Friday, January 6, 2012

Breaking Our Children, Part Two

In my last post I talked about how a certain weight loss company is targetting children with a "Your kid gets in free if you join!" campaign and how outrageous I felt that was.  Well this week we've got another outrage to discuss.

In a well-intentioned effort to promote childhood health that has gone horribly awry, the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation has begun a program named Strong4Life, and has begun a series of ads that target childhood obesity.  Now, if they were actually promoting healthy behaviours and treating them as such, I would have no problem with them but unfortunately what they have decided to do is to target Fat Kids with hate and self-loathing, and to exhibit adult, authority figure sanctioned harassment and guilt.  With such examples I have no doubt that the Fat Kids will get the message that they deserve to be teased and tortured, and the not-Fat Kids will get the message that they have every right to make Fat Kids' lives miserable.

For examples of the ads, please see this blog post by atchka.  I think that you will be every bit as dismayed and horrified as I was when I saw them.

Atchka has suggested a campaign of our own, one that involves e-mails and phone calls to those responsible, asking them to re-consider the tone of their campaign.  I have sent an e-mail to them, which I will share below.  If you care to join in on this campaign, here is the contact information:

Kevin McClelland
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Stephanie Walsh

Children’s Foundation
1687 Tullie Circle NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
Fax: 404-785-7355

When you dial the number above, just press 0 to bypass the operator instructions and get to a live human.

Please read my e-mail, and please consider sending one of your own to ask them to turn their campaign into something more positive.  Thank you, everyone.

Dear Mr. McClelland and Ms. Walsh:

I am writing to you to express concern regarding the CHOA's Campaign Against Childhood Obesity. I understand that this campaign comes from an honest desire to see the next generation grow up to be healthier than the current generation, and this is a good starting place. However, I must tell you that I feel that your good intentions are being expressed in a twisted and hurtful manner.

You see, I grew up as one of those children. I was The Fat Girl throughout school, and remain fat to this day despite trying every diet program and workout fad known to man. I even had my insides sliced and diced in the form of a gastric bypass, lost 140 pounds, and have kept them off. Yet I still weigh 360 pounds at this point in time. I know what the Fat Kids go through because I lived it, and I live it still.

I understand what you are trying to do. I really do. I understand that you are trying to reach the adults around these children, that you are trying to guilt and shame them into encouraging their children to have healthier habits and hopefully to have healthier habits themselves. What I think that you are missing, however, is the effect that this body-shaming and guilt will have on the children.

Imagine being a Fat Kid as your family's car or the city bus takes you past one of these billboards. I ask you to imagine what that child will feel, to understand that the children (and the not-Fat-Kids who go to school with the Fat Kids) will not see this as an attempt to get adults to focus on healthy habits. Please understand that these children will see this simply as another instance of telling Fat People that they should be ashamed of themselves and of their bodies. This is adult-sanctioned harassment and teasing, and by having this adult-sanctioned harassment out there for the world to see, you are telling children of all shapes and sizes that it is completely acceptable to tease, to harass, to mentally and physically torture Fat Kids because it is all their fault. You are saying, "We, as medical professionals and authority figures, are telling you children that the Fat Kids deserve it all because they are weak-willed, stupid, and losers. So please, guilt them, shame them, and harass them...and do so while sanctimoniously repeating that it is for their own good."

Mr. McClelland and Ms. Walsh, I wish that you would take that caring, that desire to help children be healthier, and frame it in a more positive way. I wish that you would put up a series of billboards that show children and adults of all sizes enjoying physical activity together. I wish that you would run a series of ads showing children and adults of all sizes growing, preparing, and eating healthy food together, with lean meats and lots of fruits and vegetables being the centerpieces of said meals. I wish that you would help children and adults begin to understand that health is NOT synonymous with weight, and that you cannot, ABSOLUTELY CANNOT, judge a person's willpower or intelligence or worth of any kind simply by looking at them.

These are my wishes, and my hopes. It would be wonderful to see the mudslinging, negative campaign that you are currently endorsing turned into something positive for everyone instead. It would be encouraging to myself and other Fat People to have visible proof that there are medical professionals out there who understand and are honestly concerned with us as patients and whole persons rather than seeing us as failures and weak-willed losers. It would be a step in the right direction to see that there is a medical establishment that truly believes that EVERY person is worthy of respect.

Please consider my words and understand that they come from someone who has fought for nearly 46 years against obesity. I have finally started to learn that my weight and my health are different issues, and that my body is a wonderful thing no matter its size. I have finally started to like and love myself after 46 years of listening to society as it told me that I was only worthy of contempt and / or pity. Please stop teaching children that THEY are only worthy of contempt or pity. Please teach them that they are worthy of love and respect.

Thank you for your time.


  1. I saw this when Alton Brown shared his outrage over it through his twitter. That is a despicable campaign and those people really should be ashamed of themselves for it. Good intentions aside, it is vile.

  2. Great post, Lys. Thank you for spreading the word!



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