    As the video travels back in time, you see a pattern where the parents don't want to deal with the child, so they placate him. Doctors advise parents to avoid foods and beverages that are high in sugars, fats, and salts, and stick with natural vegetables and then fruits to avoid getting infants and toddlers "food addicted" at an early age. Food addiction is a serious problem and accounts for a good portion of why people cant stay on a healthy diet, besides basic habit forming.
    The mother doesn't want to deal with the screaming baby, or wants to keep baby occupied while she does something else besides pay attention to him, so you see her giving him french fries in one scene, a food product heavy in salts and fats, and fruit juice in another scene, a product typically very sweet and often with added sugar. Doctors advise against fruit juices specifically.
    If you don't have time for children, don't have any... If you buy a dog and don't have time for it, you leave it alone in the yard and it never gets socialized. Then, when it barks at people or bites someone, you blame the dog... If you have a child and you don't take the time to teach them how to eat healthy and develop healthy habits, You can't expect them to figure it out on their own. And, you need to be aware of your own actions and how they affect the development of your child's habits and behavior. You can't blame them.
    I have 5 children. Given a choice, they will chose exercise over video games and fruits over candy. Take time with your kids. And, set a good example.

  12. Yes, there are people who eat "badly", yes, there are people who eat "too much", but I still find the video extremely offensive.

    Why? Because it makes all kinds of assumptions about people, based solely on their weight. We cannot all be slim just as we cannot all be 5'6" women or 6' men. What we can choose to be is active. We can choose to eat nourishing, healthy and yes, tasty, foods in reasonable portions. But these truly healthy decisions will not make every single person slim or even average size. It's called natural diversity guys. We can't all be blonde, or have a thigh gap (yech), or look like Barbie dolls--nor should we!