In 2004, the government launched Small Step, a program designed to address America’s growing obesity problem. Thus far, the initiative has created a Web site that offers facts (2/3 of adults are overweight or obese, to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you consume), tips (walk to work, eat on smaller plates, go lean with protein) and interactive tools to help you make small changes but see big results. There are recipes, links to national and local organizations, and resources that will enable you to learn more about a healthier lifestyle. The program has also created a series of public service announcements (PSAs) meant to inspire healthy habits. Overall, Small Step has adopted several intelligent, theoretically effective methods. The only problem is impact-wise, these approaches are . . . relatively small.
I hadn’t even heard of Small Step before this. I’m willing to bet most of you hadn’t either. So, how effective does that make their online presence? And, their commercials? The critics are calling them “namby-pamby”. They don’t show a single obese person or chastise any unhealthy habits. They have, instead, regular people finding discarded fat on the ground. The assumptions made when the butts and blubber are discovered relate to tips. Someone must have lost that playing with their kids, eating healthy snacks, taking the stairs, etc. Ultimately, they are forgettable. In fact, it wasn’t until I found a few of the PSAs on YouTube that I remembered seeing even one of the ads. Small Step has taken small steps, fighting obesity in a wimpy, coddling way. The question is why?
The creators of the program say that people are intimidated by losing weight; you have to ease them into it. You can’t bombard them with terrifying information and images. That will only scare them. However, that’s not the opinion the government has on smoking or drinking. Think back to those PSAs. They immediately assault your emotions, making you think twice before continuing your unhealthy habit. Isn’t that exactly what we want in terms of obesity? We want people to reconsider their lifestyle choices, put down the cookie, pick up a carrot, get off the couch and go for a walk. That’s not going to happen if one of our only government initiatives lacks backbone. No one is saying the commercials should attack overweight/obese people. That would be just as counterproductive and mean. But, they should do something that leaves a lasting impression, something more than rubber blubber on the ground.