This unsettling ad campaign for First 5, a government-run "healthy kids" program, depicts a heavily (literally) photoshopped little girl drinking from a paper bag (?) of sugar. Ugh, so many problems here.
On bus stop billboards, the words under the ad say:
"Less sugar" still has too much sugar. Sugary drinks like juice, sports drinks and soda can cause obesity. Choose milk* and water instead.
First, I get that they're trying to show that soda/fruit juice/all of the delicious drink are filled with evil sugar, but it just looks like she's trying to drink dry sugar out of a xxl maxi pad. And HELLO, obviously you can't drink sugar out of a bag — First 5 clearly didn't consult any fat kids — or any kids, period — or they would've known that this is how you eat sugar out of a container. Jesus.
Second, that has to be the worst photoshop botch job in a LOOOONG time. The (originally adorable) girl looks like Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal or Tracy Jordan in Fat Bitch. I wouldn't exactly call her fat, and I wouldn't call her wouldn't human-looking either. She looks like a future graphic design dropout was blindfolded and then told to draw an obese chipmunk. Plus, WTF is up with the darkening of her skin? It's all bad.
But perhaps most importantly, this. shit. doesn't. work.**
A review of 55 international studies of programs aimed at reducing childhood obesity found that although most programs were able to reduce adiposity to some degree, not all interventions were effective, reported Elizabeth Waters, PhD, from the University of Melbourne, and colleagues in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. Children in an intervention group had a standardized mean difference in body mass index (BMI) of -0.15 kg/m2 (95% CI -0.21 to -0.09).
That's a one pound weight loss, on average. Is that enough? Is it enough of a weight loss to torture kids with this shit? Because I'll tell you what it's like to be standing with a parent, friend, or bully when you see an ad like that — it's humiliating, shameful, and sometimes dangerous. We know the physical toll of these tactics is a one pound weight loss, but what is the mental toll? And what are the ramifications of that stress on a young child's body And regardless of how it makes fat kids feel — is the one pound weight loss enough to justify the time, cost, and effort put into this campaign?
Because I don't think so. These government and school sanctioned weight loss programs just makes it that much harder for kids today. Don't the adults who come up with these campaigns have any memory of what it was like to be a kid? If they did, I find it hard to believe that these are the tactics they would take. But then, they clearly have no idea what it's like to be a responsible adult either, because they would've evaluated the stats and made a course correction by now. I just don't understand what's going on over there? Are they stubborn? Lazy? Stupid? What's the deal?
Perhaps the worst part is that, if the website is any indication, the program appears to be defunct or barely operational. So, say you were an adult or kid who saw that ad and was like "Yes, I'd like to stop drinking dry sugar out of a maxi-pad! Show me the skinny light!" and actually visited First 5's site, you'd be greeted with little information. Some of their programs haven't been updated since 2009, and others have "Page Information - Coming Soon" placeholders.
Seriously, you guys? If you're gonna go out of your way to pay for ads that belittle and humiliate children, at least pretend to offer a solution. Or maybe their terrible, incomplete, unhelpful website is the most honest thing about this whole shitshow.
*Milk is pretty high in sugar, and its health benefits are highly debatable — especially if we're talking in black people, as seventy-five percent of African Americans are thought to be lactose intolerant.
**And maybe we don't REALLY want them to, either? But that's a whole 'nother conversation...
Via national treasure Marilyn Wann; special thanks to Elizabeth Tamny, Cary Webb, and Kirby R. Michelle.