A California childhood obesity campaign is in hot water after it was learned that the young models used in the ads were not actually obese, but rather had their images manipulated to give the appearance that they were overweight.
First 5 California, a government funded early childhood program, is behind the controversial campaign and defended its decision to distort the images via Photoshop.
"It was intended to show parents the real-life consequences of obesity and what sugar can do to our children's lives
," First 5 spokesperson Lindsay Van Laningham told MSN. "The ads have just started going up in a series of convenience stores in certain parts of the state where it's hard to get access to healthy food . . . Areas deemed 'food deserts.'"
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In at least two of the anti-obesity advertisements, there are young, chubby girls, one Asian and the other African-American, sipping a straw from a container labeled sugar.
Below the images the ads read: "Sugary drinks like juice, sports drinks and soda can cause obesity. Choose milk and water instead."
In the original images, the girls are holding milk containers and are noticeably thinner, with smaller cheeks and a less round faces.
San Francisco author Marilyn Wann, who wrote the book, "FAT!SO? : Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size," objected to the distortions describing them as "damaging fear mongering," on her website Fatso.com.
"It was so mindblowingly hateful . . . Hate messages are bad for public health," wrote Mann, who posted the before and after images juxtaposed to each other on Facebook and Tumblr. "Children of all sizes deserve to be valued as they are and supported in eating and exercising, because these behaviors are fun, feel good, and are good for health. No shame or blame!"
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This isn't the first time state run health campaigns have employed Photoshop to get their message across, Business Insider's Laura Stampler points out.
A 2012 anti-obesity ad campaign by New York City's Department of Health showed a man on a stool missing one leg due to diabetes. Below the amputee we see three sodas varying in size from small to large, with the message "cut your portions, cut your risk."
In reality, the overweight model perched on the stool had both his legs.
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