A new campaign by Strong4Life is causing quite a stir amongst childhood obesity critics. The organization has launched a series of print ads, TV commercials, billboards, and online videos under the mantra, “Stop sugarcoating it,” encouraging Georgia communities to face up to their current status as claiming the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the United States, barely behind the number one record holder, Mississippi. The ads feature cameos of obese children discussing the challenges of being overweight, including bullying and health illnesses. One ad even goes so far to feature an obese child asking his obese mother why he is fat.

While there seems to be a consensus that anti-obesity campaigns need more leverage, critics disagree over the target of Strong4Life´s campaign, children. Many argue that childhood obesity campaigns should address the parents of obese children, as they primarily control the diets of their children. Others feel that the campaign needs a stronger educational approach, not simply an appeal to human emotion.

Perhaps it´s a positive move for anti-obesity organizations to take notes from major corporations like McDonald´s or Burger King. For decades, these fast food chains have marketed “Happy Meals” and “Big Kid Meals” to children more interested in the toy in the bag than what they´re actually eating. It´s no secret that marketing to children is an effective way to reach the wallets of parents, as supermarkets also purposely place candy at low levels for small children to reach and thus, pester their parents in the checkout line to make a purchase.

Strong4Life is fighting fire with fire. There´s a need for childhood obesity campaigns that target children, as they also need to understand the realities of obesity at a young age. But indeed, it´s not enough to simply apply a shock-tactic approach to awareness. Children need comprehensive, fun education about nutrition and exercise to encourage action instead of just thought.

Strong4Life just one organization, and thus, it´s unfair to simply hurl all of the responsibilities of the childhood obesity fight on one campaign. There are plenty of other organizations that collectively can educate the younger and older populations, whether using provocative campaigns or educational programs.

Regardless, enticing bait is necessary for a good catch. And thus, provocative advertising campaigns against childhood obesity may be the best starting line for the race to end childhood obesity. Children are smarter than most think, and can handle the truth. Childhood obesity is a problem, and both children and adults need to be aware to work together to solve it.

How do you feel about Strong4Life´s Stop Childhood Obesity campaign? Speak on it.  

around the web


  1. I think it’s wrong to so obviously shame children for something they have so little control over.

    Schools feed them pizza with cheese filled bread sticks, iceburg lettuce and cheese pass as salad, and anything resembling a vegetable is canned so it has little nutritional value. Then they go home to parents who either have no concept of nutrition themselves or who have bought into the mainstream idea that processed foods are fine, as long as you watch the calories.

    Education *should* start in the home, but when it doesn’t or can’t then social change is initiated in the schools. We need to start teaching nutrition starting in primary school. Health classes don’t come anywhere close to real food knowledge and focusing on it it could be the beginning of real change.

  2. @ Jenn, I completely agree with you.

    I think if you want to “market” to kids in this sense, then market to them about how great it feels to eat a balanced diet and “sexy up” the fruits and veggies that are likely missing from the kids’ diets. Teach kids to read ingredient labels and ask questions. Market different types of exercise, how fun it can be and how exercise can help mitigate stress (from teasing, perhaps). Teach kids to love their bodies so they will be careful of how they treat it.

    Do NOT use your ad time to “market” to these kids that they are fat. Speaking as a former fat kid, the kids are well aware that they are overweight. Their classmates give them a hard enough time for that already. These ads will only make children fee even worse for something that we all acknowledge is largely out of their control.

    When I was a tubby kid, I didn’t want to be fat. My mother made it clear that it was bad to be fat. Classmates teased me. But no one showed me how I could change it. No one encouraged me to exercise or showed me fun ways to exercise. Instead I was taught to hate my body, so the last thing I wanted to do was engage with it and move it. And I had no control over what I ate either. I was just supposed to magically not avoid gaining weight through mind control? Not realistic.

    These ads push the wrong message. And blame the victim.

  3. Fatness is a sin, gluttony and greed. Kids understand greed and gluttony even before the understand the concept of god and sin. Kids are by nature selfish, and it’s up to parents help ease their kids into reality. We are a culture of child worshipers, obsessing over their emotions and making sure we don’t “hurt” their fragile little feelings.

    If a kid is fat he/she is fat. There is no need to accept that. Most of the time — and I’m talking from experience — kids know what they like and they’ll overdue if they have the wherewithal. If you don’t tell certain kids “stop,” they’ll do something to their own detriment. That’s just the way kids are sometimes.

    Parents are mainly the problem but if they have a kid that’s obese, usually the parents have some issue themselves. So the first need is to get the parents right then the kid. But since we obsess over kids we get dumb ass PSAs like these.

    5,4,3,2,1 … Until our genius country starts locking up people for being fat, breaking up families cuz they can’t stop eating donuts and drinking grape soda … God bless America

  4. I say no to the question: ” Will provocative ads help end childhood obesity”. Although I wasn’t an obese child, I was an obese adult. Seeing ads telling you that you are fat, obese, large don’t help. I had to hit rock bottom to make a stand to loose the weight for good. It starts with the parents changing there mind set on what is really healthly and what fitness is all about. Stop hiding behind the ads and do something for your children yourself.

  5. i think brutal honesty serves to wake people up. so, in the context of an ad–it’s brilliant. it’s fast, too the point, stirs emotions–and look it has the people talking–WIN 1 for this AD. When it comes to realistic implementation–all the brutal honesty and shaming and insults do nothing. At that point it needs be shifted into something positive so that people will feel that it is attainable and be co-motivated to do it on an on-going basis.

  6. There should be a positive national campaign to teach kids to love themselves no matter what, including teaching that a nutritious meal and exercise equal a good self esteem and a long happy healthy life. I live in an urban neighborhood and am mortified by how many morbid obese children I see! The parents are fat too. We shouldn’t sugar coat it, accountability has to come from some where. This whole campaign mirrors what Michelle Obama is trying to do for our nation’s children in terms of proper exercise and diet for our children. Education is key and it’s up to the individual to implement knowledge into their lifestyle.

  7. I recommend a dual approach because these ad are not necessarily ridiculing these kids per se but are giving examples of what is not desirable while trying to reach an emotional, look in the mirror type, of response from those who need to cut back and be more judicious about consumption of excess calories. The second part of this needs to be as other here are stating, an effort to increase these individuals self esteem. Elevation self esteem makes a huge difference with most emotional problems, i.e., in this case being fat. This can lead to an improved self image which in turn allows healing of the individual.

  8. Jessica Mercedes

    This campaign may be targeted towards obese children, but as a parent when I look at these ads I feel that they should actually appeal to the parents. When I watched that commercial I felt kind of sad. If I were that mother I would have probably been in tears because of what I had done to my son.

    Yes education SHOULD start in the home. But if the parents are overweight and are doing little or nothing about it, how can they teach their children? If they could, the kids wouldn’t be overweight in the first place. It is important to teach children, even if their parents don’t.

    However, I do see how this campaign could give bullies more ammunition to tease overweight kids. I remember as a child kids used to torment each other by singing the Jenny Craig commercial slogan, so I can only imagine what they would do with these commercials.

  9. Averyangryteenager

    These children are not fat. They need love. Imagine how the kids in this ad might feel? This is what society has come to. All of you commenting about how the world needs to be fit and healthy, well now the word “healthy” means less than 100 lbs. My doctor has told me I am not overweight, but I feel the need to be as “healthy” as those models on magazines. Those healthy people you’re looking at are most probably suffering from some eating disorder or at the very least dieting. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with looking the way those kids do. Do you think they like it? Do you think they like looking that way? Do you think they enjoy being frowned upon by society for not having a thigh gap?”Fat kids become fat adults” what kind of sick society do we live in? What kind of hell have people made this world? Everyone deserves equal love no matter their size or skin tone or gender. So what if I don’t have a thigh gap or abs? So what if I’m not confident enough to wear a bikini? Why should I conform to a society of sociopaths? I’m sorry if you are not comfortable with the way other people look, but get over yourself. People are dying because of these type of ads. “Big bones didn’t make me this way, big meals did.” Now I’m going to continue browsing the internet and find a suicide prevention ad and read those comments. “It’s all because of the media and bullying and stuff.” Well thats exactly it. The children looking at this ad are thinking oh no, what if i look that way. And that’s how eating disorders develop and self-confidence is destroyed and bullying begins and then eventually death. These types of ads only contribute to the negative world we already live in. It’s very disappointing to see that when I search “fit person,” I find pictures of men and women with abs and 5% body fat.

Leave a Reply