I am disgusted.
I went to the doctors today and in the waiting room was a pile of these.
In case you can’t see them well enough, they’re stickers saying ‘I’m sugar smart’ and were accompanied with a leaflet talking about swapping sugary drinks and snacks for ones with less or no added sugar.
Now I am aware that there are rising obesity levels in this country in children but is it really that big (excuse the pun) of an issue? If the children are happy and healthy (yes that’s right, it is possible to be fat and healthy at the same time, it’s not an oxymoron) then why are we shaming them into change? And in addition to this, there are also children developing eating disorders at a frankly alarming rate. Children as young as 6 years old are being treated for eating disorders and it’s not okay… We simply cannot continue to teach children such unhealthy attitudes surrounding food.
The thing I find the most alarming is the fact that ‘Change for Life’ are encouraging parents to give stickers to their children as a reward for swapping out sugar. It is absolutely disgusting that there will be children, young, impressionable children, being taught that sugar is something to be punished for eating. Because that’s what they’re teaching, if parents are rewarding their kids for not eating sugar then they are also implying that eating sugar is bad, and in effect something to be punished for. You can’t reward them for doing one thing without implying, whether it was intentional or not, that not doing it, or doing the opposite of it, is bad.
Sugar is a necessary part of our diet, no, we shouldn’t eat masses of the stuff all day every day but we also shouldn’t cut it out completely. The leaflet was also encouraging children to choose no added sugar drinks that are packed with sweetener rather than fruit juice purely based on the fact that they have less sugar. What about all the other essential nutrients that children would get from fruit juice? The vitamins, the minerals that are essential for healthy growth and development that they would miss out on because they’ve been taught to fear sugar and are instead consuming artificial, sweetener laden drinks.
I meant to write a post earlier this month when ‘Change 4 Life’ introduced their ‘100 calorie snack’ campaign but found I was just too angry to produce coherent thoughts on the matter. But guess what ‘Change 4 Life?’ I’m ready now and angry as hell.
It’s been out for a while now so you have probably seen the adverts on TV or buses or pretty much anywhere else they could plaster it.
In the campaign they are encouraging children to only have two snacks a day and try and swap their usual snacks for snacks that are under 100 calories. If you can’t see why this has made me angry yet then I promise it’ll become clearer in a second – they’re not promoting the ‘health’ they think they are.
Calorie counting is a dangerous habit to begin. Change 4 Life is encouraging young children to choose meaningless numbers over nutrients. They are encouraging young children to start fearing food, they are encouraging attitudes that could impact a child more than they could begin to comprehend.
Just imagine, if you had a child, and Change 4 Life are targeting children from really young ages, maybe even 3 or 4 years old, that child was lured in by Change 4 Life by the catchy song and bright colours on the advert and that one day you offer them a snack and they turn it down. They say, ‘No, Mummy or Daddy, I can’t eat that, it’s more than 100 calories.’ And so instead they don’t have anything, maybe you’ve run out of rice cakes or apples (bonus points here if you can actually hear my eyes rolling). Your child doesn’t have anything to eat. They lose out on energy that they desperately need, energy that they would use to skip and run and dance, to play with their friends, to be able to concentrate and learn in school. They end up fearing foods with more fats in, which yes aren’t healthy to consume in excess but are VITAL for everyone and especially children to develop properly. Young children need fats for their brain to develop properly (did you know the brain doesn’t stop developing until you’re 25? Just another reason why a comprehensive diet is essential for everyone, at any ages). Imagine your own child starting to count calories, obsessively checking the backs of packets, restricting what they eat because they think it’s good, they’ll get praised for it, they might even get a sticker if they eat less. And what if they eat even less than that? Maybe cut out snacks all together? Will they get two stickers? No. But what they very potentially could get is Anorexia. And if they get Anorexia then they only have an 80% chance of survival. That’s right, 1 in 5 Anorexia sufferers will die, the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Children should not be counting calories. I don’t think anyone should be personally, I think the very idea of it is obsessive and promotes choosing numbers over actual nutrients, promotes coming to view numbers as synonymous with self worth and other things that can’t be defined as simply as that. But children counting calories is a terrifying idea to me. Children are so, so impressionable and if even just one of their friends listens to the adverts then they could be convinced to join in. And then another. And another. And eventually entire groups of children are competing in a game that could lose them their lives.
I hate to be so serious and depressing but this is an incredibly important issue that needs to be addressed quickly before it’s too late, before children are sucked into an eating disorder that will leave a lasting impact on them, cause them huge amounts of trauma and that’s best case scenario. The worst case doesn’t bear thinking about.
So please, think about what you’re teaching children, think about what you’re teaching yourselves. Because if you wouldn’t be happy a child believing or engaging with something then is it really something you want to believe or do yourself? Just something to think about.
Love and hugs as always,
If you connected with what I read even the tiniest bit then please please please sign this petition!