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Disney, where nightmares come true

Posted by on Feb 23, 2012 in Blog Posts | 10 comments

I read with horror the new “Habit-Heroes” exhibit at Epcot which is described as interactive... and may I add, shameful, bullying and inaccurate?

It panders to the worst of the worst: bullying, weight stigma, gross stereotypes, medical inaccuracies and more.

(Ironically, when I went to Disney last year, and tried one lunch to sub a yogurt for the obligatory twice a day cake that came with the meal plan, I was told I couldn’t! Hey kids, don’t be gluttons, but enjoy your choice of only chicken tenders or mac n cheese with your fries!)

This has to stop. No longer are our schools safe for children, now even Disney is jumping on the fat-hating band-wagon. Our kids will not be healthier for it, and certainly not happier. See my old post about subverting the princesses…

I was hoping to go to Disney next year, and Epcot is off the list for sure. I tried to call several numbers listed on BEDA’s website, but couldn’t get through. I did write an email. I’ll keep you posted if I find someone somewhere to complain to. BCBS as a co-sponsor is partly to blame to, but no surprise there…

Body-shaming makes kids (and adults) less healthy, feel bad about themselves in every way, less likely to be physically active, more likely to diet, oh, and yes, gain weight, and more likely to pick up disordered eating habits.

 

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10 Comments

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  1. ruth

    PS: I hope you put Epcot back on your list for next year. I didn’t think I would love Disney very much, and in fact I didn’t love certain parts of it, but the design your own roller coaster exhibit (across from the now-former habit heroes) is genius.

    • katja

      if you email me privately katja@thefeedingdoctor.com, I can give you a name and number of someone I talked to. They say there is a “disconnect” and that the people who went through the exhibit were “overwhelmingly positive.” I think your voice would be welcome…

  2. ruth

    I would be happy to write them a letter, that is a great idea.

  3. ruth

    What a coincidence!

    I just went to Epcot with my two kind-of fat kids, 7 and 9, and I did the Habit Heroes stuff with them (my actual fat 7yo girl was wild about it, did it twice and wanted to do it more). I do believe the bullying aspect of it was lost on both of them, although they thought the final shot of the fat guy breaking through the wall was hilarious. I was pretty offended by the fat woman character who was in charge of encouraging people to snack, especially considering that weight loss advice often contains instructions to eat small meals throughout the day instead of three big ones, just like our friend Ellyn. The snacker lady is a ridiculous and non-nuanced character, and the whole “snacking is a terrible habit” is counterproductive, I think, especially evidenced by the fact that all around you at Disney there are people walking around and eating snacks all day–we had our three meals and two snacks a day (mostly) and it was overall a success, I’d say, except that my family got a little tired of having to walk so far and look so hard for a place where we could eat *and* drink *and* sit, simultaneously.

    Anyway, I think my kids were sort of immune to the fat hate because they don’t get it much at home (I think they do get it sometimes at school or other places, so it’s not completely absent). It did lead to a good conversation about how it’s really hard to control your body weight and people who try to do that through diet usually fail and end up even fatter, but a healthy person can do things to help his or her body become more powerful (I am a fat physically fit person, my husband is a not-fat person with a lot of physical limitations). The main messages of the exhibit were to turn off the tv (loved it); focus on eating healthy foods instead of unhealthy ones (not wild about it, but would have loved it if the message were more like, “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satisfied, know that another eating opportunity will soon arise) and get lots of fun exercise (loved it again).

    • katja

      Thank you so much for writing in! I am glad to hear they enjoyed it. That is a relief, and yes, the mixed messages are ridiculous! This is what is so sad about so much of the educational efforts. There is so much good stuff out there, but it is truly spoiled by the parts that just don’t get it. There are plenty of lean and unhealthy people, and I’m tired of the visual depictions of unhealthy habits and large bodies (and the food spilled everywhere, and the messy house, and the dirty hair…) perhaps that is only their online characters though?
      Anyway, thanks for the feedback!
      Perhaps you would be willing to write them a letter? I know there are many groups writing them now about the exhibit.

    • Nailah

      Hi Ruth,

      I’m a producer for a national TV show and I’m exploring this story. I’d like the opportunity to reach out to you. Can you contact me at TVproducer386@yahoo.com?

      Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you.

      ~Nailah

  4. Denise Bickel

    Regarding weighing…for a pediatrician, I can see why monitoring weight would be important since children are growing. but college students?? when I was in college i sure as heck would have known if i gained or lost weight since i owned about 4 prs of jeans and one ‘nice” outfit for going out ( though kids today may be more affluent). I am sick of the weighing trend in this country. About 6 months ago i was in a bad horse riding accident. on the first visit to the ER, they took my estimated weight ( my size and weight have remained stable for over 10 yrs, and as a former anorexic, i don’t get on scales anymore, period) and were happy with it. then they missed the 6 rib fractures , brachial plexus impingement, and pneumothorax ( in addition to a compound collar bone fracture with sternal displacement) and sent me home with a sling. i returned 24 hrs later, grey, bp 190/120, unable to feel my left hand ( broken side) and in phenomenal pain that even the narcotic pain killers the first doc had given me were not touching. go to intake–and they want to weigh me! i politely explain to them that I am a recovered anorexic and don’t get on scales, and that I was in a lot of pain, and if they looked at my paper work from the previous night, they would see that the doctor was happy with my estimated weight. we were in a stand off for 15 minutes. they even had a doctor come in to lecture me on the importance of monitoring weight to stay healthy..Aagh!! I had obvious skin tenting and massive bruising over my fracture, I was wearing my partners ( 5 ft 10 and 210 lbs to my 5ft2 135 lbs) clothing because i couldn’t get any of my own clothes on due to the enormous swelling in my torso, and i was having trouble standing up, but i needed a lecture on the obesity crisis. then they tried to pull the science card –‘what if we need to calculate a drug dosage?”..i’m a veterinarian..i told them that if there was any drug with such a small margin of safety that 10 lbs either way would cause an emergency, i didn’t want to receive that drug, since scales had a margin of error as well. Eventually i had to very bluntly say “its my right to refuse to be weighed. if my refusal to be weighed means you will not treat me in this emergency room, please tell me, so that i can leave and go to another hospital where i can get the care i need”. I think there is a bit of national hysteria when there is that much fuss over weighing someone with obvious injuries. all I can say is i would NOT want to be an overweight kid today…and I am normal weight and look that way..don’t even want to know what a mess it would have been if i’d been overweight…i would love to find that intake nurse and let her know that shortly after our argument, a chest tube was being rammed between my ribs to drain the liter of blood in my chest cavity..but obesity is the REAL danger

    • katja

      Denise,
      This may be a good topic for another post. I have to say I see both sides of it. If you needed to be rushed to surgery, I would want to have an accurate weight if I was an anesthesiologist, but I see your points. having worked in college health, and also thinking about how I think I am fairly sensitive to the implications of weighing, I do think there are times that following weight can be helpful. What about the freshman who suddenly drops twenty pounds, but is in denial about the disorder. A clinician who doesn’t know her/him may not know the student, but the weight would be a major red flag. Or the student who never weighs himself at home, and finds he has gained seventy-five pounds (being married to a man who doesn’t weight himself, and had something similar to this happen) it can be helpful info. Is it thyroid? Depression? Stress, sleep, change in habits? I guess I think there are times when weight gives helpful information, and I think it is a great discussion we should be having! Thanks for sharing, and I am thankful they figured out what was wrong, just sorry it took so long! I hope you feel better soon, and good for you for standing up for what you needed. It can be very hard to stand up to health care professionals.Lecturing about the dangers of weight was totally not appropriate, and your refusal should have been accepted. And, yes, there is a total national hysteria :)

  5. Becky Henry

    Thank you for sharing your insights on this issue. I cannot believe how thoughtless people are being about shaming obese and fat children. I know their intentions are good…well, in the case of Disney it is likely about the bottom line…so maybe I’m giving them too much credit.

    Nonetheless – your bottom line is going to bottom out if you offend too many people. And the bad karma of making such a joyful event as going to WDW a nightmare for a lot of children will be come back to haunt them in this small world.

    Next, will you please do a talk for college health services to STOP commenting on students weight and insisting on the ridiculous practice of weighing them? PLEASE? Let’s make a DVD together and send it to colleges!!! They must be educated.

    Becky Henry
    Hope Network, LLC

    • katja

      we should have that talk! I worked in college health, and see both sides of the issue. I do think as an MD, one can be thoughtful about the need to follow or check weight, and certainly commments aren’t necessary! This is a complex issue, but clearly one that is not being handled well in many cases!

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