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confuse, shame kids- at a birthday party! :)

Posted by on Sep 12, 2011 in Blog Posts | 10 comments

In case you can’t read it, it talks about exercise, and asks kids, “How many minutes would you have to do jumping- jacks to burn off  a 200 calorie candy-bar?”

It also says, “sitting around is for wimps!”

Nice. Let’s name-call the kiddies, shame them for sitting (which they do all day in school BTW, and ‘watch it if you like playing piano, or making your own cartoon books, or you get lost in building a lego creation, you wimp!’) Then throw in some developmentally inappropriate and harmful “nutrition” information to “motivate” them to be “healthy” (code for “not fat” BTW.) This kind of “fun” info/quiz was printed on the “goodie-bag” that my then 4 year-old brought home from a birthday party at Pump it Up. Not kidding.  Here’s your pencil, your inflatable little ball and a nice dose of shame and body-image dissatisfaction! The same party that served pizza, juice boxes, cake and ice-cream. Hey, kids! How many hours would you have to do jumping jacks to work-off that pizza, cake and ice-cream that we just gave you, and that, incidentally is where we make most of our profits! (Anyone out there want to tell me? It’s probably, like, ten hours? (Which is meaningless anyway.)

I’m just over it. Sick and tired. Thankful she couldn’t read. In what universe is this helpful to children? Serve a captive audience “bad” food, then make them feel guilty about it, call them names… Studies show that girls as young as four report feeling guilt and shame when they eat “forbidden foods.” Does anyone think this kind of thing honestly helps anyone? (Here is another example, and another example..)

Thanks again for letting me rant. If you see something like this, complain, make your voice heard. Maybe if enough of us complain, something will change. (BTW, I like Pump it Up, I think these inflatable play-grounds are a great way to help kids have fun ways to move their bodies- especially in Minnesota when it’s below zero for weeks at a time. I also like pizza (though M doesn’t ironically) and I like cake and ice-cream. I don’t like giving kids mixed messages and shaming them “for their own good.”

What do you think? Where have you seen the most egregious offenders?

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  1. Kate

    Katja, you know my history and all this hand wringing over food is horrific for me to watch.

    I have a feeling that in a few years the obesity “epidemic” will be much worse, as well as an increase in disorded eating, but the powers that be will not have learned the right lesson, but rather they will prescribe more restricting and shaming. Yuck.

    • katja

      It is horrific, and much of it is so avoidable. I don’t know if we’ll see obesity rates rise or not, as those had already stabilized and begun to come down slightly. I do think we will see misery, disordered eating and eating disorders of all kinds affect more and more individuals. When I did a staff inservice at an ED clinic, there were 3, 8 year olds hospitalized. Two were boys…

  2. Jess

    The worst thing I’ve ever encountered personally was a Dora the Explorer “healthy habits” workbook that involved drawing sad faces next to cake and smiley faces next to carrots. Oy vey.

    Talking about calories is virtually meaningless with ADULTS much less kids. What does 200 calories mean to a kid? And why should they have to burn it off? What if that 200 calorie candy bar was a special treat for snack one day– maybe it doesn’t have any more calories than their standard snack which fuels their normal playground play.

    OTOH, we just returned from a week at my mother-in-law’s house– we were offered dessert 17 times in 6 days (yes, I counted; yes, cake was on the table at breakfast; yes, she gave the baby ice cream and pudding when I wasn’t looking!) and we ate red meat once or twice a day! A few sad, over-cooked vegetables put in an appearance.

    Of course I let my 4 y.o. son eat what he wanted– how could I not when everything was in front of him? One week of grandma’s sweets smorgasbord won’t kill him, but jeez, how ’bout some balance grandma.

    *sigh* Why is moderation so unpopular?

  3. Twistie

    Anne has an excellent point about how this sort of Jekyll/Hyde stuff comes about from trying to please all sides. But I have to say, at four I could read and was a voracious reader. If I couldn’t get a section of the newspaper I enjoyed (usually the funnies at that age) at breakfast, I would read the cereal box or the milk carton. Anything I could get my hands on. I even taught myself to read upside down (when I do it now and people look surprised I explain it’s a natural outcropping of three kids and only one set of sunday comics) so that I could read more. Reading that bag would have done a hideous number on my mind at four.

    Sure, I loved to play hard. I adored jumping rope, sliding down the hilly vacant lot across the street on a broken down cardboard box, hopscotch… most of the usual things for the time and place. But I could amuse myself for hours on end with a good book or two, I loved to draw, and some of my best bonding moment with my mother were over old movies and first run Star Trek.

    In all the hysteria over obesity, I find myself worried that people are forgetting that bodies are not the only things that need to be thoughtfully fed and exercised. Brains matter, too.

    I’m glad my mother spent more time teaching me to break down the logic of television commercials than policing me about whether I’d done enough jumping jacks to ‘make up for’ having a candy bar.

    • katja

      I’m glad too! I think so many folks who come up with these messages are not informed, mean well on some level, often themselves are naturally very fit and lean, are among the privileged, and end up doing more harm than good.

  4. erylin

    it is stuff like this that causes a 10 year old to declare “i”m just not eating anymore.”

    my eight year old holds her breath all the time. we talk about how diets don’t work, she already eats almost vegetarian anyway with most of her diet in the form of fresh fruit and veggies (she has ALWAYS eaten liked this, ever since age 3) and she gets plenty of exersizes…but she still doesn’t like how her tummy pokes out so she is going to hold her breath so its smaller. and the good food bad food they teach at school is bs. I wonder if we ever get to hit these initiatives with class action lawsuits when 1/3 of our younger population ends up with disordered eating. They were fed a steady helping of “diet so you dont end up with CHILDHOOD OBESITY oogga booga.” in every health class, tv show and book they see.

    • katja

      Oy. I am so sorry. That is concerning, and maddening. I do think we will regret this campaign for many, many years to come… We shouldn’t be silent. I will soon be asking to know what the nutrition curriculum is. Hey, if parents get to know about and opt out of sex-ed stuff, this to me is equally, if not more important… Be heard people, ask if your school plans to measure BMI, ask about health and nutrition classes. Ask to sit in on those days…

  5. Anne

    Not meaning to defend this type of thing but I sometimes think these places are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They are a business, and as such exist to turn a profit – and what is profitable is inevitably the so-called “bad stuff” (slight aside: I used to work for a movie theater – the concession stand was the money maker because it literally cost fractions of a cent to make popcorn and soda, and they can sell it at like 300% markup)

    But then the other side is the pressure from consumer watchdog groups and the government (one example being Michelle Obama’s initiatives though it’s not the only one) to add “healthy” (read more expensive to produce) options and encourage kids to be active. The easiest (cheapest) way to do this is to buy some stock “healthy living” copy. In the end you get one big hypocritical mess.

    • katja

      Anne, thanks for the comment! Let me clarify, I have no problem with the food they were served. I do balk at spoiling it with “health” messages… There is a place for pizza, ice-cream and cake, and I think a birthday party is that place :) I also don’t begrudge them making a profit. I was chatting with the owner of “Club Just Jump” in Woodbury. It’s awesome. The kids can run around and have a ball for hours for $5. There is a sign that says, “no outside food” and he sells juice, apple-sauce, crackers, and other options along with the “crap.” And it’s pure juice box, for $1. I think it’s pretty reasonable to ask that families support the business, but he gets people all the time who bring in food, and complain about the price, and ask for “multiple child discounts.” I get it that it might not be cheap with 2 or 3 kids, but the guy also does have to make a living… It is tough!

      • Anne

        Oh, I know you didn’t – I was directing that more at the people who pressure a place like that to have a health message in the first place.

        Like McDonald’s being pressured to start “baking” their apple pies – man, I miss those old deep fried pies that I knew weren’t the best thing I could eat but you know, I can make that decision myself :)