Wait – Those Kids are Healthy?

By now you may have heard that the children in the Strong4Life child shaming campaign who talk about being sick and teased because of their weight are actually healthy, confident kids who happen to be large.  Recently another ad campaign showed a headless fat man with his leg amputated with pictures of crutches and soda, claiming that large fast food portions can lead to Type 2 diabetes which can lead to leg amputation. Not only does the photograph’s subject have a head, he also has both legs.  What he doesn’t have is diabetes.

Some are asking “So what? They are actors.  Actors pretend”.  The problem here is that the entire reason that these pictures are used is so that people identify with them and become fearful.  “I look like the man in the picture and I drink soda.  I’m going to have to have my leg amputated!” “My kid looks like the girl in that commercial, she’s going to get diabetes!” Kids are meant to look at those pictures and be scared that looking like that means that they have diseases. I think that we need to be very careful about instilling a fear of being fat into kids considering that hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 are up 119% over the last decade.  So these ads shame, stigmatize, and humiliate those who look like the people in the ads, and instill a fear of being fat in those who don’t.  Would those people feel differently about the ads, or about themselves if the ads told the truth “This is a healthy, happy, outgoing child who is fat” or “This is a successful, happy, healthy man who is fat”?  But there is something more insidious…

These ads send the disingenuous message to society that those of us who look like the people in the ads are sick, or going to get sick, that when we do it will be our fault, and that the way to prevent this is to shame us publicly for our perceived behaviors.  Then comes the ridiculous “won’t somebody think of my tax dollars” argument and we’re off to the races as the food police don their badges and head out.  People are encouraged to see a fatty drinking a soda, assume that we drink gallons of soda every day, and that they are going to have to pay for a leg amputation, and that this somehow makes it their business, and acceptable to “educate” us via confrontation. Because surely the best way to make people healthy is to shame, stigmatize and humiliate them at every possible opportunity.

Obviously the bottom line is that it’s not anybody else’s business what we do and that, at least in the US, your tax dollars go to pay for a plethora of things and unless you have a list of all of them divided into things that you are okpaying for and things about which you are currently engaged in an active campaign against, then you don’t even get to start this conversation with me.

But let’s be honest, they are using using healthy people to create shame, fear, and stigma around health problems those people do not have.  That’s questionable at best. Just like diet ads have to say “Results not typical” every single time they suggest that their product might work, these ads should have to have a disclaimer “actor is healthy, successful and happy at their current size”.

Very Exciting Billboard Update!!!!

Get ready for the More of Me to Love Match.  The awesome folks over at MOMTL (www.moreofmetolove.com) are supporting the billboard project with a matching donation in the amount of $5,000!  That means we only have to raise $5,000 more to put up the first size positive billboard in Atlanta! In order to qualify for the grant we just need to raise $5,000, and get 1,000 individual donors (there’s no minimum donation so every little bit really does help).  The amazing Marilyn Wann has graciously offered to send autographed copies of the Fat!So? Dayplanner to the first 10 people who donate $50-99, and autographed Fat!So? books to the first 10 people who donate $100 or more.

The Big Fat Money Bomb, which is our fundraising kickoff, is Thursday.  You can find out all of the information here.  If you want a reminder on Thursday just send me an e-mail at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and I’ll put you on the list.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

15 thoughts on “Wait – Those Kids are Healthy?

  1. Commented elsewhere about the photoshop amputee one that another thing they’re trying to do is make it appear as if there are just massive numbers of people losing limbs to diabetes, as if New York is a modern London during the time of the Black Death. People dying in the streets, limbs being hacked off everywhere etc.

    Yet using their own numbers as quoted in one of the articles about the photoshop amputee, we’re talking around 0.04% of New Yorkers who have had limbs amputated because of diabetes assuming their own numbers are accurate.

    It’s also not as if every diagnosed diabetic gets limbs amputated… otherwise, the number would be closer to 8.75%. This being the percentage, according to their numbers and Google’s estimate of how many people live in New York city, of people with type 2 diabetes overall.

    I’m really *really* bad at math so those percentages could be totally off if someone wants to check them. But if they’re close to accurate, seems to me that it’s pretty clear that the majority of diabetics don’t lose limbs… it’s NOT a matter of course with a simple cause and effect chain. Drink soda, become fat, get diabetes, limb gets amputated every time. But that is how this campaign, and really most “anti obesity” campaigns, paint things.

  2. Sorry I don’t have the cite (Renal Business News, maybe?) but I just read that in fact diabetic limb amputaton rates are way down. This is due to better care despite rising diabetes rates. Don’t get me wrong, a limb amputation is devastating. However, folks don’t go directly from drinking a soda to needing an amputation. It takes years of poorly managed diabetes to get to that point with lots of ignoring warning signs (like blood sugars hundreds of points above normal, diabetic neuropathy, foot ulcers, infection, etc.)

    1. Yes. This, exactly.

      I had an uncle – my father’s youngest brother – who had Type II diabetes. And he had a leg amputated. But…that was after decades of living with the condition with no problems, when he was in his 80s, in a residential home with Alzheimers (and the mobility issues, and implications for circulation in the extremities, that often go with that). And diagnosed with leukemia. They took him off his diabetes meds to treat the leukemia, and the diabetes went out of control, and they had to amputate. He died of the leukemia anyway, and according to one of my cousins it was all pretty horrible.

      So, no, losing a limb isn’t a foregone conclusion of being diagnosed with Type II. Out of curiosity I looked up our UK figures, and they’re pretty similar to the stats Erin cites above – and amputations have also been dropping dramatically here over the past decade or so. And they do mostly occur in elderly patients (of whom, of course, there are a lot more than there used to be anyway). Also, the figures vary according to which NHS healthcare area you come under and how much money they have to treat you. Someone mentioned elsewhere how lack of health insurance among poorer patients (and there’s a strong correlation between Type II and poverty) could be a factor in the more serious complications developing, and I don’t doubt that that’s also true.

  3. I don’t really have words to describe how stunned I am. This is shameful – DISGRACEFUL! They have denigrated perfectly beautiful children and pushed them to feel shame for their body types. I am DISGUSTED by this entire practice. When payday hits I am putting in my two cents’ worth. What unbelievable, lying bastards.

  4. These ads are disgusting. I really hope there is even more backlash! I’ve been posting on my Facebook about it every chance I get!

    And congrats on the billboard! 🙂

  5. If they wanted to ACTUALLY raise awareness about – well – okay what are they even trying to do?
    If they want to raise awareness about complications of diabetes in patients who are already diabetic to get them to manage their diabetes properly, wouldn’t it be more powerful to actually show a diabetic patient who has lost a limb?
    If they want to raise awareness about diabetes and preventing it for – well no, just let’s stop there. Because there’s little you can do to prevent it. It’s well known that sugar consumption has nothing to do, at all, AT ALL, with development of diabetes. If you don’t have it, you can eat all the sugar you want, and you will never get it. If no one in your family has it, you also will probably never get it.
    What is the point of this ad campaign besides misinformation?

    1. I’m pretty sure the point is to reassure thin people that they’re safe because they’re not holding a soda.

  6. They posted an article about it on HLN (link if you are curious http://www.hlntv.com/article/2012/01/31/mommy-bloggers-ashamed-twitter-party-raises-awareness-about-anti-obesity-ads ) but of course I made the mistake of going into the comments and attempting to start a conversation about why shaming people about their fatness is kind of irrelevant and counterproductive if they actually want to promote health as they claim. As a person who has never been overweight and never had to deal with any of those stigmas myself, I still felt myself getting upset over it! I can’t even imagine what it’s like when those comments hit even closer to home.

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