Michelle Obama Could Learn Something from 1970s PSA Commercials

It isn't a secret that Michelle Obama is on the front lines in the war on childhood obesity. She has no problems making her own daughters pawns in that war as she talks about their BMIs and how concerned she was to see those number creeping up.

This war on childhood obesity has been on my mind a lot lately. I think it sucks. But I also know that things didn't suddenly start sucking for fat kids with the current US administration.

A big part of the problem is with semantics. A drive to increase every child's access to healthful food and encourage them to get out and move their bodies more maybe not have the zing of War on Obesity--but it would have had a better chance at actually impacting the rate of childhood obesity in America.

I think  someone needs to do a study and find the things that have worked. Are there any programs that have had success in improving children's health and fitness without shaming or making fat kids the target of bullying? There are people talking about childhood obesity and nutrition and physical fitness in a balanced way and professionals working with children of all sizes in body positive ways. Those results should be collected and studied.

Because the mainstream anti-fat kid meme is not only not working, it's causing harm.

I was thinking the other night about these Saturday morning PSA cartoons that used to come on in the 1970s when I was a kid. Does anyone else remember Time for Timer?

Timer was some kind of yellow blob with long arms and legs, and a pocket watch. I watched some of the old commercials this weekend, and what struck me is that rather than telling kids what they shouldn't do--Timer told us to eat a chilled bowl of veggies and cheese and olives while we were watching TV, or have some cheese and crackers if we were hungry.

My favorite was the one where he said it was okay to eat cold chicken for breakfast.

There was also one where he taught kids to make frozen juice in an ice tray with toothpick handles, and another where he talked matter of factly about the reasons why we all needed to eat protein, carbs and fat (yes, fat.)

The best part about those little cartoons was that there was no sad-faced little fat kid who couldn't breathe after a few minutes of exercise or insinuations that not eating cheese for a snack was going to kill you if your BMI was too high, or threads of death if you're a fat kid and didn't skip that chicken leg for breakfast and have some fat-free something instead.

Michelle Obama has obviously not figured out a way yet to get her message about childhood health across in a way that does not instigate war on the very kids she wants to protect. But it can be done. She could start by taking a cue from Timer and widening her message to include all Saturday morning cartoon watchers.

And stop with the war thing. Really. If you're worried about a child's health, is engaging in war against their body the best tactic?

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Come join the conversation on Facebook. (I couldn't get the Timer videos to embed, so you'll find them there.)

Shaunta Grimes blogs about body acceptance and athleticism for everyone at Live Once, Juicy. She can also be found on Twitter.

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