How Not To Help Your Daughter With A Weight Problem
Last month the story in ‘Vogue’ magazine written by Dara-Lynn Weiss, the mother that put her 7-year-old daughter on a diet because she was obese, created a firestorm in the blogosphere. Dara-Lynn, who has struggled with her own weight and body image issues her entire life, decided to take matters into her own hands when her daughter, Bea, came home from school in tears because a classmate called her fat. In case you missed it, you can read more about it here.
After the article was published web sites lit up with criticism about Dara-Lynn’s approach to getting Bea’s weight under control. Dara-Lynn admits that after learning that Bea had eaten a celebratory French Heritage Day lunch at school that totaled around 800 calories, she wouldn’t allow her to eat dinner. She also tells of heated arguments that took place in public when her daughter wanted to eat cookies and cake at birthday parties.
Many people were outraged about the article and suggested that Dara-Lynn was taking her own eating issues out on her daughter. Dara-Lynn would probably agree. Some bloggers wrote about how Dara-Lynn could have used a kinder, gentler approach that would have been more productive and less damaging to Bea.
Others sided with the mom and felt that she was taking the steps she needed to see that Bea didn’t have health problems later in life because of her weight. One commenter said we’ve become a society that wants everything sugar-coated and can’t handle telling anyone the truth anymore.
Your Thighs And Abs On Cheese?
Apparently the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) didn’t hear about the overwhelmingly negative response to the ‘Vogue’ article over the less than, shall we say, kind tactics that Dara-Lynn used to help Bea lose weight. The PCRM has launched an obesity awareness billboard campaign in Albany, NY that uses pictures of overweight bellies and thighs with captions that say in large letters “Your Abs On Cheese” and “Your Thighs on Cheese”. Check out the billboards here.
The PCRM says that their goal is to get people to cut down on the amount of cheese they eat. Cheese is one of the leading sources of fat in the American diet. New York State is one of the nation’s largest producers of dairy products. New Yorkers have access to cheese. The PCRM is trying to help.
You may remember another anti-obesity campaign, this one led by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong4Life organization, that sparked controversy when it used pictures of overweight children with their arms folded looking dejected. The slogan reads, “It’s hard to be a little girl when you’re not.”
And then there’s the billboard in New York City with a picture of a man whose leg has been amputated. The slogan reads, “Portions have grown. So has Type 2 Diabetes which can lead to amputations.” Check is out here.
These campaigns are hard hitting and are tackling obesity in a way that’s very similar to other wars that have been waged on public health issues like smoking and methamphetamine use. Does “Your Thighs On Cheese” sound a lot like “Your Brain On Drugs”, or is it just me?
Arguments in support of these types of advertisements bring up the statistics the anti-smoking movement has had on smoking over the past 40 years. According to the Center for Disease Control smoking has gone from 42% in 1965 to 19% in 2010. The argument is that these types of targeted crusades can have an impact on obesity the same way they did on smoking.
But smoking and eating are two entirely different animals. Either you smoke or you don’t. I guess you can smoke a little, but for most part you’re either a smoker or you’re not. Everyone has to eat. It’s key to our survival. And there multiple factors that affect what we eat and how much. Factors such as cost, time, accessibility and general education about which foods provides the best nutrition. Plus we’re faced with so many food options and mixed messages from the media and manufacturers about those options. It’s not easy to determine what’s good for us and what isn’t.
What Works And What Doesn’t
Dara-Lynn may have over-reacted to her daughter when she ate too much at a school lunch celebration and she probably didn’t handle the birthday cake issue with as much tact as she should have. A healthier approach that focused on teaching the child to eat foods that taste good and are good for her in more abundance than the high-fat sugary foods you typically find at kid (and adult) birthday parties would be more worthwhile.
Dara-Lynn had a knee-jerk reaction to a complex problem. So did the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Strong4Life and the City of New York. Throwing up a few billboards that go for the shock factor by combining a tacky picture with a one-dimensional slogan isn’t so much a long-term solution to a public health crisis as it is an attempt to insult or shame people into healthier behaviors. We already know that doesn’t work.
What do you think? If you lived in Albany would the “Your Abs – Or Thighs – On Cheese” billboards help you kick your cheese habit? I don’t think so.
Click ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘tweet’ if you think the PCRM should take the boards down.