Here we are on November 1, the day after Halloween, when the candy is marked down 30% and Target has swiftly replaced the plastic pumpkins and fake blood with the twinkling lights of Christmas (what? There’s another holiday somewhere in between? To hell, you say!).
The day after a woman in Fargo, North Dakota claimed she was going to give the sturdier trick or treaters who showed up at her door the sweet treat of shame and self loathing, with a healthy dose of parental chastisement. And I’ve been wondering all day, if this lady was truly legit, just how many square inches of her property are NOT covered in TP?
If you haven’t heard the story, and at this point you have most likely been living under a rock if you haven’t, you can find one of the many retellings of it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/30/fat-letters-halloween_n_4177341.html . Basically, a woman wanting to take a stand against childhood obesity claimed that on Halloween this year, she would not pass out candy to children that she deemed to be “moderately obese” (through the apparent use of her bionic eye that instantly calculates BMI from a momentary glance). Instead, THOSE children would receive a snappily crafted letter of good intent informing said child’s parents of her assessment of their irresponsible behavior for allowing their chunky kiddo to be out “looking for free candy just ‘cause other kids are doing it.” She states that she’s looking to send said Mommies and Daddies a message in hopes that they’ll parent-up (my term) “and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”
She is doing this, she claims in her letter, because it ‘takes a village’ to raise children and she is just trying to do her part. I’m sure you can imagine the ‘village idiot’ comments that followed the story.
Let’s assume for a moment (perhaps a rather large assumption) that this woman is, in fact legitimate, and does have a genuine concern for the children’s health in her community. The truth is not only childhood obesity, but adult obesity as well, are a major concern in our society right now. According to the CDC comments in the article mentioned here, childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years, bringing with it all its physical and mental health related issues. That’s the real deal and something we all should be concerned about.
I don’t think there are many people in the U.S. that would deny there’s a problem here. But Fargo Lady’s solution is flawed from the beginning. First of all, why is it ok for kids who don’t LOOK ‘moderately obese’ to be allowed to “consum[e] sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season”? If she is really concerned about childhood obesity, then shouldn’t she not hand out candy to ANY children? Why assume that children who are not currently showing outward signs of obesity have ‘healthy eating habits’?
Several people have suggested she give out healthy snacks, stickers, pencils, quarters, toothbrushes, etc. or simply turn off her light and not give out anything at all. Each of these would support her position of taking a stand against obesity while being inclusive of all children who came to her door.
If Fargo Lady really cares about childhood obesity, she needs to do her research, which shows that shaming children about their weight actually has the opposite effect (see article) and can increase their obesity risk. If she really cares about childhood obesity and wants to be part of her village, perhaps she could consider volunteering at her local Y or Boys and Girls Club to organize fitness activities, healthy food tastings, parent and child cooking classes, nutritional classes, etc. There are so many positive ways to support all children and help them make changes that could last a lifetime.
May people have commented on this story that they use Halloween as a learning tool to teach lessons about moderation, portion, and nutrition in a kid friendly way that still allows their children to have treats but understand why gorging is a bad choice for many different reasons and that treats are just that.
Until my son was 5 years old, I did not let him have any candy at all. He is in no way considered obese and had no health problems and I want to keep it that way. We had occasional treats that were high quality and few and far between, but no candy. He would dress up for Halloween every year, but we didn’t go out trick or treating. And I didn’t give out candy, because I thought, how can I justify giving stuff out to other kids that I won’t let my own kid have? So instead he would dress up and we’d go do something fun and then go out to eat (not fast food) and have a yummy dinner that we both enjoyed. We still do that—Halloween dinner is our family tradition. In recent years, I’ve allowed some occasional chocolates.
Now 7, this was the first year we went out to trick or treat. We only went to one place: our local high school that was doing an indoor trick or treat charity event. He got plenty of candy (enough to last at least a month or more at a piece a day) and even offered to share with me. I told him I would buy from him any candy that he wasn’t allowed to have and he could put that money in his savings bank to spend on what he wants (with Mom approval!). He was happy as a clam.
As to Fargo Lady and her plans, I don’t really understand how she’s going to ‘deem’ children ‘moderately obese’ simply by looking at them, in costume, no less. Clearly there are some people you can look at and see that they are heavier than others, but where is that line? Is she going to hide a scale in her porch steps. Shall the children fill out a height/weight chart prior to ringing the doorbell? Perhaps they should have a note from their doctor stating that they are healthy enough for trick or treating activity.
Because the truth is, you don’t know what’s going on with that kid in front of you. What medication she’s on, what illness he has. Perhaps this is the one night she gets to go out with her friends and feel like a ‘normal’ kid. Perhaps he’s recovering from an injury. I am not making excuses, just indicating that there are a lot of factors that can’t be taken into consideration with a quick glance in the dark.
Can you imagine being six, seven, ten, twelve years old, going up to someone’s door with three or four of your friends or neighbors and each of them receives a candy except you? Wow. I WAS that ‘moderately obese’ child. And I would have gone home and cried myself to sleep.
There’s a better way. I hope Fargo Lady found it.
Because I’ve gotta be honest. If that were MY kid who came home with tears in his eyes and a note such as hers in his hand, I’d be makin’ a trip to the local Quicky Mart for a dozen large whites and some Angel Soft. It would be totally wrong of me, but I wouldn’t care. I would be taking a stand against bullying in my village. Perhaps I’d even leave her a snappily worded letter of good intent.