The Anti-Obesity Ads You Won’t See in Georgia (Or Anywhere Else)

I’ve read some incredibly thoughtful and personal blog posts about the state of Georgia’s new anti-childhood obesity campaign public service announcements.

I love the very first comment on that third post so much so that I’m just going to quote it:

When we found out smoking caused cancer, we went after the cigarettes and the tobacco companies. Smoking kills.

Basic science research has shown over and over that the best single way to reverse obesity is to decrease sugar sweetened beverage consumption (particularly soda). It is time to call out soda and junk food for what it is. This is not the obesity epidemic, it is the junk food epidemic. Here is a campaign calling out junk food for what it is. Check this out. www.dunkthejunk.org is a cool nonprofit dismantling the junk food epidemic with street art & hip hop.

Thank you, Kevin Strong, M.D., from Camden, Maine!

He’s got it exactly right. Why are we shaming the children? Here’s who we should be shaming:

THE ADULTS.

  • The adults who control the food industry and give it so much power over our political system.
  • The adults who control which advertisements go on TV during which television shows.
  • The adults who make pizza count as a vegetable for school lunches, or who force finance school programs by selling candy or putting vending machines on campus.
  • The adults who determine who does and does not get access to preventive medical care and who determine whether nutrition counseling is or is not covered by insurance.It comes down to politics, and it comes down to money.

When the potato/french fry industry goes up against a chubby 7-year-old in Georgia, who do you think wins?

I’m not saying personal responsibility doesn’t play into it. Ultimately, yes, people make their own choices when they go out to gather food. They can hit the farmer’s market or they can hit McDonald’s.

But those of us who, as adults, are struggling to make healthier choices every day, who are having to devote significant time, energy, and resources to regain our health, we know how tough it is.

Let’s be honest about that. If we can barely manage it as adults, how can kids cope? And after a childhood of unhealthy habits, how likely are they to turn it around just because they’re no longer living at home?

I’ve eaten the giant BBQ baked potato that, in reality, had about 100+ grams of carbohydrates, and thought I was doing well to avoid the 30 or even 45 carb bun that would have come with a chopped beef sandwich. I simply didn’t know better, and I’ve got about as expensive an education as money can buy from some of the most elite schools in the country. My parents didn’t know, and my schools didn’t teach me, and my doctors didn’t offer any insight.

I’ve had to figure it out on my own, and it is HARD WORK that will likely take a significant portion of my daily attention for the rest of my life.

The ads we won’t see are ones that take an eat this/not that approach to public education about nutrition and healthy eating.

What if you had a billboard or commercial that showed the price AND calorie total of an extra value meal x family of four compared to the price AND calorie total of buying a head of broccoli, bag of rice, and pork chops?

Or simply a billboard that shows what an actual serving of rice looks like compared to the average serving you get at a familiar chain restaurant?

You’d also have to assure people that they don’t actually need 4,000 calories a day as an adult.

You’d have to have, in fact, a strong, well-funded, coordinated and sustained public education campaign.

It would help if that campaign were backed up, like the Georgia campaign is in a small way, with training for physicians on how to support patients trying to manage weight and eat more healthily.

It would help even more if, because of healthcare reform, everyone could afford to go to the doctor for preventive care and nutritional counseling.

This is all up to us. The adults.

Shaming kids won’t work. It might get the attention of some parents, but at what cost to the kids who are, as so many others have pointed out, having to act as literal poster children for childhood obesity?

I go back to what the good doctor said in his NYT comment. When we determined that cigarette smoking was bad for us, we didn’t rely on billboards that shamed smokers. We regulated the tobacco industry. We sued them to get them to pay for the damage their manipulation of chemicals in tobacco to make it more addictive caused.

It isn’t as simple as suing McDonald’s, but we have to be grown-up enough to take a good, hard look at how we’ve let corporate money dominate politics.

Oh yes, I’m going to go there. Step aerobics? I’m going to step up and off and up and off of my soapbox for my workout this morning.

The USDA revamped the food pyramid last year, turning out a new icon called My Plate.  Food and nutrition experts at Harvard, whose work is not funded by the food industry, felt that My Plate was a cop-out. They revised it and released their own version, which even gets in a tiny plug for exercise:

I can just hear the politicians dismissing those Harvard researchers as elitist snobs in their ivory tower. And mocking how those elitists in Hollywood piled on.

Yeah, those politicians who are busy accepting campaign cash from the food lobby groups. Those politicians who don’t have to worry about representing their constituents because so few people make time to vote.

There is no one silver bullet that will fix all of this, but we owe it to ourselves to tackle the parts of it we can. We can eat better. We can get the recommended amounts of daily and weekly exercise. We can park farther away from the door and take the stairs instead of the elevator.

And we can fix the way money factors into politics. We can demand that children receive scientifically-accurate education about nutrition. We can regulate food products that we know are not healthy for us.

The personal is political. You have to exercise your body, but you also need to exercise your right to vote. The literal right, by going to the polls, and the right to vote with your voice and your money as you decide how to spend it.

Whew. That soapbox sure provides a killer workout!

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One Response to The Anti-Obesity Ads You Won’t See in Georgia (Or Anywhere Else)

  1. Pingback: Around the Web – Jan 13 « 52 Weeks, 52 Pounds

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