Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fries with that?

Researchers from Yale University found that kids are seeing more fast food ads than ever before.

"The fast food industry has stepped up their marketing efforts," Harris says.

Harris and her colleagues analyzed ads aired by 12 chains, including Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC and McDonald's. She found that preschoolers are seeing 21 percent more ads for fast food, and older children are seeing 34 percent more — compared with 2003.

"The numbers are pretty amazing," Harris says.

Re-posted from npr.org.  For full story, go here.

For some inspiration, though, take a glance at Christina Le Beau's blog, where she recently wrote about banning McEducation.

Today I'm struggling with a little bit of despair.  I don't let myself wallow here too long, but this morning I heard three similar pieces of news on the radio.

And yesterday I took Miss C to the park to play.  There were 7 other little kids, and 5 of them were not overweight, they were obese.  And they were under the age of 8.  They were winded after trying to play tag, after trying to climb a slide, and all their little spirits wanted to do was play, but their bodies were not able to sustain it. 
One by one, each little one ended up sitting on a bench, swinging their legs and kicking at the ground. 
My heart ached. 

I see all these tangent efforts because the root of the issue has not been addressed.

I see parents all over trying to find the best way to talk to kids and educate kids in the midst of this nuttiness.  And there are organizations that serve as watchdogs, monitoring when companies have something really egregious that is being sold to kids.

We can ban selling cigarettes to kids and we can make laws about child seats, and bicycle helmets.
And we can see this incredible evidence mounting, and multiplying, that advertising to kids is really, truly, making them sick in their bodies and sick in their minds.

But still no policy to protect them.


  1. Mary, I couldn't agree with you more on this one, and what's even scarier is that we are blazing the trail for the rest of the world. Driving through San Jose this evening, I was shaking my head at all of the fast-food restaurants and advertisements for sugary drinks, candy, etc. It's truly terrifying to think about how sick people will become and how much they will suffer if we don't wake up and change our ways.

  2. Well, there's an experimental rule here in San Francisco starting shortly banning toys with children's meals with more than a designated amount of fat, sugar, and calories. So technically, McD's could still give out Happy Meal toys (with their nuggets, apples, milk meal), but they're going to try to make a point and stop carrying the toys altogether. My son really wanted some of the toys, but we avoided the food -- you can buy the toys separately (or on eBay).

    It's a start!

  3. I have to say I am disappointed in the content of this post. These children whose "little spirits" wanted to play, were doing just that--and you were judging them-- by their level of ability and physical appearance. I am all for healthier eating and more activity, but this can happen at any size. I hate to think of the day that those kids at the park will be alerted to the fact that their bodies are the subject of public scrutiny. I hate to think that these children who were playing in the park will learn to be ashamed of themselves, to hide themselves away until they are a more socially acceptable size. The simple fact is that you have no earthly idea what these kids eat, and presumed to know based on nothing but their outward appearance. You can't preach bodily autonomy and healthy self image to your daughter while simultaneously communicating that fat is a terrible thing to be. All bodies are deserving of respect. And judging people by appearances is wrong. Full stop.

  4. I teach at a preschool and we have children of all sizes, including I guess what some people would perceive as "fat," but they are able to run around non-stop on park days just like every child between 2 and 5 should. I don't see this post as a comment on health through physical features or that fat is a terrible thing to be; the observation at the park serves as an anecdote of a bigger problem. Target advertising, maybe? Eating habits? That too much of anything will catch up to you in the long run?

  5. I don't think the post was malicious so much as an example of internalized prejudice and/or confirmation bias. I agree that there is a problem with targeted advertising, and that too much of anything will have negative effects. But using "fat" as shorthand for the problem is body policing. Had the kids at the park been thin, and gotten winded, I just don't think the immediate thought would have been "Poor innocent victims of evil fast food," and may have even escaped without notice, since we are not socialized to immediately single out thin kids as The Problem, or an illustration of it. We need to shift the conversation to health, and stop the focus on size. Look to our new Surgeon General for a beautiful example of this message. Because when we reinforce the idea that certain bodies are problematic, however unintentionally, we keep fat firmly situated as something you are, and should be ashamed of and trying to fix, or something you're not, but should be terrified of becoming.

  6. Susan--a start is better than no start. This is a beginning, and I'll be interested to see how it goes.

    Amy--I hate it when a typo appears in my logic, and yet, as Anne Lamott says, "Isn't it so beautiful when someone tells you the truth?" You are right in that the focus needs to be on health and off of weight and size. And you are right that instead of noticing the kids playing, I used a lens to view their inactivity as related to perceived lack of health due to weight. Mea culpa.

    There can be co-existing truths that make approaching a problem complicated.
    One truth is that there is absolutely a body prejudice in which we attribute positive qualities to thin people, based on no other evidence other than they are thin. And negative qualities to anyone who doesn't fit into this very narrow slot.
    Another truth is that there is a crisis of health among children, an unprecedented rate of Type II diabetes, and other illnesses that have to do solely with our toxic diet. A diet which is touted and advertised to the tune of several billion dollars to unsuspecting kids and parents.

    Maybe a solution is not so complicated. Perhaps it just requires a bit more practice, invovling:
    1. body acceptance, of all sizes
    2. identifying when bias is taking place (internal mind-plumbing)
    3. focusing on health and wholeness not attached to size and weight.

    And of course, as I imperfectly communicated, an end to the advertising to our youngest consumers. Full stop.