Thoughts on An Atlanta Childhood Obesity Awareness Campaign

I believe that obese children (word up to my people) are a very unfortunate by-product of a society that is totally uneducated as to how to take care of the human body, and that, without question, our society needs to be shaken in order to do SOMETHING big to counteract childhood obesity so that each consecutive generation isn’t more removed from their health than the previous one.

Standard disclaimer sentence that I have no relevant degrees or letters after my name–I just google things & think about them.

Check this out: Grim Childhood Obesity Ads Stir Critics (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Or, if you don’t want to (you should), here’s a taste of the Ad Campaign (I have a hard time calling it an “Ad”) that Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta:

This is why I find childhood obesity incredibly frightening & concerning:

1. No one should enter adulthood without both health and knowledge of how to operate their body.

2. Making our bodies work efficiently should be the easiest thing in the world. They’re ours. They pretty much tell us what they want. People have been operating them successfully for, well, as long as people have existed. If primitive people had the problems we have with taking care of our bodies, we would not exist.  The human body naturally regulates, and naturally requests a certain amount of fuel (hunger).

3. Follow up from 2: Children are less removed from the natural instincts than adults are, just because they’re younger, so it should be easier for them to eat based on their body’s need for food. I think that obese children never learn how to fuel themselves based on the needs of their bodies.

4. Junk food markets directly to impressionable children; there are huge corporations that make money by convincing children to ask their parents to buy them unhealthy food. Children mirror their behavior off of what they see, and shape their “relationship” with food, which is something that shouldn’t even exist at all, off of the “relationships” that they see others have (others being adults in their lives & people in the media/advertisements).

5. If children grow up obese, their bodies are always uncomfortable, but the child isn’t aware of that. Constant discomfort, or at least not constantly feeling great & energetic, etc, can much more easily lead to unhappiness/depression/rebellion/uncontrollable anger, which can lead both to an unsavory childhood & adulthood. If our bodies feel great, it’s easier to be happier.

6.  We don’t know how to effectively counteract obesity in a positive, encouraging way, without making the child more aware of his or her fatness, or making the child even more obsessed over food. As a child, my family worked hard to encourage me to be healthy, but all of that emphasis on food just made me want to rebel and eat more. This is really really really hard; it’s frightening that our society has created a problem that we do not know how to effectively counteract. It’s hard to focus on this with children, without worsening the situation or hurting already delicate self-esteem.

So yes, something needs to happen. I do not think that this initiative of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is ideal, but I do think that it is worthwhile, simply because it is continuing the conversation of how to best counteract childhood obesity. This campaign seems to be exploiting obese children to frighten adults (I hate that) but I bet that these ads aren’t being targeted towards children (their poor self-esteem). I do like the straightforwardness of these ads. They’re frightening. I do not like that the children are being used like this. We need to show the kids love, not use them as outward proof of a problem.

Humans, like most (all?) living things, are wired to be in search of fuel (otherwise cavemen never would have eaten). We naturally want to find food and have it, to nourish ourselves. For many modern americans, food is not at all scarce, but this part of our brain (the obtain food because you need it to live part) has not calmed down because it’s just how we’re wired.

Well intending parents or grandparents who grew up with food being scarce perhaps try to show their kids love by providing them with an abundance of food. Food = love for people a lot of the time, and we just need to change that all together. For most of human existence, food has been scarce, or people have had least had to work hard (exercise) to get food. Supermarkets are new. So is obesity, at this level.

Anyway, I can’t possibly write one blog post on my thoughts on childhood and overall societal obesity, but seeing this “Ad Campaign” inspired me to write a bit about it here. Basically, It’s hard to run an effective campaign against an avoidable childhood illness without pointing fingers and placing blame. Parents are not at fault for childhood obesity. Neither is McDonald’s Corporation. The kids certainly are not. It’s a mash up of where our society is right now, at this point in time, and while I do not love this campaign, I am very happy that it is making people think about the different ways to continue to battle childhood obesity. But hell, one series of posters isn’t going to fix this problem.


3 Comments to “Thoughts on An Atlanta Childhood Obesity Awareness Campaign”

  1. I just wish all the “obesity campaign” stuff was focused on healthy eating and exercise REGARDLESS OF WEIGHT. It is sedentariness and crappy eating that is the culprit, whether kids end up fat or not. I think the current campaign stigmatizes fat and makes people feel bad about themselves and their bodies instead of addressing the real problem.

  2. I live in Atlanta and pass the billboard all the time. Like many of us, I battled my weight as a young girl. As an adult, I’m still battling and probably will the rest of my life. I continue to try and make better choices, exercise and do everything I can. More importantly, I’m trying to be a better example for my 9 1/2 year old son. With him, it’s going to be tough because he’s projected to be 6’5″ or taller. Thank goodness he was a boy!! He’ll be able to handle his growth better than any girl would. With that said, I still have to make healthy choices for him and encourage us both to exercise together. I want to give him a better chance at adulthood and learning to make those choices now NOT later. Thanks for the insightful post. Excellent entry.

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