A little over a week ago I partnered with Leah from Mamavation along with many other bloggers and their blogging communities to ask Strong 4 Life to take down their anti-obesity commercials and billboards that feature images of overweight children with slogans like “Get a Life.” We called the campaign #Ashamed, and sent the message that shaming children and their parents is not the answer to the obesity epidemic.
The Twitter event brought more than 23 million pageviews in one hour and Headline News covered the story on their site.
What happened next? A link back to this blog from HLN resulted in emails and comments on my posts calling me fat and lazy, a stupid and horrible mother, and even said repeatedly that my children are fat and unhealthy. One comment even called me a fat Nazi. Because this is my blog and therefore my rules, those comments went straight from moderation to the deleted folder and the emails went to spam. In my head I responded with things like, you’re right, I wasn’t healthy, but my kids always have been and always will be under my roof. That’s what moms do – they care for their kids before themselves. I wanted them to know that I spent my childhood riding up and down the alleys of my town all afternoon on my orange Huffy and running from yard to yard playing hide and go seek and town chase. I didn’t sit on my butt watching TV every afternoon. I won softball trophies and pull-up contests on the maple tree in my backyard, and I’m fairly sure I could soundly kick the ass of every person who emailed me. I wanted to yell that my home doesn’t have a single cookie in it nor have my children ever tasted a sip of soda, that they have perfect height/weight distribution and have never had a single cavity. I wanted to post pictures of their soccer trophies and ballet recital pictures. But instead I hit delete and went on with my day.
What is worth writing is this:
- The fact that I heard from people in support of the Strong 4 Life campaign who believe it’s okay to call innocent, healthy children fat and their mother a Nazi for standing up for the mental health of children and NOT from physicians, dietitians, educators, and mental health professionals is incredibly telling.
- Any reader who believes that I am not aware of the severity of the obesity problem in this country or the resulting health and economic effects is not a reader, but a troll. Go find another bridge because you’re not welcome here. I’ve lived the obesity problem in my own home, I have beaten it in my own home, and I do not have time for your inability to read before you speak.
- Shame will never be an acceptable form of motivation to accomplish any goal. Period. Children who are called fat and made to feel ashamed will not react by changing their lifestyle and eating habits. They will instead internalize the guilt and sadness. The fact that Strong 4 Life has not heard from kids saying that they feel embarrassed is because embarrassed kids don’t tell you they’re embarrassed and ashamed. They tell their therapists thirty years later.
- Sacrificing the whole child for the sake of their physical health is also not acceptable. As a mother I have chosen to educate my children about nutrition, provide them with healthy foods, remind them that there are also sometimes foods and never foods, and encourage active play and exercise. I have also never used the words fat or skinny to describe a human being in front of them or shamed them for any bad choices they have made when given opportunities to choose on their own. I want my children to be strong and healthy and fit. I also want them to be happy and confident and free of the guilt and shame so many of us felt as children.
I applaud Leah for continuing to work with Strong 4 Life to find better ways to reach the families of Georgia, and I will continue to be ashamed of this campaign and stand by Leah in her work.