Fat is the new Folk Devil

So the Department of Health is continuing it’s relentless assault upon those of us, who are just bad citizens for not being automatically skinny. The latest campaign in their series of adverts designed to make fat people todays folk devil is the Change 4 Life campaign. I won’t link to it, because, frankly, it’s hideous, and their website is so horrible it almost gave me a migraine.

At first I thought Change 4 Life would be ok- it targets parents, and explains the importance of making sure kids have good nutrition. Then however the adverts with lurid fat trains piling up inside a plasticine child’s body came out. At this point I just got cross. Terrifying people into accidentally starving their children, and making children scared of being fat, is not the way to make sure you have healthy, nourished children. And, I KNOW people, who having seen those adverts, will panic that they are accidentally killing their children and promptly slash the amount of food they offer to them.

Then, this morning, I log into my Google reader, and am met with this post from Junkfood Science. It details two advertisements from the Change 4 Life campaign, which were run in womens magazines. Both threaten the children in those adverts, with premature death, – one for eating a cupcake (girl) and one for playing computer games (boy). Besides the obvious and irritatingly sexist assumption that only boys play computer games, and only women care about their childrens nutrition and physical activity levels, both adverts are threatening children with dying for doing two very normal childhood activities.

These adverts make me furious on many levels. As a Mother, it is difficult enough, when my daughter comes home crying because someone at school told her she was fat and ugly (she’s actually ‘underweight’ and always has been). My son regularly refuses to eat foods because he has been told at school that they are bad for him.

As a Gamer, I am annoyed that once again computer games are being blamed for children not doing more activity. Just looking at my kids, and their friends, who all have access to at least one games console, not a one of them engages in less than an hour of physical activity. We live on a council estate, in an area that is recognized as having health inequalities, and a level of comparatively high deprivation. The reason those children have access to games consoles, is because their parents will save all year, scrimping on luxuries, walking instead of taking buses and so on, to get them a console as a big Christmas present. Also, especially with the advent of the Wii and the Blance Board based games, which massively encourage physical activity, and it seems clear to me that once again the Government is falling back on time old and dangerous assumptions.

Finally, as a fat, but healthy, woman, I’m annoyed. This campaign against fatness, which for some of us, is our natural body shape, is infuriating, inaccurate and highly dangerous. Parents need to be supported to make healthy lifestyle choices, with a focus on Health, not avoiding fat. It should not be cheaper to go to Iceland and fill your freezer with frozen, processed foods than be able to buy fresh vegetables and lean meats/fish to cook for your family. Fat people should not have to suffer humiliation, and be accused of being a drain on resources, just because some idiot in a government department decided that fat was the danger of the day, despite an awful lot of evidence suggesting otherwise.