She Feels Pretty but...

Chloe McSwain as Maritza in Georgia's Strong4Life childhood obesity ad campaign.


Have you checked out my latest column on Owning Pink? If you haven't, let me give you the short version: Georgia ranks #2 in the nation for childhood obesity and decided to use shaming tactics directed at our children in order to get the point across that things need to change.

I know.

Trust me.

I'm a smartass, sure. But I'm also a recovering bulimic, a (mostly) recovering binge eater, and probably rank a 10 on the How Messed Up is YOUR Body Image scale. Growing up I was always referred to as The Big Girl because what else were you going to call the 5'1'' eight-year-old who was borrowing her mother's jeans? Exactly. It's okay. The complex I have now is probably old enough to be considered retro.

It may be up for public debate how Georgia's Strong4Life campaign is going to affect our kids (for the record, my bet's on more bad than good) but one of the featured child actresses, Chloe McSwain, has spoken out recently saying she feels pretty and feels confident. That's all well and good, but she also is quoted as saying she needs to get healthier and lose weight and that the ads are meant to help other children do the same.

I'm applaud this little girl's self-image, (of course she's pretty) but if this is any indication of how these ads are going to affect other children her age, I don't like it. The girl is no doubt reiterating what she has heard other adults say and quite frankly, it's disturbing to me to hear a girl as young this one equate health and weight. The two are not mutually exclusive no matter what anyone says.

The problem is that no one who has ever chased shame with a Twinkie or dealt with an eating disorder can actually understand what the thought process is like for someone who has, or at the very least, is even susceptible. And I'm glad for that. If you have no idea what I'm talking about and assume I'm just bitching about these ads because I was a fat child who didn't like getting picked on and s ee nothing wrong with the approach, then good for you. I'm glad you grew up with a healthy body image and boat loads of confidence and didn't cry yourself to sleep because you got made fun of in swim class again. But throwing these ads in the faces of a new generation of children already primed for a skewed sense of reality and no control over what the government is calling a vegetable in the school cafeteria is just adding gas to an already smoking fire.

The actress feels pretty and confident. That makes me feel good for her and for her future sense of self worth. But what about the children who will see the ads in which she and other children are featured?

I'll tell you a secret: I made myself throw up for the first time after watching a news special on eating disorders because it sounded like a good idea. I was 15! Who's going to address damage control for those who, when they look at the messages emblazoned upon them, see a reason to follow down the same path?