In a most ill-advised and ham-fisted move, Disney has taken the fight against childhood obesity to new and horrific levels. Their secret weapon? The "Habit Heroes" exhibit that just debuted at Innoventions in Epcot.
On first glance, it looks like a good idea: Teaching kids to fight bad health habits -- personified as cartoon characters like scary-robot Control Freak who plays too many video games, or Sonic Boom, a DJ type who blows out his ear drums playing his headphones too loud. But as you flip through the gallery of enemies, you very quickly come upon three characters that are setting eating disorders educators like the Binge Eating Disorder Association on edge: Lead Bottom, the Glutton, and Snacker, three hugely fat and sinister characters that would make any overweight kid (let alone their parents!) feel ashamed.
It's enough to make anyone with a weight issue want to throw up their hands and dive into a box of Munchkins, and invite her friends to join. As Disney says in its description of Lead Bottom, "Blubbery loves company."
We all want kids to be healthy. But, as study after study has shown, shaming doesn't promote healthy weight loss, it promotes eating disorders. Which, not coincidentally, are on the rise in this country, right along with obesity. One in particular, binge-eating disorder, is more common than anorexia and bulimia combined, and has been in the American Psychological Association's DSM since 1994. Yet because of a lack of education, BED can sometimes be dismissed as "gluttony." (Hey, isn't that a Disney character?!)
Disney and its partner in this effort, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, have invested millions of dollars in this campaign. Too bad they didn't talk to the real stakeholders in this conversation, like obesity docs. It could've saved the company some embarrassment, and could've saved heavy kids a lot of pain.