still #ashamed

by MrsFatass on February 13, 2012

So, I’m sitting at work a couple of weeks ago, and I hear an email notification on my phone. And then another. And another. And it kept happening in burst for a couple of hours. Out of the blue, I’m getting a stream of comments on my first #ashamed post. And email. Hoo boy the email. So I took a look at my analytics to see what was going on with the traffic and figured out pretty quickly that HLN.com ran a story about the Georgia obesity ads and our response to them. And it just so happened that a quote from my post was among the links in the piece.

Then a little while later? Another burst. And I quickly deciphered that one was because we spent some time on the front page of CNN.com as well. And then this whole scenario repeated again last week when it was a feature on The O’Reilly Factor.

We “mom bloggers” virtually high fived for a while. Some of us did more press. We felt pretty psyched to have generated some buzz. But what comes next? What good is 23 million impressions on Twitter if it doesn’t lead to something?

Well, one thing we can do is to keep talking. Because regardless of what side of the debate you happen to be on, the fact that we are debating at all means that this very important topic is being discussed. And I don’t think anyone is denying that childhood obesity is indeed an important topic.

In the HLN article, they quoted one line of my post (and it was referred to in the O’Reilly spot as well), and it seems to be a line that is at the heart of the matter of the Georgia ad campaign: shame is no motivator. Lots of comments agreed with me, and a quick trip on the Google machine pulled up a slew of articles that support the notion that in children, shame leads to damaging behaviors, like for example disordered eating.

Many people also made interesting points about the fact that it is the absence of shame that is actually at the root of this (and many other) problem. That if more people felt shame about their weight, they would lose it. Even Gretchen Carlson, former Miss America – Stanford grad – now a morning news anchor supports this campaign. Admittedly a “chubby kid” herself, she said that the thing that keeps her “somewhat fit” is “personal responsibility.”

And I’d love to take issue with the asinine notion that we are to hold children personally responsible for their weight (there is a reason we don’t teach quantum physics to first graders – they aren’t capable of that kind of information yet) (and we don’t charge them as adults when they commit a crime) (but we think they should somehow be able to process the shame they feel or are made to feel and turn that into a healthier diet and exercise plan for themselves or their family) (asinine) I stand by my point that this is a bad ad campaign simply because it is a bad ad campaign. It is all shock and no value. It is unclear to me whether they are trying to target the obese kids themselves, or the parents who are feeding them, or the schools with the vending machines, or the food industry who makes lean meats and healthy produce cost more than cheeseburgers from McDonalds. I mean, who is it that this ad is speaking to?

And once that whole question is sorted out, then ask what the ad is providing. What’s the value? To me, it is insulting people for making bad choices. And insults lead to arguments, not meaningful conversation. I mean, we’re all talking about it, but we kind of already were talking about it. We are the choir in this scenario. I’m curious to know not only who the target is, but what the target is saying. Are they having meaningful dialogue about the issue of childhood obesity? Are they learning how to live better?

We all have our stories about our own experiences with being overweight, and we all have some kind of emotional reaction to these ads. But putting that emotion aside for just a minute, I want to ask Georgia to ditch these ads because they stink. Because they insult the people they are trying to help, and it seems like they are stimulating conversation among those of us who were already talking. As both a woman with my own struggles with my weight over the years AND a parent who tries to keep her kids healthy and active, I understand all to well the difficulty of this debate. There are so many reasons people are overweight and they all work in concert. While it may boil down to eating more than we burn, we wouldn’t have a gazillion dollar diet and fitness industry if it were truly that easy. There are enough real, meaningful pieces of this puzzle we could be trying to discuss and improve without demeaning people’s choices.

Okay. So the point of still #ashamed is this: it’s not enough just to point out a problem, we have to help solve it. So we’re going to keep talking and writing and tweeting to come up with some alternative suggestions about how to help people help these kids. For me, I know that the biggest reason I make less than healthy choices is budget. It’s hard to stretch a healthy dollar. So I can only imagine that people who have a tougher life than me – someone with less money, less support, more mouths, whatever – has an even harder time figuring out how to buy healthy food. I’d love to see billboards of the “eat this, not that” variety with clear, simple messages about how to make small improvements at the grocery store.

What about you? Join me and a bunch of other amazing people on Twitter THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16th at 9PM EST for another Tweetversation about #ashamed. Let’s keep talking until we figure this one out.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Coco February 13, 2012 at 7:25 am

Did you see the report that schools “in the South” (whatever that is) are the worst for having junk food in vending machines? Schools don’t want to give up the money available from those deals. They should be ASHAMED for sacrificing kids’ health so easliy.

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Sarah M February 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

I love the idea of the “eat this, not that” billboards, I think those would be beneficial to everyone, not just children. I can’t wait for the #ashamed twitter party, I missed the first one and have been bummed about it! “See” you on Thurday! 🙂

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Queen Wackaddo February 13, 2012 at 8:21 am

Yeh, what SHE said….wow, you are so smart.

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Shannon @Aries_Mommy February 13, 2012 at 10:04 am

Educating the families would go further than shaming them. If they really would prefer to have billboards than it should show people of all ages and sizes, eating right and doing physical activity. Teach the parents to lead by example. As for the school lunches, I went round and round with our school to stop serving the food with no value. They would prefer the kick back from the companies.

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KCLAnderson (Karen) February 13, 2012 at 11:41 am

I didn’t say so before, but I am glad you’ve lent your voice to this. It’s very hard to separate out the various issues…and there is SO much misinformation based on bias. I don’t know what the right answer is, but I know these ads are not it…not even close.

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pauline February 13, 2012 at 11:44 am

Thank you for writing this. Great post and great points. Shame is NOT a motivator and is not the same as personal responsibility. One can be personally responsible for their actions and their health because they are PROUD of themselves and confident and happy and every other word that is THE OPPOSITE OF SHAME.
I was an eating disordered kid. I’m an eating disordered woman.
Shame is what is keeping me where I am.
It is not the solution.

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Julie @DutchBeingMe February 13, 2012 at 11:45 am

I saw the same O’Reilly clip (and recorded/uploaded it to YouTube for my blog post today) and posted about the same thing. After being an overweight kid – and adult – I know what it is like to feel ashamed. I know what it is like to be ridiculed. And I don’t want any kid to go through that.

Kids need support & encouragement. And I can only hope that the Strong4Life people will see this soon… and change their advertising tactics.

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Sean @ Learn Fitness February 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I’ll be there on Thursday … thank you for speaking your mind on this issue. It’s a turbulent topic that the press are often conflicted over because of advertiser dollars. It’s great that the mothers and fathers (let’s not forget us) don’t have to be stymied by the same constraints. Let’s keep the conversation flowing and see if we can’t help tackle this issue. Thanks again!

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Nichols0907@aol.com February 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm

educating people is what needs to be done that belittling them. ill be at the twitter party :). great post.

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Trish @I_am_Succeeding February 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Education definitely is the key and I know all too well the adverse effects of being shamed at a very young age about my weight.

Definitely is not the answer and will not do anyone good at all!

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Lindsey February 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Thank you for contributing an intelligent, well-written, and insightful blog to the conversation and for pointing to the issues and asking for a solutions. This is a powerful movement I’d like to see more bloggers and more American’s take hold of. It’s not just a problem in the South, or just for parents, or just for those who are overweight. Affordable access to healthy foods and nutritional education without corporate interference is a fight we can, and should, all support. Absolutely let’s keep talking and let’s keep our eyes on the issues and possible solutions. Herehere!

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Natalie February 13, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Here in Australia we have a government initiative that sounds like what you are looking for, called Swap It Don’t Stop It, you can check it out at http://swapit.gov.au/ ; lots of TV ads and posters telling us to swap various unhealthy choices for better ones.

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