Disney’s obesity trouble

When the mecca of amusement parks for kids decided to get involved in the effort to curb childhood obesity it never expected to get in big fat trouble.

Last month, Walt Disney World opened a new interactive exhibit, Habit Heroes, aimed at tackling childhood obesity.

The exhibit featured fitness superheroes Will Power and Callie Stenics and super-sized villains Snacker and Lead Bottom, who eat junk food and watch too much TV.

Disney World partnered with health insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

But shortly after the “soft opening,” the backlash began.

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance said the exhibit reinforced stereotypes that all overweight people are lazy and have poor eating habits.

“We’re appalled to learn that Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination,” said the association’s written statement.

“It appears that Disney now believes that using the tool of shame, favored so much by today’s healthcare corporations, is the best way to communicate with children,” said the association’s statement. “Disney, in partnering with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, has taken the side of the bullies.”

Disney and Blue Cross said the exhibit was intended to convey a positive message about healthy lifestyles in a fun and empowering way.

Disney has since closed the exhibit and postponed its March 5 grand opening so it can rework the exhibit.

The fat acceptance organization has asked that Disney incorporate people of all body sizes demonstrating bad habits.

The organization points out that some people are overweight due to medical conditions or genetics.

While that certainly is the cause for some people, the majority of overweight kids are heavy because of lifestyle choices, according to research.

A study last year in the American Heart Journal looked at the eating habits, exercise levels and leisure time activities of more than 1,000 sixth-graders.

The study found that nearly 15 percent of the kids were obese – not just overweight – and nearly all had poor eating habits.

Nearly 1/3 of the students said they drank a soda the day before, while fewer than half said they could recall eating two portions of fruits and vegetables in the same time frame.

Only 1/3 of all the kids reported exercising 30 minutes for five days during the previous week. Obese children were much less likely than non-obese kids to participate in regular exercise.

And among the obese children, 58 percent reported watching two hours of TV in the past day. That compared with 41 percent of non-obese kids.

Across the country, childhood obesity has tripled in the last three decades. In Clark County, nearly ¼ of kids are overweight or obese.

So, what do you think? Was Disney’s exhibit offensive?

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