Disney's Habit Heroes

American bodies are getting bigger, and so are the kids. These days, one out of every 3 kids in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Kids carrying extra body fat don't just run the risk of being teased and bullied. Many of these kids develop high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes which is no longer known as adult onset diabetes.  More and more kids are experiencing devastating health problems directly related to obesity. Even First Lady Michelle Obama is crusading for obesity awareness and change with her "Let's Move" campaign.

I love kids. I keep trying to help them learn about good nutrition and healthy habits in fun, easy to understand ways. And, I think Disney was trying, too.  Disney teamed up with Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance company to create Epcot's new Healthy Habits interactive exhibit. It opened last month for a "soft launch," but closed temporarily in reaction to negative response.

The idea to create a fun and educational experience is a great one. Small groups travel through rooms with Habit Heroes such as Will Power and Callie Stenics, working to fight bad habits and evil villians such as super-sized Snacker and Lead Bottom. Good vs. Evil. It usually works...

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, NAAFA, is not a fan. "We're appalled to learn that Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination." They claim shame is a major message used in the exhibit. Since most of the negative habits are depicted as obese characters, discrimination against overweight people comes into play. The NAAFA also claims that the exhibit failed to tackle the fact that obesity itself is a disease, one of which is not alway simply a matter of changing habits. Genetics, illness and depression can all play a part in obesity. It's as if fat animated characters wear the villianous black hats, and thin characters get the white ones...hmmm...

I have not personally experienced this exhibit. Though I usually applaud most every attempt to help get this message of healthy lifestyle habits across, I am going to side with the NAAFA on this one if they are correct in the way the Healthy Habit characters are depicted.  Keep in mind that there certainly are kids of all ages who do maintain a normal weight and who are eating tons of unhealthy foods and lay around with video games and TV all day. And these kids would improve their health tremendously by seeking out those healthy habits, too.

It's all in the delivery. If kids are eating cookies or chips when they feel bad, making them feel worse about their body image may backfire by making them feel like eating more cookies. 

We all need to work together to teach these kids the habits that we all need to improve our health for the rest of our lives.