California anti-obesity ads Photoshop kids to make them look fat, public backlash ensues

·Contributing Writer
California anti-obesity ads Photoshop kids to make them look fat, public backlash ensues

A California government agency is taking heat for running a bunch of anti-obesity ads as part of their new campaign that is gracing the city streets of San Francisco and other areas of the state.

The public service ads by First 5 feature an obese black girl drinking sugar out of a cardboard box with a straw. Obviously not a realistic scenario, but its intention is simply to shock.

"It was intended to show parents the real-life consequences of obesity and what sugar can do to our children's lives," First 5 spokesperson Lindsay VanLaningham tells MSN. "The ads have just started going up in a series of convenience stores in certain parts of the state where it's hard to get access to healthy food … areas deemed 'food deserts.'"

Below the girl in the ad, the tagline reads: "'Less sugar' still has too much sugar. Sugary drinks like juice, sports drinks and soda can cause obesity. Choose milk and water instead."

There are similar ads targeting the Asian population, which are not in English.

Also see: Surprising thing that could lead to childhood obesity

And turns out, the photos have been altered.

"They are just stock images which were Photoshopped," VanLaningham says. "When you are handing a child soda or a juice box to drink you might as well be handing them a packet of sugar. Because that's what happening."

But it appears some California residents and journalists are outraged, claiming that despite the lack of statistical data to support the ads effectiveness, they also engage in "fat shaming" by making kids and adult feel terrible about themselves.

Jezebel points to recent data that suggests anti-obesity programs only result in a one pound weight loss.

"Is the one pound weight loss enough to justify the time, cost, and effort put into this campaign?" writes Laura Beck.

Also see: School obesity-prevention programs could actually trigger eating disorders

It's worth noting, however, that some for the data Beck references is not entirely applicable. Some of the studies do not specifically look at the effectiveness of anti-obesity ads, but rather a range of other anti-obesity tactics including school diet and exercise programs.

And then there is disgusted San Francisco resident Marilyn Wann who has taken the liberty of putting the original image of the black girl beside the Photoshopped image and posted it to Facebook and Tumblr, calling the ad campaign "hateful."

"Children of all sizes deserve to be valued as they are and supported in eating and exercising, because these behaviors are fun, feel good, and are good for health. No shame or blame!" she writes.

Her post, as of Thursday, has received 19 shares, 75 comments, and 48 likes.

What are your thoughts on these types of anti-obesity ads? Do you believe they are effective?