Thursday, December 29, 2011

Breaking Our Children

I was going to write the usual type of holiday season post about not worrying that you may have gained a pound or ten during the season, but nothing was really working right.  I have figured out why.  Apparently, my Muse was wanting me to write a completely different blog today, and she was waiting to throw the perfect combination of inspirations in front of me.

A friend recently posted a link to a blog entry by Dan Pearce (also known as "Single Dad Laughing") about how parents should love their children as they are, and encourage them to grown and explore life rather than doing and saying things that break their child's spirit.  The situation that inspired his post had to do with a father who intimidated his child about behaviour, not weight, but the post still resonated with me in regards to other articles I've seen about parents who shame their overweight children.  Some do it in the hopes that it will encourage their child to lose weight, some just do it because they are cruel, but all of them do it in the mistaken belief that if their child's body doesn't fit a pre-determined set of numbers, their child has failed and their parenting skills are lacking.  Both of these assumptions are incorrect.

But what really got me thinking was an ad that I heard this morning on the radio as I drove in to work.  Amid the songs by Queen and The Clash, there came a commercial touting the life-changing benefits of the Slim for Life program.  I ignored it for the most part, except to occasionally make an ironic comment now and again to myself (since I was the only one in the vehicle at the time).  Then the Big Sell portion of the ad came on, and the announcer exclaimed in their most excited tone, "Kids get a free membership when their parent joins!!!"


*blink blink*

I'm sorry, WHAT did you just say?????

I actually had to process the words I had just heard for a few moments before they truly entered my mind.  Immediately following that moment I emitted a string of words that really should not be shared amongst polite company.  I can, however, boil the gist of them down for you:


This company that already preys on the low self-esteem endemic in adults that populate our society has now moved on to preying on children!!!  It's not bad enough that fat kids are already bombarded with thousands of messages every day saying that they are somehow substandard because they have a different body shape.  No, that's not bad enough at all!  Now we have to feed on that self-hatred and get it started at an even younger age by having the parents drag the children to Slim for Life appointments, have the parents say things like, "I'm spending the money on this program, so you need to really work to lose the weight." and "I'm managing to lose weight, how come you can't?  Are you cheating?"

Now parents who already feel worthless in our society and are terrified that their children will have to live with the same stigma will end up adding to the wounds that their children's psyches are already dealing with on a daily basis, and they will do it with the best of intentions.  They will do it with the hope that they will be sparing their child from teasing, from fat-hate, from having a harder time getting hired for a job, from a harder time finding a mate who is worthy of them.  They will do it with the words, "I don't want _________ to have to go through what I went through." 

But we all know what they say about the road to hell, right?

Good intentions of the parents aside, the fact that this company's management has decided to take this course of action, to promote this "special" as a viable program is sick and demented.  They aren't doing it because they're worried about children.  They aren't doing it with good intentions.  Plain and simple, they are doing it to make a buck.  Slim for Life has decided that if they can't get the Fatties in the door for themselves, if they can't get their hands on the Fatties' dollars even after all of their testimonials and ads, then by the GODS they will use GUILT as the prod!!!

"Quick!  Get in here and lose weight with your child!  Otherwise the whole world will see just what a rotten parent you are!!!"

That is the message that Slim for Life is selling, and it nauseates me.

Parents, please don't fall for this marketing scheme.  Please don't break your child that way.  Look at your child and tell them with all of the honesty and love in your heart that you love them just as they are, and that you think that they are beautiful just as they are.  Tell them that no matter how tall they get, how short they stay, how much they weigh, how long their hair is, how many piercings they end up getting, that you love them as they are and that they should love their body too.  Find ways to get them interested in being active if they already aren't, and encourage their activities if they already enjoy movement of some kind.  Make sure that your house has the healthiest foodstuffs that you can afford in the fridge and cupboards.  Let them have a candy bar or piece of cake without giving them the "you don't need that" look or speech.  Encourage them to have a piece of fruit or a salad if that's what they want.

Teach your children that listening to their own bodies is more important than listening to what other people say is right, that if their body is tired they should sleep, if it is hungry then they should eat, and that they should always remember how to play no matter how old they get.

Please don't call Slim for Life and sign your child up for their first official lessons in body shaming and fat hate.  Don't pay total strangers for the privilege of telling your child that they just aren't good enough and never will be unless they take the weight off and keep it off (which they only have a 5% chance of doing).

Love your children just as they are.  They already love you just as you are, so isn't it right to return that love without condition?

Let's stop breaking our children in so many ways.  They are beautiful, and they should continue to know that.


  1. I had almost the same reaction when I heard that commercial. It is disgusting that they would do that.

  2. It's not only that - get the fat parents in to lose weight by guilting them into dragging their fat kids in to lose weight "for their health" and all the other misguided reasons, and when the kids aren't kids anymore and can't go for free, you have another whole set of paying customers who have been set up for a lifetime of dieting failure. Talk about a cash cow in the creation - dey're doin' it rite (and should put out of business).

  3. I am a child of a parent with poor body image issues and it's rough. I've had to push through that in addition to the usual media/advertising cr*p but I got there.

    One thing really struck me here - if this company can get adults to sign up with a child, the company creates a future customer in the child. This happens with football teams, in that parents can take the kids for free. It's what the tobaccos companies call "brand imprintation for later actualisation" and it sucks.

    I feel sick and disgusted by this. We need to keep stepping in here and pointing out that you don't need some Company Ltd to point the way to health (usually the same Company Ltd who have a hand in selling high fat/calorie over-processed food). Here endethe rant (but it could go on for much longer).

    Thank you for posting this and pointing this out.


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