Childhood Obesity: Is Mom to Blame?

A controversial PSA points the finger squarely at parents.

Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Meet Jim, a 300-pound man on an operating table in the year 2030. He is 32 years old and just had a heart attack, which prompts a surgeon to ask, How the hell does that happen?

The PSA rewinds to baby Jim, and we find out: It’s because his mom fed him french fries—to stop him from crying.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta released the video, called “Rewind the Future,” in 2012, but it went viral this week.

“Now was when the conversation was ready to happen,” Carolina Cruxent, a wellness marketer from CHA, told Yahoo Health. “The time was just right.”

Cruxent refers to the nationwide discourse on obesity, recently heightened by debates about school lunches and soda bans. The PSA’s finger-pointing provoked the ire of many. Charlotte Alter wrote about the campaign for Time, titling her piece “If You’re Fat, Blame Your Mom, Says Controversial PSA.”

Some experts simply don’t think the clip is effective.

“If what you want is to have a helpful effect on childhood obesity, the research is clear that shocking and stigmatizing doesn’t really help,” obesity researcher Ted Kyle told Yahoo Health. “Shame is not a friend to promoting health.”

The PSA was better received on Reddit, where the video first resurfaced. One user wrote, “Wow. As an overweight mother this hit hard.” Another poster said, “I’m 5'9", 32 years old, and almost 300 pounds…. I think for the first time, a PSA got to me.”

While the PSA’s intended message, according to CHA—that kids could end up like Jim if we don’t act now—makes a valid point, the video’s simplistic conceit is misleading. Many parents, for instance, turn to cheap and fast food because it's affordable.

Take Compton, Calif., a city in Los Angeles County where the median household income is $42,335. More than half of fifth, seventh, and ninth graders who live there are obese. Drive 40 minutes to Arcadia, Calif., where the median household income is $77,342, and the rate drops to 25.1 percent.

Other factors come into play, and obesity’s causes are varied and complex. But it’s not the massive problem it is because moms use french fries to hush up their babies.

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