Georgia’s Strong4Life campaign relies heavily on fat-shaming

There is no denying childhood obesity is a growing concern. The CDC reports that one-third of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese. The health ramifications of an unhealthy lifestyle, especially one that begins in childhood, are severe.

Seventy percent of obese minors had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and obese children and adolescents show greater rates of pre-diabetes, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea.

The CDC’s findings are shocking, but Georgia’s Strong4Life campaign decided facts weren’t quite shocking enough. Instead, the campaign hopes fat-shaming will pique interest. The print ads feature sullen overweight children and copy that reads, “It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not,” and “Fat prevention begins at home. And the buffet line,” which sounds more like something a grade-school bully would say than an organization concerned for children’s health.

The tagline of Strong4Life’s television spots? “Stop sugarcoating it, Georgia.”

The ads do work in some cases. Maya Walters, a teen featured in the campaign, attests to the effectiveness. She has made changes to her lifestyle, like using less salt in her food, and no longer feels winded when climbing up stairs.

But are the ads effective on a grand scale? Marsha Davis, a childhood obesity prevention researcher at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health, doesn’t think so. “We know from communication research that when we highlight a health risk but fail to provide actionable steps people can take to prevent it, the response is often either denial or some other dysfunctional behavior,” Davis says. “We need to fight obesity, not obese people.”

The opposition doesn’t stop with Davis. Leah Segedie, a fitness blogger at BookieBoo and Mamavation, organized a twitter chat under the hash tag #Ashamed. The goal of the conversation was “to talk about the issue in a way that’s not shameful and gets the word out,” and “petition Strong4Life to take the billboards down,” says Segidie.

Amy Lupold Biar (@ResourcefulMom) joined the conversation, tweeting, “Let’s show kids all the varieties of healthy. Let’s help parents get access to affordable fruits [and] veggies. Let’s change schools!” Cecily (@Ciclyk) quipped, “If shame helped us lose weight, well, we’d all be VERY SKINNY.”

Longtime fat-acceptance activist Marilyn Wann, also unhappy with the negative message the campaign was sending, launched a counter-campaign to stop Strong4Life’s fat-shaming. The counter-campaign features adult men and women in ads similar to those of the original campaign with copy like, “I stand for doing the things we love in the bodies we have.”

The goal of the counter-campaigns is not to deny children the opportunity to eat healthy food and participate in activities. The goal is to stop weight-related harassment.

The Strong4Life campaign uses overweight or obese children as proof of failure on the part of parents, a tactic that hurts everyone, and offers little positive motivation for change. Frankly, children struggling with health issues deserve better than that.

[Editor’s note: Regan Chastain has begun a counter-campaign to put up body-positive billboards in Georgia. -Jennifer]


52 thoughts on “Georgia’s Strong4Life campaign relies heavily on fat-shaming

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  1. This article is preposterous. If people are fat they should get off their arses and do something about it. There is a never ending stream of info out there about how to lose weight – unless people have a medical condition obesity is unacceptable in adults. Fat-shaming occurs because fat people need to lose weight, simple as. Put on a pair of running shoes and quit eating rubbish. The counter-campaign above is laughable- those women are far from healthy and they sure as hell aren’t beautiful. Maybe we all need to stop being so sensitive.

  2. Wow. People feel comfortable saying some awfully mean things when they’re hiding behind the mask of anonymity.

    I obviously disagree with everything you just said. I think the overall message of this site is completely contrary to what you just said. I will ask you to read the article again, because I think you’re missing the point.

    But I’m going to give advice that my grandmother (who is a far more patient and understanding person than I) gave me as a child: if you find yourself being judgmental or cruel about someone, that is the time to look inward.

  3. I fully agree with the content of most of the articles on his site. I feel that combatting discrimination, especially gender and race related discrimination, is of the utmost importance in our society today. Body-shaming someone because of what they were born with is unacceptable.
    If you are fat, there is no reason to be. Campaigns that condone accepting yourself as you are when you are clearly an unhealthy weight is not helping anyone. It is not helping the women involved in that counter-campaign to be told they are ‘beautiful’. They are not beautiful. They can and should do something about it. Exercise and healthy eating would lead them to a healthier weight, a more attractive physique and greater self-confidence, along with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and other serious conditions. Do you really think that bluffing that those women are just as attractive as they would be if they were slimmer is helping them? Of course not. It’s condescending as hell. When re-reading your article as you suggested I was struck again by the case of Maya Walters. Fat-shamed? Yes, she was, and she’s healthier as a result, both physically and psychologically because of the boost she gets from running up the stairs and knowing she’s helped herself out. She’s not lying to herself unlike the women in that counter-campaign. Notice how the woman in the centre of the photo looks embarrassed. Very telling. Also, the tag line ‘size does not determine health or beauty’? Size does not determine health. Right. Well, whoever wrote that slogan is clearly smoking something illegal.
    Trust me, calling yourself ‘Cassandra’ online is just as anonymous as ‘anon’. It does not make your opinion any more valid than mine. At least my comment is honest, if a little brutal.
    Your grandmother sounds nice and her quote is wise indeed. This article is cruel and patronising. This is the time to look inward.

  4. The assumption that all fat people sit around on their arses all day doing nothing is far more ridiculous than anything in this article. And since I actually KNOW all the women in this photo, I might have just a teeeeeny tiny more insight into their health than a random stranger who is not even man/woman enough to claim his/her comment. And I can say with no hesitation that you are WRONG. As for running shoes, the modeling team featured here regularly does fitness events together, and we are all just as capable of moving in running shoes as we are in 5 inch stilettos. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and just because YOU don’t behold beauty in this doesn’t make your assessment that we “sure as hell aren’t beautiful” a truth. Fat shaming doesn’t occur because fat people need to lose weight. Fat shaming occurs because thin people need to maintain the status quo. But anyone who is cruel enough to think that shaming fat kids is helpful to the cause of furthering their health is actually the one who is preposterous. This is a campaign to show young people that there are all kinds of fat people in the world, not just ones who sit around looking sad and pitiful. If it’s “so sensitive” to not want children to be made fun of for their bodies, well, then I’m just gonna have to accept the label of sensitive because I am proud to be a part of a campaign that shows that fat kids deserve better than to be bullied everywhere from the playground to their local billboard. Shame on you for completely missing the point. And as for arses, stop worrying about the people sitting on theirs and get your head out of yours.

  5. Anon…. if you are so right in your comments why not take your stand to the public just as we have? Would you say this to a fat person or a group of fat people or more importantly fat children? Anyone pointing out is clearly not looking at their own stigma, handle your business and we’ll handle ours!

  6. I’m the same Cassandra who wrote the article. You can click on my name at the bottom of the article and see my full name and read my bio. I make no attempt to be anonymous.

    There are many reasons to be fat. You can be fat because of thyroid conditions. You can be fat because of eating disorders (which shaming sure as hell does not help). You can be fat because you want to be fat. You can be fat for as many reasons as you can be skinny. And let me be clear, when I say fat, that word can mean a thousand different things. It can mean healthy. It can mean unhealthy. It can mean born that way, reared that way, chose to be that way, love that way, and hate that way. It can mean beautiful. What that word should never mean is less than, harassed, or abused.

    You cannot tell someone’s health by their weight. And even if someone IS in poor health (which you can be if you’re big or small), that says absolutely nothing about moral character.

    Maya Walters does feel better, and that makes me incredibly happy. That does not make shaming someone for their weight okay. What may have worked for her could just as easily cause someone else to have low self-esteem, depression, or an eating disorder.

    I do think the women in the counter campaign are beautiful, and that’s no bluff. I don’t even know where you’re seeing this “very telling” embarrassment. Remember the looking inward thing? Because when I look at that photo, at the woman in the middle, I see a confident, relaxed, gorgeous woman.

    Size does not determine health. Healthy habits, physical and mental, determine health.

    I am being honest. I believe that you’re saying what you honestly believe. I just disagree with you.

    If someone who has been fat shamed before wants to discuss any way this article is cruel or patronizing, I would love to talk to them, reflect on my views, and change them where I saw fit. Until then, my views will remain as they are now: fat-shaming is wrong.

  7. Well i happen to live in oakland and have observed Tigress and her full figured group and it is quite SICKENING that she glorifies being fat and unhealthy. It is not cool not cool at all how she takes such a strong stance on being obese. And futhermore, she’s not comfortable in her own skin to just do regular things so this is why she created this movement in the first place. She hates on people who take the initative to lose weight and become healthy and has lost many friends due to them wanting to become healthy instead of embrassing them being healthy. No it’s not fair to pick on kids about size but as ADULTS we should try and set an example and show them how to be healthy. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and all the other illnesses associated with being obese are really deadly. Please people educate yourselves. Don’t be angry cause someone calls u fat, be healthy, take charge and do somethhing about it. And my advice to Tigress is to STEP away from the table, putt the fried food and TACO TRUCKS down and run some laps! Get healthy, and i AGREE TOTALLY with annon, you do look very uncomfortable and ashame in that pic. So sad… so sad..

  8. and its ok to be heavy set but be healthy with it… try and keep your weight under control. A healthy life is a good thing. And Tigress as far as those stilettos you ladies only wear them at the beginning of your events and by nights end almost all you ladies are in flats, flip flops, or barefooted! Now what since does that make. Your ruining your feet. GET HEALTHY LADIES, please


  10. Pretty in Pink, you can say what you want, but everyone who attends Full Figure Friday knows that I’m still in my heels at the end of the night. And some of them have seen me in my heels at the end of the night and getting up to walk a 5K the next morning. It’s not a fair representation of me or FFE to say that we hate on people who take the initiative to lose weight. Weight loss is not inherently wrong any more than weight gain is inherently wrong. I don’t speak out against people for losing weight; I speak out against people who lose weight and then start talking mess about fat people. I have never EVER said that weight loss or being thin is wrong. Look at our value statement: “Fat positive but not thin negative.” It’s been right there in writing since day one. And men and women of ALL sizes come to our events. Some of them are fat, some are slim. Just like some are short and some are tall. And some are healthy and some are not. You can’t tell that by looking at me, them, or any of us. Health is not about appearance. You can’t look at a pic of me and tell if I’m healthy any more than you can look at a pic of me and tell whether or not I am comfortable in my own skin. My health isn’t perfect, but I’m significantly healthier than a lot of thin people I know. Making health about weight does a disservice to people of ALL sizes. It allows thin people who are not healthy to believe that they are, and it prevents fat people who are healthy from being seen as role models.

    People who want to get educated will do things like read books (which might also help them know the difference between since and sense) or do some research. For people reading this who have always believed that all fat people are lazy and unhealthy, I encourage you to learn more about the Healthy at Every Size (HAES) movement and to consider other obesity and exercise research that is not funded by the diet industry . In my experience, people who are open-minded enough to actually consider information about weight from sources outside of the mainstream media often find that it completely changes the way they see their bodies, other people’s bodies, the obesity “epidemic” and health. So much of the research that separates ACTIVE people from INACTIVE people shows that active fat people are just as healthy as their thin counterparts, and inactive thin people are just as unhealthy as their fat counterparts. Here are some resources to consider if you are open-minded enough to do so:
    ~ Healthy at Every Size: http://www.haescommunity.org/
    ~ NAAFA (National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance): http://www.naafa.org
    ~ Obesity researcher Linda Bacon (who, by the way, is a thin woman, which demonstrates that it’s not only fat people who believe that people can be healthy AND fat): http://www.lindabacon.org/
    -The Fat Chick Works Out: http://www.thefatchick.com

    By the way “Pretty in Pink,” making this a personal attack on me or my organization doesn’t help anyone get educated about anything. It doesn’t help people get healthy, and it doesn’t help kids stop being shamed and feeling ashamed. It just makes you look like you have some kind of personal issue with me. Since you are not grown enough to put your real name on this post or to say something to me directly, I have no idea who you are or why you’ve chosen to distract people from this important message by trying to embarrass me, but as you can see, I have nothing to hide about my views on weight, weight loss, or health. It’s pretty clear to me that your goal has nothing to do with the actual issues this article is about. I’m not sure why someone with this much obvious disdain for fat people was ever at a fat-positive event in the first place, but if you would ever like to talk to me about any of these things like an adult, you are welcome to come on back to the party and have a conversation about this if you can be civil and mature about it. Since you are obviously paying attention to my every move, you clearly know where to find me when you are ready for that kind of conversation.

  11. It is so sad that people feel that it is okay to be cruel to others simply based upon their body size.

    Logic clearly proves that you cannot assess someone’s health by looking at their body. There are healthy thin people and unhealthy thin people, just as there are healthy fat people and unhealthy fat people. You also cannot make any accurate judgement about someone’s lifestyle and behaviors just by looking at them. We all know very thin people who eat a large amount of food. There are also fat people who don’t eat much. There are fat people who are active and athletic just as there are thin people who are sedentary. Body size does not indicate health nor does it prove certain behaviors or lack thereof. This is simply fact.

    But health aside, no person should ever have to justify the way they look. The fact that our society forces fat people to do just that is heartbreaking. The fact that this shame and hatred is also dished out upon children just because of their body size is absolutely tragic.

    I will stand for those kids and for all of the adults who used to be kids and know what it is like to be shamed. The billboards in Georgia are unacceptable and we WILL take a stand against them.

    The hateful comments on this article are cruel and totally unproductive. They are just proof of how messed up people are about their body image and the “thin ideal” our society has set up for all of us.

    Tigress and all of the ladies in the photo are beautiful, sexy, and courageous. I am so, so, so glad that they are strong enough to take a stand!

    Let us all love our bodies, nourish them, and treat them with respect.

  12. Thank you Cassandra for this incredible article. All I can say is RIGHT ON! Tigress I thought you were beautiful when I first saw the picture because you ARE beautiful, but I find you even more stunning by the poise, patience, and healthy way you handled yourself in responding to the attacks on you and your friends.

    To anon and pretty in pink… you are by your comments proving how dangerous the s4l campaign is because it encourages people to ignorantly judge a persons health, habits, and character just by looking at them. I know ignorance can be bliss but in this case it isn’t… doing some actual research on the topic of fat and health would probably be a wise thing instead of echoing the same junk put out by the very people profiting off the fact that their diets, lifestyle changes, and other weight loss scams. In addition to the ones posted by Tigress which are awesome and chock full of actual truth that aren’t written for profit, I would also suggest checking out Junkfood Science in particular the obesity paradox series http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2006/12/obesity-paradox-2-how-can-it-be.html . These are actual factual medical studies reported on by a medical researcher who puts things into a language even you can understand.

    You attack people simply on the basis of the size of their body, saying really rude and awful things about them and you feel justified in doing so. Why, well because of things like the s4l ads and if adults feel this is ok imagine what kids are going to go through. Your actions reveal your hatred, bigotry, and ignorance however as the saying goes looking at a fat person doesn’t tell you anything except how big they are and how deep your own prejudice runs. Doing that says way more about you than it does about the person you are bashing. There are plenty of unhealthy skinny people out there …. do you go around abusing them and saying hateful things for simply daring to live their lives and enjoy themselves? It is very hypocritical and honestly does nothing to help anyone.

    You would be better off just keeping your mouth closed and not revealing what a prejudiced, misinformed, hypocrite you are.

    P.s. pretty in pink… I really don’t get what you are trying to say about the stilettos….are you mad that they change out of them into flats or go barefoot and that hurts your delicate senses of what looks good? This might be a newsflash to you but no one owes you beauty or sexy or anything else, They don’t want to wear stilettos the whole night who really cares, that says nothing about them other than they decided to take their shoes off…. thin people do that too Or are you angry that they wear them in the first place because stilettos have been shown to cause some physical issues like back stress. Do you also troll websites showing thin girls wearing heels and harass and abuse them as well?

  13. It’s time to throw in my two cents, ninja commenting skills, activate!! 😀

    Alright, I completely agree with this article. I think I signed a petition to support fighting these stupid Strong4Life campaigners, and I don’t regret doing it. At best, the whole anti-obesity hysteria saturating the world is a cartoonish, almost draconian public health campaign that stomps on personal freedom, personal autonomy, and does little to actually “help” anything. If it did help anything, wouldn’t we all be thin? People keep saying that there are so many options or ways to lose weight quickly and easily, but yet why do people constantly keep gaining it all back, or go off of their diets or exercise routines? Well, because human beings don’t have the kind of discipline or willpower a GOD would have, for one thing, it’s impossible! At best, silly campaigns like this reinforce my fears that being fat, or even somewhat plump, will be against the law due to it being considered slow suicide. Suicide IS against the law, right? Or at least the act of COMMITING it, correct? Is this really the kind of world we want to live within in the future? And I say all of this to the trolls or the people speaking out against this brilliant article. It saddens me to see children like THAT who are barely even remotely chubby getting FAKE stories about their health attached to them. Yes, people, ALL of these stories are fake in the Strong4Life campaign. It is physically and scientifically impossible for children of that very tiny level of fatness to GET those health problems. At most, it is all just baby fat.

    Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say that being fat is really that bad and completely unacceptable, especially for our youth. What about the people like me who love fatness and want to be fat? Are you going to stomp all over our happiness in the United States? A nation founded on Liberty and Freedom? I am a Libertarian, after all, and it frightens me to see what has become of humanity that we bicker over stupid issues like this. I do not CARE if being fat is harmful or not, it’s a tired argument that has been refuted or proven over and over again. It is IMPOSSIBLE to ever know the truth about it! So leave the fat children alone, and focus on more important issues, humanity. Really, even if fatness is harmful, there HAS to be a better way than forcing people to lose weight with NO OPTIONS at all. Medical science has gotten to the point that it almost completely MIRRORS that of religion, a completely illogical thing! Science and reason are about LOGIC, not hysteria, fear, guilt, worry, death, or ANY of these things. SCIENCE is about REASONING AND LOGIC… how can “being fat is deadly, it is proven by SCIENCE” be a statement taken seriously by mainstream medical science to begin with?! IT MAKES NO SENSE, it completely spits on the VERY NATURE of scientific endeavor! In the end, it is all BIAS, BIGOTRY, and DISGUST all aimed at fatties like myself. SO admit it. Doctors, researchers, or pro-anti obesity believers… ADMIT that you are disgusted by fatness and our lifestyles or how we look! ADMIT it!!

    Also, everything any troll or any person who believes fatness is harmful is utilizing self righteous sanctimony and bolstering their ego. It’s a bit of reverse psychology, ya see? Most of the time, the only reason anyone ever cares so damn much about the health of another is to make themselves feel BETTER about themselves by way of “fake virtue”. It’s the truth, I’m sorry. However, for family members, friends, or loved ones, it can be considered genuine caring. But even then, there is such a thing as TOUGH LOVE and realizing that people DIE like a MATURE ADULT. It is about the QAULITY of life, not the QAUNTITY of it! If people seriously can’t enjoy or appreciate their lives, no matter how long they live, then many of them are INGRATES.

  14. This counter campaign and the article describing the reasons we should stop fat shaming children are so important. Thank you Cassandra for writing it and defending it. As a woman (and a former child) who spent much of her life fighting against weight and still ended up as an obese person, I can attest to shame not being an effective strategy for helping fat folks get thin. Believe me, I have been shamed and I have tried dieting, exercise regiments, lifestyle changes etc. and I have just ended up fatter after each honeymoon of weight loss. Each rebound was chased with a strong dose of depression and self-hatred which then led me away from healthy behaviors. It took every ounce of will I had to lose and maintain a lower weight and when inevitably life required some of that will to be directed elsewhere, when I had to put effort into school or work or family, I returned to my previous weight and beyond incredibly quickly and without “sitting on my arse eating rubbish.” My metabolism was destroyed by weight cycling and I actually eat significantly healthier than many of thin friends yet still gain weight incredibly easily. I had to stop the cycle. I had to come to terms with the body I have now and I had to find ways to pursue my healthiest self, both physically and mentally, that did not lead me back to increased weight, shame, and depression. If I hadn’t found Health at Every Size and the Fat Acceptance community I am certain I would have continued to gain and ended up even heavier. Anon and Pretty in Pink, please remember that it is not an easy road we fat folks are walking and we are constantly bombarded by people telling us that we are not OK as we are, that we should be able to change and that we are weak, lazy, disgusting if we don’t. Don’t assume you know what it would take for us to be healthy or even what it would take for us to be thinner. You do not know what we are or are not doing and remember that just because we do not look like you, that does not mean we are not beautiful. Your eyes have been trained by a culture so focused on thin that it often can not see anything else but there is beauty in every person in this world and if you can’t see it, blame your own eyes, not the person you deem to be unattractive.
    Oh and at the wedding I attended this weekend, the thin gals had kicked off their stilettos while I danced the night away in mine though I’m pretty sure “ability to dance for hours in stiletto heals” is not actually an indicator of one’s health status.

  15. If that stream of info you refer to is any good why would there still be fat people? Could be because it doesn’t work as advertised. Although I imagine it must be nice to be you, endowed with the ability to judge someone’s health just by looking at them, Pity that practicing medicine requires actual medical knowledge, eh Anon, or you’d be raking in a fortune telling people your opinion instead of posting nasty comments on websites.

  16. Pretty in Pink it might be more useful if you spend some time doing some proper reading on what is and isn’t healthy. Health is not tied to weight, no matter how often people like to claim that it is.

  17. Thanks for the solidarity and this post, About Face people! Cassandra, I appreciate your efforts in writing this post. I hope that you will look a bit further into the statements you repeat (in the first paragraph)…which I realize are very common things to hear and to say, these days. There is an impressive and growing community of professionals from healthcare, medical research, fitness, nutrition, and psychology who all disagree with these sorts of weight-based health definitions, for all sorts of good reasons based on the totality of existing data. The community calls its weight-neutral approach Health At Every Size. So not only are people disagreeing with the shaming of ad campaigns like the one in Georgia, we’re disagreeing that it’s scientifically valid or at all helpful to public health. Rock on!

  18. This debate has gotten pretty heated. I want this site to be a place for discussion, but please keep personal attacks out of it.

  19. My name is Kirstie. I thought I’d get that out there seeing as some people seem hooked up on the ‘Anon’ thing. I don’t know how knowing my name makes you any more informed or able to judge my argument.
    Halla, your comment amused me because I’m a medical student and have been for two and a half years, so I can say confidently the women in the counter-campaign are an unhealthy weight. My comments are not ‘nasty’, they are truthful.
    ”Tigress’, I don’t really feel like talking to someone who tells me to get my head out of my arse, especially when he/she is so blatantly bigoted. It’s not my fault you’re living in denial. The sources you provided are niche and designed for the unhealthy to reassure themselves. Government guidelines will tell you ‘fat’ is wrong. ‘Fat’ is unhealthy. Pretty in Pink’s witness story about your fitness club is interesting, as was your barely-concealed threat to her when you asked her to come and find you and have a chat. You’d make a good James Bond villain, hun.
    KimOcean, I’m sorry to hear about your struggles, your post was genuine and touching. You need to go and see a doctor.
    Arkveveen, if you love being fat, I feel bad for you. ‘FAT’ is, at it’s very core, a derogatory word. The state of being fat is an unhealthy one. As for your genius quote: ‘Medical science has gotten to the point that it almost completely MIRRORS that of religion’… I don’t really know what to say to this. I hope ‘You’re wrong.’ will suffice.
    Teresa, I am not a hypocrite darling, nor am I misinformed. Prejudice isn’t a part of my agenda either. I am well aware there are unhealthy thin people. Everyone should be active. Being fat is unhealthy, whether you are active or not.
    Cassandra, when an article like this is posted it will provoke controversy.

  20. Anon/Kirstie, Let me introduce myself. I’m Jennifer Berger, the Executive Director of About-Face. I have the final say on what happens on the blog. I truly appreciate a good debate and I think this one had the potential to be that. Your differing opinions are welcome here, but the way you are expressing them is not. Despite your opinions about fat and health, your comments are not based in evidence (you have not offered any) and they are patronizing, personal attacks that can be extremely hurtful. Tigress may be defending herself too vigorously for you, but she is trying to give you facts and she may be hurt by the tone of your comments. Please either post using productive language conducive to a healthy, respectful debate, or I will block you from posting future comments.

  21. I feel very, very sorry for you. Instead of building people up, you are intent upon tearing them down. That is a very sad way to live.

    Here’s the problem with your argument. You say that “Fat shaming occurs because fat people need to lose weight.” As a student of social work and psychology I will tell you point blank that fat shaming occurs because other people are uncomfortable. Fat shaming (ANY kind of shaming for that matter) has nothing whatsoever to do with the innocent person being shamed, but rather with the insecurities, the unspoken anger, the jealousy, the negative self-worth, or the socialization of the person doing the shaming. PERIOD. When you choose to shame someone, you paint yourself as a bigoted, bitter, petty person, but you don’t make anyone look at the person you’re shaming in any different light.

    Also, you seem to think that other people have a responsibility to live to your standards. Good luck with that. Your standard of bigotry, hatred, and ugliness is something I do not accept in my life and it’s my responsibility to myself to make that choice. I have no responsibility to you, and neither does anyone else. I wish you a prosperous and healthy life, and I hope that someday you can find a way to overcome your scornful prejudice.

  22. Anonymous person, let me just say that you have a great deal of misinformation in your post.

    I have supported this campaign with my money because I was a fat kid who was bullied and shamed by others. No child should EVER have to experience the hours and years of tears and self-hatred that I did. It’s sickening that it’s been sanctioned by a bunch of adults who, ten to one, never went through school being bullied.

    I don’t care who you are – doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief – it is not OK to make fun of someone based on his appearance. It’s arrogant and it’s cowardly and the words hurt no matter where they come from.

    Ragen Chastain has a wonderful saying: “No one ever hated themselves to health.” These “Strong4Life” (or as I prefer to call them “Wrong4Life”) folks have made a terrible choice by using HEALTHY children to falsely depict children suffering from “obesity,” which is not a disease, by the way. It is a physical condition, but it does not in any way preclude health. These Strong4Life billboards are an outright lie intended to terrorize children and their parents into accepting a societal physical standard as proof of health, which it most emphatically is not. Not to mention that they are sanctioning bullying in the name of health and if it were done in the name of something else it would be seen as the reprehensible manipulation that it truly is.

    Fat isn’t necessarily a choice, although society would have you believe it is, and health and weight are not synonymous, although again society would have you believe they are. There are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people. Weight of all kinds is a complex combination of choices, environment, health, treatment, stress, and genetics. It’s time to stop judging and shaming people for their bodies and start accepting people for who they are. We are not all meant to be the same shape.

    Here are a couple of links to research studies that you might wish to review before you jump onto the Strong4Life bandwagon:


    Fat people are PEOPLE, and we are not here to be taunted, degraded, or otherwise shamed. We are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We are not people “too,” we are “people,” full stop. Stop the fat-bashing; stop the hate.

    I am very sorry that your vision is so limited that you cannot see beauty in all people. I find that unutterably sad. Those glorious women are absolutely gorgeous and glowing and clearly take care of themselves. They have creamy skin and beautifully coiffed hair. And yet even those aesthetics are no measure of their true beauty because THAT comes from inside. I wish for you the ability to see that in the world around you.

  23. Pretty in Pink, I gotta ask – if you think something is sickening, why do you go? Your public hatred of this woman is truly breathtaking, and your scornful comments are shocking. As I said above, “Fat shaming (ANY kind of shaming for that matter) has nothing whatsoever to do with the innocent person being shamed, but rather with the insecurities, the unspoken anger, the jealousy, the negative self-worth, or the socialization of the person doing the shaming. PERIOD. When you choose to shame someone, you paint yourself as a bigoted, bitter, petty person, but you don’t make anyone look at the person you’re shaming in any different light.”

    In other words, yank that broadside of a barn outta your own eye before working on the speck of dust in someone else’s.

  24. Marilyn,
    The amount of debate this article created definitely speaks to the fact that the topic should be further explored. I will definitely look into the differing views of healthcare professionals, and do more research on the Health At Every Size approach.

  25. There is no excuse for an adult to be fat. It is lack of discipline. Eat less, exercise more, and lose weight. Your fatty-ness is making my health insurance go up. Parents with fat kids should be ashamed of themselves, until your kid is old enough to make their own choices it is your fault if they are fat. Fat people disgust me.

  26. I appreciate all the people who’ve joined in to discuss this topic and who seem to actually be interested in true dialogue. I will make this my last post because, while I feel pulled to speak back to ignorance and to defend the personal things said against me, I want to hear/read a lot of voices on this subject. To anyone reading this thread, I want it to be clear that my invitation for “Pretty in Pink” to come back to the party (not fitness club) that I host is in no way intended to be a veiled threat. There is a difference between threatening someone and challenging someone. The invitation was intended to be exactly what it is–an invitation (but one that should only be take if this person is interested in actually talking about the issues, not just telling me I’m ugly and unhealthy).

    I will apologize to any other readers who were offended by my use of the phrase “get your head out of your arse.” Using colorful language may have distracted people from the rest of my response or offended others (I’m not sure how someone could be unaffected by fat people being told to “get off their arses” but then be offended by the phrase “get your head out of your arse,” but those are linguistic logistics that perhaps I shouldn’t try to understand). But to other readers, and to the author of the article and editor of this page, my apologies if turning an attacker’s language back on said attacker was perceived as sinking to a lower level of dialogue. I don’t think someone gets to start off by insulting an entire group of people (I mean all fat folks, not the five women in the pic) and then claim they don’t want to dialogue because someone else was too hostile and rude. Calling someone unattractive is not a fact; it’s an opinion. And it is not the way to set a tone of respectful dialogue, so someone who’s first response to an article they disagree with is to insult the people in the associated photos is not someone who gets to decide how discourse should go.

    On the practical matters, I’m not sure how “the government says fat is unhealthy” is evidence that fat is unhealthy; the government adopts practices and beliefs all the time that have nothing to do with the health and welfare of its citizenry. Allllll the time. There are all kinds of political and capital issues that impact the government’s messages about health and wellness. When it comes to matters of diet and exercise and health, remember, these are the same people who decided ketchup is a vegetable.

    It is also technically inaccurate to say that fat is automatically a derogatory word. Look at any definition of the word fat that is not from the medical establishment and you’ll see that the denotations outlined first are often POSITIVE meanings, among them abundance, profit, and being well-fed and nourished. Because a person chooses to focus on only one understanding of the word doesn’t change the fact that there are many understandings. The counter-campaign that this article highlights shows that there are MANY ways to define being fat, and that “lonely, sad, ostracized and about to die” are not the only options for living a fat life. I’m not sure why some people feel so mad about that. Maybe it’s one of those situations where seeing someone who is supposed to be ashamed of who they are and refuses to be is hard for people who’ve accepted blame and shame in their own lives.

    I’ll stop posting on this thread, not because I don’t have more to say, but because I’m gonna opt to follow my teaching colleague’s guideline of “more before more” meaning more folks should have a chance to chime in before I do so again. But anyone who wants to continue dialoguing with me offline has the same invitation to come to Full Figure Friday in Oakland and introduce him/herself. (uh oh, there I go threatening people again…). We can chat there or set up a time to cha in a quieter environment. If you make it to the party, ask for Tigress (no need to put my name in quotation marks–Tigress is not my username or the online identity I hide behind, it’s my real, legal name). If you see more things here that are personally about me or FFE, feel free to check us out online at our website or on Facebook to get a better sense of what we do in the nightclub industry and in the community. And if you are reading this and people have ever tried to make YOU feel the way the kids in the Georgia campaign are depicted, know there is a whole thriving community of fat folks all over the world who stand proud of their lives.

  27. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. The only reason people feel the need to perpetuate fat hatred is because they need to feel superior to someone. It’s a deep seated superiority complex that brings them to stick their nose in other people’s business. They have to prove to themselves and others that fat people are inferior to them – be it by appearance, intellect (because they think we’re all too stupid to know how to look after our bodies and nourish ourselves), health, you name it.

    It’s a pretty sad life to live if you have to cling to being superior to someone.

    Health is not a social hierarchy. You don’t get more social brownie points if you are healthier than someone. You just get privilege, which is a false benefit. Having a thinner body, or even better health, than someone else doesn’t make you a better person. It doesn’t make you more valuable to society. And it certainly doesn’t make you more attractive, particularly if you spend your time spreading hate anonymously on the internet.

    Grow up. Mind your own business about other people’s bodies and health. And for those of you who live in fat bodies or have health issues – you need not prove anything to anyone but yourself.

  28. I believe you just contradicted yourself PinP… how do you determine healthy fat as opposed to unhealthy fat? Are you saying that you’re healthy fat (since you seem to know lots about Tigress and FFE)?

  29. I appreciate hearing from other view points. Really makes me think about what I think and why I think that way. In my personal experience, shaming is not the way to encourage anyone to do anything positive. If Georgia wants to affect their obesity rates, there are much better ways to do it. Making after school activities fun, safe and inexpensive. Increasing PE time in school. Teaching healthy eating at a young age. None of these make children feel ugly.

  30. You people are insane. Childhood obesity is a huge and problem but people’s weight is too taboo to talk about. Strong4life is all about breaking down these taboos. If someone is a drug addict, say addicted to their medical prescription, everyone in their life will come together to motivate them or force them to get healthy. Obesity can be more harmful to long-term health than MANY drug addictions, yet no one will push fat people extra hard to get healthy. Size and health are directly co-related. I’m all for equality, I prefer thicker body types on women. You can be 25 pounds overweight and have a small gut and be perfectly healthy your whole life yes. But past a certain point, there is no such thing as health at every size.

    America has the embarrassment of being the world’s fatest country, and be putting out ridiculous claims such as ‘the war on obesity is lost’ you people are literally ruining the USA. There is nothing acceptable about fat kids, my own little brother is overweight/borderline obese and you know what he eats all day, my parents by him ice cream and fast food and make no effort to force him into a healthier lifestyle. IT IS the parents fault unless the kid gets fat after like 13 . Being fat you doom yourself to diabetes type 2 , high blood pressure, etc and then everyones premiums go up for your unnecessary medications, when all you have to do is exercise and stick to 1700 calories a day! Why would you want to doom your daughter to a life of being ugly and never getting asked to prom….

  31. this is something i’ve been thinking about a lot as I hear so many people saying that there is no excuse for being fat they should just eat less, stop being lazy etc. As I’m a slim person and always have been I can’t comment on weight loss but from a different personal experience I can attest to the fact that shaming people achieves nothing. I am a terrible procrastinator and have been for as long as I can remember. I so badly want to change and yet every attempt I have made has failed. so many people have told me to “just get on with it” (which seems similar to telling overweight people to “just eat less”) and I have repeatedly been called lazy, stupid, self-indulgent, undisciplined, useless and many more things (which i have also heard people use to shame overweight people) because of my inability to force myself to work like a machine on my academic studies, guess what? it hasn’t helped me at all! I’m still a chronic procrastinator but now I also hate myself as well. If shaming worked there would be no fat people or people like me. I think both types are perfectly capable of mentally beating themselves up – we don’t need anyone’s help with that thanks.

    By the way I apologise if anyone who has struggled with their weight is reading this and thinking I don’t have a clue what it’s like. It’s just that my problem with procrastination helped me to understand what people may be going through and how shaming doesn’t help and I thought maybe giving my own non-weight related experience of shaming may help others who don’t have issues with their weight to understand this discussion a bit better.

  32. Oh hai thar! Dangerously underweight kid who became ‘fat’ adult here! I’m in ur ‘obesity epidemic’, an I took ur fat-shaming advice an everything. Anyone else think maybe that advice may be, well, wrong?

  33. America doesn’t have the shame of being the fattest country in the world. America has the BLESSING of being the fattest country in the world.

  34. Also, I like Anne Wall’s suggestions, but I will say increasing PE time did make me feel ugly as a kid. Half the reason I didn’t exercise in my early adulthood was because junior high PE made me really ashamed of my body and I thought it was better to hide it somewhere than to get out and move it. Too bad PE programs are often the source of as much bad as good 🙁

  35. I was that “fat kid” but now as an adult, I weigh 139lbs (at 5’9”). And yes, I am naturally this weight — once I developed healthy eating habits (my former eating habits were extremely disordered) my weight fell into this range. A lot of people assume those who are against Strong4Life must be teh fat, so I thought I’d point that out.

    Strong4Life, you know something that’s increasing among children at an even FASTER rate than obesity? It’s eating disorders. And now evidence is beginning to emerge that our efforts to treat childhood obesity — such as requiring regular weigh ins at school — promotes body dissatisfaction. Other programs have also been linked to increased incidences of disordered behavior, such as purging. See here: http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep05/obesity.aspx

    I am 100% against Strong4Life because I believe it fat shames, makes kids feel worse about themselves instead of inspiring them, and can trigger kids to develop disordered eating behavior. If your solution to solving obesity is causing disordered eating/body image issues to skyrocket, you’re not solving the problem — you’re making it worse.

    I’m glad I grew up in an era where this didn’t exist; simply getting weighed during school was enough anxiety for me. I even have a entry from a diary I kept back then, after I was weighed, where I worried that I was too fat and should stop eating because I weighed more than all of my classmates.

    Fat shaming…DOESN’T WORK!

  36. These ads are no different then the cigarette ads that show graphic images of cancerous body parts. Actually they are much more mild. Try showing photos of a fat covered liver. Maybe put the photo on every bag of chips out there as a warning. Being overweight can be very unhealthy. Don’t kid yourselves people! Sure there are exceptions to the rule and there probably are healthy heavy people out there, just like there are old people who smoked their whole lives and never had health complications due to it. But they are the exception, not the rule!

  37. lol, that counter ad is wrong on both accounts. Most of those women will probably die young, and if they’re what’s considered beautiful nowadays, I’ll never marry

  38. Hey Anon- lets see a pic of how beautiful and healthy you are? Or how’s about you go shove your rock star energy drink up that rock hard ass of yours?

  39. The counter campaign is laughable. Size does determine health! That is fact. I understand that we also must accept our bodies and not stress over every little thing. But HEALTH is an important topic, ad child obesity must be addressed and definitive steps taken to help families and their children. You are doing a child a disservice by telling him/her that being 300 lbs is ok and they should be happy with it. The campaign might be rash but the truth hurts and only the truth will help, not trying to get kids to accept and live obese the rest of their lives. We have to tell then being 300 lbs is not ok AND it doesn’t have to be that way.

  40. I wanted to take the time to advocate my disapproval of this campaign. I feel that it is great that an organization is finally trying to end the obesity in “epidemic” in America, however, did it occur to you that your billboards may backfire? I am a nanny of 3 children, all of which who are healthy and in great shape. They have seen these billboards around Atlanta and asked me to explain to them what they mean. It is difficult to explain to a seven or nine year old child that the rest of society is worried about “fat” children. Children do not see “fat” people, which is what these billboards are targeting. Yes, children do understand there are people of all different sizes, but if raised correctly, they are polite about people of different sizes, much like people are now polite about different races! I feel this campaign has potential to be successful, but a different audience needs to be targeted. In a Utilitarianism world, America would be a delightful country if everyone were healthy and in shape, but why not target the fast food industry, or better yet, the USDA. The USDA regulates the food pyramid and announces to the public what is “healthy” to eat. If restaurants cut back on food portions, America wouldn’t have obesity problems.

  41. All that matters in life is self respect. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and honestly think ‘yes, this is how my body should look, I am justified in my appearance’, then that’s what is important. But don’t kid yourself; if you’re fat, if you’re intaking too many calories each day, you are not respecting your body. You’re treating yourself like dirt. You’re supposed to be the planet’s dominant species, but you’re acting like a grazing herbivore. Even worse, if you’ve got kids and you’re not doing anything about your own weight – let alone theirs – you’re teaching them that treating yourself like another person is okay. It’s not.
    Diet is the most important thing in good health. It’s not enough to exercise bike for an hour and go home back to your pizzas and ‘diet’ coke. You will have achieved nothing and may as well just have stayed at home. You need to turn your life around and give yourself the respect you deserve. You need to be an example to other people and inspire them with your own change. You need to accept that it’s going to be nasty, you’re going to be hungry, you’re going to sweat during your cardio, during your resistance training, you’ll be sore from the exercise you did the previous day. But you’ll improve yourself. You’ll be more attractive, you’ll live longer, but more importantly you’ll feel more attractive, you’ll feel as if you’re approaching a goal that you’ve set yourself. Wallowing in closeted self-dissatisfaction will be a thing of the past.

    At least, for god’s sake, don’t deny your kids from achieving what you failed to even begin.

  42. I don’t think this is ever gonna get replied to, but imma send it out to the interwebs anyway…

    I have no doubt that there are a plethora of large people around who are completely healthy. For whatever reason. Hell, I think I’m one. I weigh like 110kg but with a resting heart rate of 59 which made even my doctor go, ‘huh, that’s weird.’ I know you can’t judge someone’s health by their size, and society’s thing that fat = unhealthy is stupid. And that healthy, happy, large people have to deal with that shit. I agree with all of you that no one, healthy or no, should be judged by how they look. I think the women in the response campaign are beautiful.

    If you’re big and you know you’re healthy, then good the hell on you, keep being amazing, healthy and happy and good luck with navigating the shitty world.

    But seriously, how much in the minority are these healthy people? Surely the majority of people who are overweight -not chubby, plump, size 16, lovehandles – but obviously quite obese, are extremely unhealthy? Maybe I’m wrong, and it’s half and half, or most ‘fat’ people are healthy, but I doubt it.

    Considering that then, saying to these people, no, it’s okay, you’re healthy, you’re fine, don’t change, be proud of who you are etc. is condescending, sugarcoating, in-denial bullshit that is downright harmful. They need to change, because they are literally shortening their lifespan and likely passing on their habits to their children, and God I know how hard that is to FACE let alone do anything about, and how terrifyingly deep the denial goes, but those are the facts, it’s up to you.

    To close: for 40 years my mother tried to be (unhealthily) “fat and happy” and now she cannot walk because the extra weight she carried around for so long disintegrated the cartilage in her knees and she’s in too much pain. Again, if you know you are healthy, excellent, but otherwise, know that there are consequences for being unkind to your body.

  43. What the…? Does that actually sound sane, logical and good in your brain? How does that work? Ffs.

  44. “not worth it” you hit the nail on the head when you said “Fat people disgust me” – that is essentially the point of all fat shaming under the guise of “health”. Our culture has inculcated afat phobic hysteria that people just buy into because we are bombarded with it hundreds of times a day. Do you know that the human body adapts? By that I mean that when we begin to eat less, our bodies actually adjust, our metabolism slows down, our body releases hormones to slow us down (so as to conserve energy) and we “adjust” to subsist on less. Do this a few times (AKA DIETING) and we create a big mess! Now I can tell you that I was a bigger kid growing up, and you know what? My parents actually fed me really well! My mom didn’t have cookies or chips or many of the things we would deem junk food in the house. We were an active family too but I was still a big kid. My story is not an isolated one – human beings come in all shapes and sizes and the media portrayal of an ideal size is arbitrary – look back in history and you will find that a rubenesque body was preferable.

    Only when we can stop body bashing (and I mean body bashing from every angle – fat people body bashing thin people, thin people body bashing fat people) can we get on with working with what we’ve got and getting as healthy as we can through good nutrition and regular movement. I hate to tell you too not worth it, but I was recently at a hospital visiting a friend who had a premature baby, and this may shock you but wow, were there ever a lot of thin people there! I didn’t realize that thin people got sick too – who knew??? I wonder if sickness in general for a whole host of reasons is raising your health insurance rates.

    Kirstie, have you been taught about the doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis? He was the doctor attributed to discovering germs but before he actually figured that out, he and his team were responsible for killing who knows how many innocent women in the maternity ward because they were too arrogant to even consider that perhaps they were the problem for the unexplained high rate of mortality. Women in Austria were terrified to give birth in his hospital because of the death toll. The problem was that Semmelweis and his team were performing on cadavers and without washing their hands before tending to women about to give birth, they infected them with deadly germs. Just because you are a medical student does not preclude that you have all the answers – others are doing obesity research that does not support the claims you make. Your credo is to “First do no harm”, do you believe that this campaign does no harm, and furthermore that your comments do no harm?

    Health at Every Size is a peace movement and not just for fat people. I can go at any given time into a workplace cafeteria, sit down with a group of women and 99.9% of the time they will be talking about either a) dieting, b) how fat they are, c)how terrible their bodies look or d) all of the above. How sad is that??

  45. I do not know why people are arguing. The simple fact is this obesity has increased and I think everyone should agree that’s alarming. You don’t see this problem in other countries. The simple facts are any campaign can look alarming because everyone sees it different. But the simple facts I believe is that people should eat healthier and exercise. They are not looking for results of everyone looking the same but feeling the same in health. All this back and forth energy I see should jut be placed on passing the wold forward of containing a more healthy lifestyle. You may do that already or you may not but it’s not judged on weight, the idea is just to be aware of a situation in America.

  46. le probleme est que vos amis ont de bons conseils et mauvais.il ya beaucoup de methodes que vous pouvez choisir.ces talons sont a la mode et a la mode tout en gardant a l’esprit le facteur de conpourt.

  47. hello, facts? do you have any? If you look at any non biased health articles you will find there is 0 scientific evidence that states body fat is directly related to health. Just because you are a bigot doesnt excuse you to ignorance. I swear, so many, so brainwashed.

  48. Oh yes, all fat people just hate themselves. We are SOoo SORRY for not living up to your pathetic standards of what is considered self worth. I live the way i want, how i want. And you think that im treating myself like crap just because i dont slave away at a gym and eat like a rabbit? News flash, i work for a living. When i get home from doing manual labor, i am tired. Im not gunna waste time in a gym just to appease shallow douchebags like yourself. Get yourself checked you narcissistic arse.

  49. Are you KIDDING? Obesity rates are skyrocketing in almost every first world nation. Austrailia is considered even fatter than the united states, britain is considered fatter than the united states, the fattest country in the world is a small island country with an almost 90% obesity rate. For christ sakes do you fat phobic idiots even do anything CLOSE to research? Or do you just blindly believe everything diet pill ads say?

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