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Toronto Public Health Messages: Doing it Right

I just wanted to take a few minutes to share some material from Toronto Public Health. This stuff is a few years old; the brochure I'm quoting from was first used in 2007. However, it's worth revisiting for the positive, nonjudgemental, HAES-compatible messages. It's perfectly pitched and beautifully balanced. It doesn't preach unjustified self esteem. It talks about knowing what you can change and what you can't, and basing self esteem on accomplishments rather than on appearance.

The brochure is called "Nutrition Matters: Helping Children to Be Active, Eat Well and Accept their Bodies." In addition the the usual advice on physical activity and nutrition, it includes this section on body image:

  • Accept Yourself.
    Parents and caregivers affect the way children feel about themselves and their bodies. When children feel good about themselves and their bodies they are more likely to make healthy choices.
  • Encourage a healthy body image in children.
    Genetics play an important role in determining body shape and size. Help children understand that there are things they cannot control. Ask children to look at other family members to help find out if their bodies are programmed to be tall, short, big, small or in between. Remind children that their bodies are changing and growing, and that weight gain is normal, especially during puberty.
  • Reflect on your own body image and be aware of the messages you send about your body.
    Do you emphasize your skills and talents rather than your physical appearance? Be aware that the comments you make about your weight or body parts influence children. When you have a positive view of yourself and your body, the children around you will feel better about themselves.
  • Believe in and promote the message that healthy bodies come in many heights, weights, shapes and sizes.
    Avoid making comments about people based on weight, shape, size, race, age or gender. Children who learn to accept diversity are better able to love their own bodies and themselves.
  • Teach children that weight and shape teasing is unacceptable and hurtful.
    If you hear children calling someone “fat” or “skinny”, do not ignore it. Let children know that everyone is unique and that all body shapes and sizes have beauty and value. Talk to children about respect and standing up for others.
  • Accept children for who they are.
    Tell them they are special and important. When adults feel positive about children, these children will feel good about themselves.
  • Praise children for the things they do, like the way they treat others, rather than for the way they look.
    Encourage children to focus on their abilities, not their appearance. Help them to identify their strengths.
  • Encourage children to be critical of the images and messages on TV, in magazines and on music videos.
    Explain how the media uses unrealistic images to sell products. Talk with them about what they see and hear. By helping children identify unhealthy images, they develop a more realistic picture of the healthy range of body shapes and sizes.

"Your Kids are Listening. Set a healthy example when your kids are young," another Toronto Public Health brochure, has similar messages.

This is what Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign should look like. And talking about Let's Move, the language on the website has been changed. Instead of talking about "eliminating childhood obesity within a generation," they're using this wording:

Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by the First Lady, dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams

It still has a negative and (IMHO) unhealthy focus on body size - and I don't really understand how having a BMI above an arbitrary value would stop someone from pursuing their dreams - but at least they've toned down the worst of the rhetoric. Apparently fat kids are now allowed to exist as long as they don't cause a problem. Hum.

Marilyn Wann on State-Sanctioned Kidnapping | Calling out fatphobic attacks on Rob Ford

DeeLeigh's picture
July 27th, 2011 | Link | Rob Ford became mayor right

Rob Ford became mayor right after we left Toronto, and the hate for him is all over my Toronto friends' Facebook stuff. How the hell did that guy get elected? Maybe Toronto shouldn't have amalgamated. I blame the suburbanites. Smiling

Anyway, I didn't even realize he was a fat guy, but it sounds like there are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize him. Focusing criticism on his appearance, especially in a city like Toronto that prides itself on diversity, is incredibly childish and hypocritical.

Those brochures, however, aren't Rob Ford's. They were created by city employees who are probably still plugging away at their jobs despite the change in leadership. They deserve a big thumbs up for the work I linked to above, and hopefully they'll keep it up regardless of who's mayor.

Kunoichi July 27th, 2011 | Link | Hullo, friends. This is

Hullo, friends. This is Kunoichi's daughter posting on her behalf after she threw her hands up in frustration and went out to deal with some more material trash.
So yeah... really guys? Really? "drag the city back into the 19th century"? "I blame the suburbanites."?
It doesn't take much for this little community to devolve into pathetically weak and biased attacks, does it? (Or, to quote, "incredibly childish and hypocritical". Smiling ) Is frothing derision an inherant trait of the liberal-minded? I mean, I didn't exactly start rending my garments when Obama was elected even if I think that his politics are ridiculous, so why the vicious hatred?
Let's keep the politics topical and keep your vitriol in your pants.

(Kunoichi back from taking out the trash. I just wanted to add that my daughter's response is far more polite than anything I could come up with at the time. I just wanted to add that the level of hatred displayed in the comments above disgusts me. It's been a while since I've had time to visit and, quite frankly, it makes me not want to come back to this forum ever again.)

DeeLeigh's picture
July 28th, 2011 | Link | People can express their

I regret taking sides, since I'm in a position of leadership. However, I did live in Toronto proper for seven years, and as I noted, Rob Ford doesn't represent the politics of the people I knew when I was there. That's why I said "I blame the suburbs." It was meant as a bit of a joke.

But hey, maybe we can all agree that the Toronto bureaucrats were on target with the HAES-compatible public health messages? Or, if you think that giving people advice on these issues isn't an appropriate thing for a city public health office to do, you could talk about that.

closetpuritan July 29th, 2011 | Link | Kunoichi/Kunoichi's

Kunoichi/Kunoichi's daughter:

"It doesn't take much for this little community to devolve into pathetically weak and biased attacks, does it? ...why the vicious hatred?"

Considering that the above sandwiches this comment--
"Is frothing derision an inherant trait of the liberal-minded?"

I have trouble taking your question seriously.

"I mean, I didn't exactly start rending my garments when Obama was elected even if I think that his politics are ridiculous"

Perhaps you've heard of the birther movement?

Look, I respect your objection to (left-right style) politicization here; that is a perfectly legitimate, respectable opinion, and I think I agree with it; look at the derailment we have here. On the other hand, your opinion that one side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on respectful discourse is hilarious.

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