Mixed Messages About Eating Habits and Obesity in Movies Meant for Kids

by Kathy Jones on Dec 10 2013 8:19 PM

 Mixed Messages About Eating Habits and Obesity in Movies Meant for Kids
Sugar-sweetened beverages, exaggerated portion sizes and unhealthy snacks are common in the fantasy world.
So is TV watching, computer use and video games.

But this world is not kind to those who are overweight. A panda that aspires to be a martial arts master is told he'll never make it because of his "fat butt," "flabby arms" and "ridiculous belly." A chipmunk is called "fatty ratty." A donkey is called a "bloated roadside piñata" and told "you really should think about going on a diet."

This is the world that's portrayed in the most popular children's movies (both live action and animated) released in the U.S. from 2006 to 2010, according to a mixed-methods analysis performed by an ensemble cast of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The examples cited above come from "Kung Fu Panda," "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" and "Shrek the Third."

"These children's movies offer a discordant presentation about food, exercise and weight status, glamorizing unhealthy eating and sedentary behavior yet condemning obesity itself," said Eliana M. Perrin, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics in the UNC School of Medicine and corresponding author of the study, published online Dec. 6, 2013 by the journal, Obesity.