Snacking versus Parenting: The Impact of TV Commercials

There has been a commercial on TV that makes me crazy.  The first time I watched it I felt annoyed, but thought I was just having a bad day. The second time (and third time) I saw it I was still annoyed so decided I should look a little bit deeper. The basic story is that here is a child who wants and snack and he whines through the grocery store until mom gets him one. I think the message is supposed to be that this produce it a good choice that can satisfy moms and kids. Nutrition aside – I understand the message.

Unfortunately, there are some other messages contained within this commercial as well.

  • It is acceptable for children to whine to get what they want
  • Good parenting involves giving in to whining children
  • Processed foods are better snacks than whole foods

From a public health perspective, what would happen if the images on television were of children eating healthy foods? I can think of only one commercial on TV that depicts children eating vegetables and liking them. I can think of many commercials and even more television shows that involve parents hiding vegetables to get kids to eat them, children hiding vegetables to pretend that they have eaten them, and other subtle messages to communicate that vegetables are bad and children should not like them.  While I would have still been offended by this commercial, it would have been less offensive if the mom had gone to the produce section of the grocery store and picked up a carrot for the young boy.

Even though the child was whining, everyone still appeared pretty happy. I was never happy when my children whined in public.  I learned very quickly that giving in to the whining only made them whine more often.  There was no correction for the behavior in the commercial.  The background message here is that giving in is normal or acceptable. This message, when viewed repeatedly, can’t help but desensitize us to this inappropriate behavior. Where are the media messages that show children behaving appropriately and parents dealing with childhood misbehavior calmly and rationally?

Many children and adults have viewed this commercial and I suspect that most never notice the messages that I did.  That doesn’t mean that the message doesn’t have an impact though.  Advertising works. In the past I’ve definitely purchased things based on the commercials and jingles. As may awareness has increased, I’m trying to do a better job of avoiding products that perpetuate negative attitudes and behaviors. As yourself these questions:

  1. Does this commercial communicate accurate information about the product?
  2. Does this commercial communicate life views that are consistent with mine?
  3. Does this commercial include people behaving in a way that is inappropriate or dangerous?

If you answered yes to any of these, please consider making a different consumer choice.  Children need to see images of other children behaving appropriately, not children behaving badly and getting away with it. Parents need to see images of other parents acting calmly and confidently with their children. Insisting on this change through our consumerism could have a significant impact on everyone.

I’d love to hear your views on this.  How do television commercials impact your consumer decisions?

I’ve Been Such A Good Girl

When I first published this article several years ago the title was I’ve Been Such A Good Girl – I think I’d like to poison myself today.  That title sounds very provocative doesn’t it? But that is exactly what I was doing almost every day.  I would reward myself for good behavior with substances that poison my body and strengthen the cravings for that poison.  If I was good I would reward myself with ice cream.  Although I learned to eat smaller portions, it was still essentially a poison in my body.  If I had been really good I would reward myself with a slice of carrot cake from my favorite gluten free bakery.  OK, it was gluten free, but it still had so many calories that it was bad for by body and my health.  In addition, once I would eat it I was out of control for the rest of the day.

While I no longer look forward to opportunities to hurt my body, I have slipped back into the habit of thinking of unhealthy foods as rewards or eating larger portions than my body can handle.  There are so many “diets” out there that build in opportunities for unhealthy indulgences.  While that may help to overcome the feelings of deprivation that derail so many eating plans, it still doesn’t address the obsession with certain foods and messed up priorities. (Such as ice cream being more important than health.)

Its not like I’ve ever been really hungry and am reacting to that memory of hunger with overindulgence. I’m not hoarding food because I am preparing for a day of famine.  Someday I hope to wake up from the nightmare of food addiction.  It would be so cool to just eat when I’m hungry, eat the food my body needs, and stop looking forward to opportunities for unhealthy food.

I did pretty well for the last several years until a period of very high physical and emotional stress knocked me out of balance and I found myself again craving foods that I know are not in my best interest.  I haven’t started eating foods that I am allergic to, but those unhealthy foods that I am not officially allergic to have crept back into my pantry and my body.  I fell prey to the “anything in moderation” wisdom that is so prevalent.

The truth – at least my truth – is that I can’t handle eating some foods.  They change how I feel, how I think, and how my body functions.  If you share this experience I’d love to hear from you.