Hey BlueCross – Nobody Needs Your Dialog

BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota has jumped on the get-points-by-shaming-fatties bandwagon. They have created a series of ads that shame fat parents of fat kids by asserting that they are walking, talking stereotypes.

One of the ads shows two kids bragging about how much their dads can eat, and trying to one-up each other. A dad walks up, overhears and looks, with extreme guilt, at the tray of burgers fries and drinks.  Right – “My dad can eat more than your dad!” said no kid ever.  Another shows a fat mom putting junk food into her cart and then she looks back and sees her daughter putting the same junk food in her tiny cart.

There’s no news on who should be shamed if thin parents have fat kids or if fat parents have thin kids – maybe  it’s just more fun for BCBS to shame two fat people at a time.  Plus you gotta love the reinforcement of a prejudicial stereotype – there are no ads where thin parents who feed their thin kids fast food get shamed even though that happens everyday,  because everybody (especially a health insurance company) knows that you can look at people fully clothed and know everything about their eating and exercise habits and health. (Sarcasm level is a 10 out of 10)

Also, there’s research that shows that you just can’t shame people healthy.  Rebecca Puhl’s research out of Yale found that:

People feel much more motivated and empowered to make healthy lifestyle changes when campaign messages are supportive and encourage specific health behaviors.  But when campaign messages communicate shame or blame or stigma, people report much less motivation, and lower intentions to improve their health behaviors.

Hey, look over there – it’s a big flaming sack of duh! Marc Manley, the vice president and chief prevention officer of BCBS Minnesota and one of the architects of the campaign responded “Just because people like an ad doesn’t mean it moves them to action” There are only two reasons I can imagine that he thought this was a valid response –  he  is a moron with low reading/listening comprehension or he just forgot to eat his bowl of No Shit Sherlock Flakes that morning. In case he reads this blog I’ll break it down into words I hope he’ll find himself able to comprehend:  shame bad. Surely he must not understand the information because someone who cares about health – when presented with evidence that their intervention is likely to have the exact opposite effect of what they were looking for = will not react with vaguely tangential platitudes.

But it gets better – when pressed further Manley took a page from Children’s Healthcare for Atlanta when they were roundly criticized for a campaign that purported to shame fat kids healthy: When you’re caught doing something that is likely to have the exact opposite of its intended effect, which you should have known if you had done even the most basic research, just say your goal was to “Start a Dialog.”  Move the goal post and declare victory – nobody will even notice and you’ll get points for “bravely talking about” something that nobody in the entire world can shut the hell up about for five minutes.

Let me make this clear:  the dialog is already happening, the dialog is a massive problem already – fat people are shamed about their bodies 386,170 times a year.  If you think that that your 386,171st shaming is what someone was waiting for to really hate themselves healthy then you are too stupid to be a vice president and chief prevention officer of anything ever.  Seriously, you’ve done enough – way the hell more than enough – go sit down now, nobody needs your  intervention or your dialog.

Activism Opportunity

If you have thoughts you’d like to share with the good people at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, you can contact them at

centerinfo@bluecrossmn.com or Toll-free at 1-800-760-0052

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Published in: on October 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm  Comments (21)  

21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Let’s see… I turn on my computer, go to my email, and there’s an ad for how Sensa can reduce my body size by 75% when I lose up to three dress sizes.

    I turn on my television and there’s instantly an ad for Weight Watchers… followed by one for Jenny Craig… followed by one for some zero calorie, carb free, fat free, Frankenfood that will make me magically lose huge amounts of weight if I just substitute it for another food I almost never eat. And then the program comes on with a dozen casual assumptions about how fat people live and eat.

    I go to the movies, and the fattest person on the screen is virtually inevitably the ‘funny’ one we laugh at rather than with and who will never, ever, ever get laid.

    I walk into a restaurant and all my companions take a glance at the menu and then start talking about all the foods they can’t have if they want to be ‘good’ and lose weight so they won’t get as fat as I am. If I order a salad, everyone assumes I’m being ‘good’ and dieting. If I order a burger, everyone assumes I’m ‘bad’ and not dieting. Nobody thinks my food choice du jour could have anything to do with what I happen to be hungry for, or what I am asking my body to do that day.

    If I read or watch the news, about every third story is regarding one of the following: a new pronouncement that being fat will kill me in the next ten seconds, ZOMG! we’re all getting fatter and soon the planet will collapse under the weight of all the fatties, ‘newly discovered miracle food’ which will make us all thin… and which, as often as not, I’ve been eating for years simply because I like it and hasn’t made me thin, or a newly discovered link between some popular food I never touch with a barge pole that’s why everyone is so damn fat.

    If I am in a car or on a bus somewhere, about every second billboard on the road is an ad for a health insurance provider saying that one soda at age five will doom us all to a short, painful life of desperately ill obesity, an ad for a diet program or supplement, or an ad for WLS.

    If I turn on the radio, I hear the jingles for all the diet plans and supplements.

    If I buy a fashion magazine, I get visions only of extremely thin women combined with diet ads.

    If I buy a cooking magazine, there’s a reminder in every recipe that isn’t made from fat-free, low-carb oxygen that it’s fattening and I shouldn’t eat it. Plus all the ads for foods that have been stripped of all calories, etc.

    There is no dialogue. A dialogue requires more than one point of view being raised and heard. What there is is a national monologue of shame, hate, and fearmongering.

    • *applauds wildly*

    • Also, I am copying your comment verbatim with attribution to add to my facebook because no one has said it better.

    • Ugh…shame, hate and fear mongering. Always a good way to treat people, eh? Great response, thank you.

    • It’s like you’re living my life! Oh, wait! You are! This was so well said. Thank you!

    • I sent a message to BCBS. I also commented on their videos on YouTube. I bet we all know how YouTube is a plethora of realistic and actionable information…not.

      So, those of us who have good cholesterol counts (in all categories), no issue with diabetes or being prediabetic, have normal blood pressure, etc. should ignore those findings based on the fact that we are fat and as such, are unhealthy and destined to die an early death. That we will be a financial burden on society because of the incessant days off we take due to our “unhealth”, the exorbitant medical costs we incur, and whatever other silly, irrational excuse that’s thrown at fatties these days to justify the continued effort to finance the ongoing “war on fat” (aka – the billion $$ diet industry’s plan to clean out our wallets as supported by the health care industry).

      And so, as a fat mom, I need to buy junk food and have my daughter tag along and do the same because that’s what fat moms who grocery shop do, right? Huh, like my daughter wants to step one foot in the damn grocery store. Good luck with that.

      Oh, and I love how it’s the fat mom shopping with her daughter…the “women”. Ugh. Let’s just keep these stereotypes going.

      And the fat man in the fast food place? That doesn’t smack of stereotype either.

      Double whammy time. Fat and a stereotype…wait…a sneaky sort of double entendre?

      I went grocery shopping yesterday. What did I see? All sorts of people with all sorts of items in their cart. I saw couples shopping, men shopping, families shopping. I saw fat people and skinny people. What I didn’t see was any one specific group or type of person(s) who had more junk food than another group or type of person(s). Oh, I even saw fat people, besides me, in Whole Foods too. Good to know that fat people don’t just meander about dazed and confused in the halls of Walmart. We actually get to places like Whole Foods (although I’ll not go there in my commentary).

      Side thought: I rarely watch prime time, etc. but was watching a movie on the Lifetime Movie Network this weekend and was dumbfounded by the sheer volume of women-centric, fat-phobic, stay younger, etc. advertising. I know it’s out there, I just don’t get subject to it that often. All I can say is “wow”, I forgot how bad it was. Sad that so many see it and believe it as truth.

      Thank you so much for your posts Ragen!!

      • So many wonderful points–great post!
        You, Twistie and Ragan all capture the thoughts I cannot assemble and put to paper.
        Regarding the advertising you mention in your last paragraph. It’s the reason the shows I do watch on Television (and no, I do not sit on my butt in front of the TV every waking moment of the day, thank you) I almost NEVER watch real time. The DVR is my friend–I can fast forward through all that crap! Otherwise I start grumbling, eventually yelling at the TV, and that confuses the hubby and the animals. 🙂

        • My DVR has been the best investment I think ever! The useless drivel they call advertising holds no appeal for me. But now and again something comes on that I watch “real time”. Thankfully I can pause during commercial breaks to otherwise occupy myself or yes, the grumbling will start…LOL.

    • Absolutely LOVE your post! I would love to borrow your words if you don’t mind.
      Friggin’ Awesome!

    • Amen to your entire rant.

    • There’s no way to come up with a comment after reading this. You’ve said everything I wanted to say, especially this:

      There is no dialogue. A dialogue requires more than one point of view being raised and heard. What there is is a national monologue of shame, hate, and fearmongering.

  2. “Big flaming sack of duh” is my new favorite phrase! Yay!

  3. Bless you

  4. Awesome post! Here is what I emailed to BCBS:

    Dear Blue Cross/Blue Shield:

    I am writing to urge you to rethink your ad campaign that features parents’ bad eating habits filtering down to their kids. While messages about eating diverse and greener foods and being active are lovely messages, shaming people into changing their habits simple isn’t. Furthermore, that you chose fat people to represent overconsumption and poor eating habits is offensive. Just like thin people, fat people can be healthy or not, active or not, eat junk food or buy only organic vegetables. Using fat people as a visual shorthand for bad choices is intellectually lazy and culturally irresponsible.

    I urge you to pull these ads and issue some new ones that don’t shame entire groups of people. Fat people are tired of being visual scapegoats and fat kids are likely even tireder of being bullied by other kids *and* by social institutions.

    Lesleigh Owen, Ph.D.

    • This is so awesome – thank you for sending this!

    • That is a fantastic letter!!

  5. I wrote them too. I fast-forwarded this predictable piece of fat-bias within about 3 seconds of the start of the ad. I live in MN, and I was watching a show with my 6 yo daughter. This is all so pervasive, accepted and exhausting. Thanks for the good fight and the action link… Maybe this too will go away. I hope so.

  6. I am a big fat mama with a thin child. She hops and skips and spins whenever we go outside; she leaps off of hills and sometimes just runs. She loves to move. She also loves to eat, eating about as much as I do throughout the day. Sometimes I worry about the messages she receives, but what she says is encouraging.

    I also have a toddler. She’s got my barrel chest and powerful thighs, and is very strong. I’m shocked sometimes to see this little person lift and throw a rock the size of her head. When I get her outside, she runs so fast I have to run to catch her. She also loves to eat. I worry a little more about her, though. My older daughter has never been attacked because of her weight. My little toddler already has to deal with the look on the doctor’s face when he sees that she’s hovering at the 98th percentile.

    • I feel for you. My daughter is the same way – she has my thick legs and her dad’s “torque” arms (longer forearms, shorter upper arm – great for turning a wrench). At age 4, she is equally off the chart for both weight and height: 3’9″ and 56lbs. Her doctor was “worried” about this and prescribed her a cholesterol screening even though her father and I – as large as we are – have no family history of cholesterol problems. (not to mention when at her last visit, as my daughter was twirling and spinning she expressed the want to be a ballerina and her doctor telling her that ballerinas were /THIN/, complete with verbal emphasis.)

      Find a pediatrician who is HAES friendly or at least a pediatrician who is actually practicing care for the patient and listening to your concerns – not making up concerns based on prejudices.

  7. I called the local office after seeing the first ad. They actually called me back. I told them that while I have not binge eaten in years, before the ad was over I was thinking of cookie dough. I also stated that I was appauled to find out that they knew the ads could cause increased syptoms of depression, feelings of shame and they can trigger binge eating. I cannot even image how a group of medical professionals could decide to use ads that they know will cause harm to people and think it is good idea. I thought that doing no harm was cosidered important. I think the truth is do no harm, unless you are talking about those lazy, stupid, worthless fat people. With them it is open season.

  8. I’m not surprised, ever since the cries about “the obesity epidemic” health insurance companies have become weight-centric. This is the reason the only insurance I can get is through my state’s high risk pool (which is BCBS of course) and premiums are higher. I’m too fat to be covered by mainstream insurance, and unfortunately work a job that offers no benefits, unless I pay $500 a month out of pocket for them.

    BCBS and others like them have no idea what harm they can do by demonizing an entire population, yet until they get it out of their heads that most of us DON’T cost the healthcare industry lots of money, and health doesn’t only mean weight loss, we’ll keep seeing this for years to come.

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