Pointing Fingers

Now that the weather is warming up and I have to be in a bathing suit, I’m definitely becoming a little bit more body conscious than I have been during the winter months. I don’t want to miss out on a fun day at North Beach where the sun is shining, the water is crystal clear and the smell of barbequed chicken is suffocating my nostrils, just because I don’t feel comfortable showing a little skin. Being this uneasy about my body brings me back to when I was a lot younger and was definitely chubby. I never really liked gym class and I loved the tator tots and chicken nuggets in the cafeteria way too much.

This leads me to beg the question, should schools be held responsible for helping children manage their body weight? Would my concept of body image and weight be different if how my school framed the situation was different? Some would argue that it’s totally school’s responsibility to integrate weight based education into the class room but on the other side some argue that responsibility lies in the hands of the child’s guardian.

Scott LaFee, a science and health reporter with the Union-Tribune in San Diego, wrote an article titled, How Much Responsibility do School’s Bear for Addressing the Obesity of their Students? In Mr. LaFee’s opinion, “Generally speaking, the care and feeding of children is the job and duty of parents, not superintendents, principals and teachers.” On the other hand, in the eyes of Ludmila Battista, MA, and Lisa Wright, PT, PHD, authors of Childhood Obesity: What School’s Can Do To Make A Difference, school’s can make a huge difference in the epidemic. They believe that, “dietary guidelines and federally funded programs are already leading the way by mandating change in the way schools and daycare centers address the crisis… Empowering children with education and specific tools for making better choices is the key to promoting health.”

In my personal opinion, pointing fingers and trying to place blame has gotten us nowhere in resolving the issue. It has to be a joint effort because children are so incredibly impressionable that information coming from the classroom as well as from home will help shape the outlook. Also if there are negative messages coming from the home, having a positive message come from school, or vice versa, can help shift the way that child thinks about a certain topic. They get to see both sides of the story and hopefully it will help them form their own opinions and make their own decisions. Educational programs in school as well as good role models at home will be the only way to truly combat a huge epidemic.

What do you think? Should school’s be held responsible for helping kids manage their body weight? Or do you think school’s should stay out of it and guardians should take on the job?

– Al

WP 5.7



LowLow’s a Go!

Before I say anything, watch this video.

Obviously I’m a fan of The Voice on NBC and this week I took notice of multiple commercials for diet products throughout the entire broadcast. There was at least one during every commercial break. After watching those ads about the newest diet products, I couldn’t help but think about this awesome parody that was created to combat this negative relationship with food that is portrayed in the media. I don’t know about you but I found this video interpretation to be completely hysterical because of how accurately it pokes fun at diet ads. Seeing this ad that makes fun of those products just reinforces how ridiculous diet ads are in reality. Which is why I want to applaud and to bring attention to this new brand called Kerry LowLow. I was just introduced to this brand recently and after looking into their website and social media platforms, I couldn’t help but be so excited for what they are doing. Their mission, taken right from their website, states “What is it with food ads aimed at women? Why do they bombard us with cliches? Why do they presume that all women have a negative relationship with food? At LowLow we say ‘enough’ to feeling bad about food. We believe that everyone should taste, savour, share and, above all, enjoy great food.”

Their website, which you can link to here, is exceptionally inspirational but their facebook page is what got me really excited. Click here to check out some of their posts. Their message is all about creating a positive dialogue around food. They are technically a healthy cheese brand but I’ve found myself more connected to their mission and their passion to change the way food is framed in the media. One post that I think does a really great job to highlighting their mission while also advertising their cheese brand stated, “If you are what you eat, wouldn’t you rather be a mouth-watering cheese toastie than a dry dusty cracker?!” Connected with that quote was a picture of this mouth watering grilled cheese that I would definitely like to bite into.

A lot of their posts are extremely relatable and humorous drawing in a wide variety of audience members. I think this is an awesome brand with an even more awesome mission. Not only are they combating this negative stigma around food created by the media but they’re also combating body image issues and showing, especially women, that it’s ok to eat what you want and not feel bad about it. Who would have thought cheese could be so powerful?

– Al

NP 4.30

Wall-e Predicts the Future?

What do you think the world is going to look like in a few hundred years? If we keep eating the way we have been, if we keep saturating our brains with technology and media messages like we have been, what’s going to happen to the population? Over the weekend I watched a ton of movies because I felt like spending my entire Sunday in bed. I decided to pop in Wall-e, a personal favorite of mine, and realized they paint an amazing picture of what our world has the potential to look like if we keep going the way we have been. Here’s a clip that I think is most important to show you what I’m talking about.

As you can see, the entire human population is stuck in a seated position, with an electric chair that takes them where ever they want to go. No walking. They also have a projection screen with everything they could ever need on it. You can order food and drinks from the chair remote and it’ll show you the menu on the screen. I think the most crucial part of the clip is when the man falls off his chair and he can’t help himself back into it. He has to call for help from the robots to get him back on the track. Another crucial aspect of this clip is when they announce the food menu and how it’s all in liquid form now because people are so lazy that they physically can’t digest whole food anymore.

Wall-e is perfect for kids to watch, since they are the target age demographic. However, while this is mainly for kids entertainment, I believe it’s a movie for all ages and sends a very positive message to anyone who watches it. It’s a huge eye opener for any viewer to show what could happen if we keep eating the way we have been. While that is only one message that’s embedded within the overarching message of the film, it’s still a powerful aspect that is good to expose children to. Each age demographic will interpret the message slightly different, but everyone who watches will walk away with the same impression. I’m excited that this movie was so popular among many generations because everyone can relate to the message in some way. It’s a great way to expose the dangers of bad eating habits which is developed in a cute way for kids to become really attached to.

How do you feel about Wall-e’s message? Do you think there should be more movies directed at the younger population to target bad habits at a young age?

– Al

NP 4.23


Kashi? Yes Please!

What is a millennial and what matters to them as consumers? This has been a topic of conversation in my food and the media class lately. What does it mean to be a millennial and what do brands have to do to grab this demographics attention? I’ve been personally interested in this because I am on the tail end of this generation and my beliefs about food and consumerism fall along the same lines as a millennial. The Public Relations Society of America published an article about how McDonald’s, a very successful brand, is struggling to attract millennial’s. As a fast food brand it’s hard to connect with this specific population because, as the article points out, “millennial’s place high value on social responsibility, sustainability, and local, organic, grass-fed and hormone-free dishes.” After reading the entire article, which you can find here, I looked more into brands that were doing a good job of attracting the millennial demographic and came across this media message from Kashi that McDonald’s should take a few notes from if it wants to successfully reach millennial’s.

This commercial is a great hook into where the ingredients come from that are used to make Kashi products. You also get a look into the people behind the company because one of the employees is on a “mission” to find the best ingredients to use. You see her hiking through the mountains and through the rainforests, really engaging with the natural environment and the locals to find the perfect tasting, natural fruits, nuts, coco and honey to be used to create the perfect granola bar. Millennial’s hold natural ingredients to a high standard and can appreciate knowing where the granola bar came from. This commercial makes it very easy for millennial’s to attach themselves to the Kashi brand and be ok with paying a little more money to pay for a higher quality product.

Towards the end of the commercial there’s a quote stating, “this is turning eating right from have to, to want to” implying that these products are also healthy for you. This is just another aspect of the brand that would be appealing to the millennial audience because healthy is part of their identity as well.

This media message mirrors the Kashi website, which you can go to here. As you can see from the website, Kashi is socially responsible, healthy, and cares about where it’s products come from, all things that are appealing to the millennial audience. We need more brands such as this one to really promote the value of food products.

Would you consider yourself part of the millennial demographic? And if you do, what’s your take on how we value brands, products, and media messages? Do you see this shift in value of fast food to more locally sourced and healthy? Think about it. How do you value food products?


WP 4.19

Large and In Charge

Every Monday and Wednesday I intern at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in downtown Burlington. This is a science center geared towards families with younger kids so when I’m working at the front desk I overhear a lot of different conversations. Since I am the middle child of three girls I know what it’s like to be ragged on and mess around with my sisters, but something today really surprised me. This mother came in with her three children, one small infant and two little boys about 8 and 10. While checking them in I was eavesdropping on the kids conversation and the older one was calling the younger one fat and they were wrestling/messing around with each other quite a bit. In my personal opinion neither of the children were fat, maybe a little chubby but definitely not fat. My hypothesis is that media exposure has a lot to do with it so when I got home I started googling to see if there were any restrictions on how an obese character on TV can be framed. I came across this article that The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University developed called “Guidelines for the Portrayal of Obese Persons in the Media.” The purpose of the guidelines is to “ensure that all persons, regardless of their body weight, are represented equitably and accurately in journalistic reporting.” It goes on to further mention that these guidelines should be regarded in any type of media. When I came across these guidelines a specific moment popped into my head.

Governor Chris Christie was heavily criticized for his weight throughout the entire Hurricane Sandy situation and was questioned when he announced he was thinking about running for President in 2016. Barbara Walters, a journalist with an amazing reputation, violates the guidelines when boldly asking him about his weight in an interview. Here’s the video if you don’t know what I’m referring to.

The Governor’s weight shouldn’t even be called into question. He is no less valuable because he’s a larger man. He had great success dealing with Hurricane Sandy and like he mentioned his 18 hour days went on for weeks and he was still just as effective. He shouldn’t be critized for his weight and Barbara Walters shouldn’t have to bring it up because what he accomplished has nothing to do with the number on the scale. The media puts such a huge emphasis on what you look like that if, as adults, on a highly regarded news station, with a highly regarded journalist all we’re focusing on is how large Christie is, what kind of example are we setting for the younger generations? It makes sense to me that the two little brothers were pointing out each others bodies, because that’s the role model. Yes, I understand they probably don’t watch the news, but if it’s ok for the situation to happen on a news channel, what’s to say it’s not being portrayed in other forms of media for other audience levels?

Every human in society is valuable regardless of whether you’re a size 2 or a size 10, wear a 24 waist or a 42 waist. As a whole we should be focusing less on what we look like and more on how good of a job we can do. More media channels should adhere to the guidelines to start a shift in how we frame obesity. By targeting media channels geared toward kids, we can start to shift the way we think about people and body image. How do you think we can start to encourage the use of these guidelines, especially in children’s programing?

– Al

NP 4.16

Body Love

Social media is a powerful tool. I don’t normally spend hours upon hours updating my status, retweeting a funny quote, or putting my dinner on instagram to show the world, but I had some spare time this weekend. As I sat on my computer scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed I saw a video posted from YouTube by my friend with a comment saying, “pretty amazing.” By the looks of the still shot of the video, I thought it was a new folk-esque song by some undiscovered new artist because there was a larger girl with a guitar in the middle of a field. (Talk about stereotyping…) Anyway, since I’m in love with that kind of music I was intrigued enough to click on the link and watch. What I was about to watch was totally unexpected.

To me this is absolutely inspirational. With all the negativity circulating in the media realm, it’s so refreshing to hear a beautiful proud woman stand up and talk about what body image should truly mean. The idea of “skinny” is socially constructed through the projection of models, celebrities, fad diets, magazine advertisements, commercials, and so much more. And what the media has constructed as “healthy” aligns itself more with what the average person would consider skinny.

This video opens up the conversation about body image and all of the body issues a normal girl or woman goes through on a daily basis. Mary Lambert’s message is touching. “Love your body the way your mother loved your baby feet.” She’s saying it doesn’t matter what you look like, love yourself no matter what. The message that every human being is valuable is made loud and clear through her words in this video as well. My favorite line throughout the whole video says, “you are worth more than a waste line… you are no less valuable as a size sixteen then a size four, you are no less valuable than a 32A than a 36C.”

So much pressure is put on young girls to fit in, look perfect, wear the right clothes, do your hair and make up the right way, eat all the right foods to fit into those designer branded jeans because that’s the “cool” thing to wear and it’s the “cool” way to look. I appreciate Mary’s message so much because it’s not said enough, and clearly it’s not heard enough because eating disorders are still prevalent, self-mutilation is at an all time high, and girls just aren’t satisfied with themselves when they look in the mirror and media plays a huge role in framing what a “beautiful” girl looks like.

What do you think are some ways we can combat the body image issues in the media? How could you help Mary spread her message?

– Al

NP 4.9

Honey “This Is Nuts!” Cheerios

Every morning I go about my morning routine the same way. Snooze my alarm at least 3 times, get out of bed, get showered, get dressed, put my back pack together, make my lunch, and then finally eat breakfast. I’m a creature of habit so I’ve been eating the same breakfast for as long as I can remember. I have a cup of coffee, a banana, and a nice hearty bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios with skim milk.

So what makes this particular morning different then the thousands of other mornings I’ve experienced in my life? Well, the other day in my media literacy class we were talking about advergaming, which is where marketers incorporate games into a product to grab consumer attention and drive sales, and the back of the cereal box caught my eye because it’s plastered with advergames. I personally never really paid attention to this before but apparently, according to Deborah Thomas, a researcher who conducted a study called Marshmallow Power and Frooty Treasures: Disciplining the Child Consumer through Online Cereal Advergaming, “85% of the food brands that target kids via television have corresponding online sites featuring advergames in which players can spend hours interacting with branded spokescharacters and virtual food items and icons.” I’ve definitely seen many commercials, so clearly I was not surprised to find that the back of the Honey Nut Cheerio Box looked like this.


Thomas focused her research on comparing Froot Loops and Lucky Charms and the narrative discourse they provide through the advergaming, so I decided to do a little research myself and apply what she learned about these cereals to one of my favorite cereals that I religiously eat every day. As indicated in bold on the bottom of the box “for more fun check out http://www.honeydefender.com”. So without hesitation, I hopped on my computer and into Honey Nut Cheerio world I went.

There are seven mini arcade games you can play or you can follow Buzz, the famous bee who collects the precious honey to make the delicious honey nut cheerios, on a narrative adventure to protect the honey comb. I’ve never been good a video games so I decided to choose one of the smaller, less skill oriented options. I played one of the mini arcade games called The Chase. The object of the game is to catch the submarine that stole your precious honey so you can fly it to the honey comb to produce honey nut cheerios. You are Buzz and the way you gain energy and speed is by eating bowls of honey nut cheerios. If you eat something other than the honey nut cheerios bowl you lose points and speed and the submarine becomes harder to catch. Also if you don’t eat enough honey nut cheerios you don’t gain enough energy to zap the sub to slow it down. This mini game is completely fueled by eating bowls of honey nut cheerios. To succeed you must eat the cheerios and if you fail to do so, there’s no way you’ll catch the submarine, save the honey, and win the game. Eat the cereal, you’ll gain points. Eat the cereal, you’ll speed up. Eat the cereal, you’ll gain energy to zap the sub. Fail to eat the cereal and none of the above is achievable.

What kind of message is this sending to kids? We’re marking to our youth to believe that success lies within the consumption of these foods, but in reality it’s leading to poor consumer choices/habits and ultimately obesity. Kids are able to attach themselves to these fun characters and the cool plot lines and narratives created on the back of the cereal box which are carried over to the advergames because as Thomas says, “with their respective discourses of ‘‘frooty treasures’’ and ‘‘marshmallow power,’’ these sites promote cereals as much more than just breakfast. They are fantasy, adventure, and fun.”

After I was finished playing, I helped myself to another bowl of cereal. If I, as an informed young adult consumer, can’t resist, then how is a 10 year old going to? I challenge you to go onto one of these sites and play the games. What’s your reaction? Would you go back for another serving like I did?

– Al

WP 4.5

Read Between The Lines

Ever since I started going to UVM my mom opened a US Airways frequent flyers account for me so I could start accumulating miles for having to fly back and forth from Burlington to Philadelphia on all of my school breaks. This was a great idea except for the fact that I haven’t flown enough to beat the expiration date on my miles. So over last Thanksgiving break, in order to not waste any, I was able to subscribe to magazines using the miles I earned. I took advantage of getting Glamour, TIME, and Health. Typically, when I’m done reading the magazines I save them for my artistic side. One of my favorite hobbies is making collages out of the different things I come across. Over the weekend I pulled out all of my saved Health magazines because I wanted to design a food collage for my mom’s new kitchen. With Mother’s Day in May I figured I’d get started now while I had some time before the end of the semester bombards me. Take a look at the last 4 months issues, do you see anything suspicious?

december january:february march april

First, before you question the obvious, like I did, here’s the mission statement for Health Magazine. “Health is, quite simply, a lifestyle magazine for women who embrace healthy living. In Health, it’s not about straining to exhaustion; it’s about finding your enjoyment. Success is not measured by a blinking light on a whirring machine; it is measured by a sense of well-being. Every aspect of a good life – food, fashion, beauty, fitness, relationships – is put in a healthy context through smart, substantive editorial, and design that’s fresh and fun… Health informs, illuminates, and celebrates how women really live, when they live really well.”

By looking at these four covers, that is NOT the impression I get. These four covers alone focus solely on “losing”. The biggest article featured is is about losing weight. LOSE 6 lbs this week, LOSE 12 lbs this month, LOSE your belly fat , LOSE 10 lbs in three weeks. If the magazine wants you to be healthy and live a healthy lifestyle, giving you secrets to lose a certain amount of weight in a short time period isn’t healthy. Not to mention the four women on these covers aren’t the “average” woman, they are considered skinny and this magazine is giving off the impression that you have to be this thin to be “healthy”. Or if you want to feel good about yourself you have to look like Jillian Michaels, who, by the way made a career out of working out.

The tag lines of the magazines kill me too. “Be Your Strongest Self”, “New Secrets of Slim”, “Weight Loss Special Issue 2013”, and “Eat, Drink, & Shrink!” These media messages, through their word choice, are adding to the body image issue that every young girl and woman faces. However, these messages are easily disguised through the reputation that Health magazine has grown to have. It’s a trusted name. Even I was interested when I was choosing which magazines I wanted to subscribe to with having very little information about what would be going into these issues and what I’d be intaking.

You don’t have to be stick thin or lose a lot of weight to be healthy. Healthy is how you personally define it and what you make of it. I probably wouldn’t have noticed such a pattern if I didn’t have all the issues next to each other on the floor, which is most likely how Health, and other fitness or healthy lifestyle magazines, get away with sending these messages without much repercussion. So just be smart and fight the power of print media! I dare you to read between the lines.

– Al

NP 4.2

I’m Hungry

Sunday’s are always my lazy days. Wake up late, eat a big brunch, and relax on my couch for the day to prepare myself for the week. This Sunday was no different and when I opened up my Netflix account something sparked my interest to go through the documentary section. Documentaries have had a lot of hype surrounding them in the recent years so I was curious to check out the genre. As I was scrolling through, it mentioned some “things I may like” based off of me having previously watched Food, Inc. I came across this documentary called “Hungry for Change”. I read the blurb and was hooked. Check out what I was glued to for an hour and a half.

“The problem is we are not eating food anymore, we are eating food like products… they are made to look better and smell better so that people are attracted to them.” Wise words from Dr. Alejandro Junger, one of the experts featured in this documentary. The big point made is that we, as consumers, are being deceived by all aspects of the food industry. There is a conscious effort to change the way things appear and how they are presented to us to make us more attracted to the foods in front of us.

While I don’t agree with all of the accusations made, I really did appreciate the over all message. Consumers need to know how food companies are masking and disguising different terms on packaging and labeling,  how advertisers are presenting food in a seductive way to hold the audience’s attention, and how this way of consuming deteriorates self esteem and highlights body image issues and it’s all starting at a very young age.

The general audience, which would be the average American, would take this message in an extremely positive way or as a wake up call to change their habits and take more time to care about the food they’re putting in their mouths. However, one part of the message that I think would rub viewers the wrong way and lead the documentary to lose credibility is when Dr. Christiane Northrup compares breakfast cereal to heroine. If I were a mother and I were watching this I’d be seriously offended by that statement because heroine and the sugars in those cereals are not even close to being on the same level. I personally don’t find this upsetting but I could see how a mother or a guardian of a child would interpret this message as offensive and not want to continue watching.

Again, I don’t agree with everything that was said, but I think this is a great film to showcase what’s actually going into our food and creating what we call our food system. I encourage you to watch this documentary. Let me know what you think and if you have the same feelings that I developed while watching it.

– Al

NP 3.26

It’s not my fault!

Through my course work as a communication major, I’ve been asked to analyze many media channels and messages and the motives behind them. Specifically through my Food and the Media course we were challenged to look at food advertising and breakdown who is to blame for the bad eating habits of the audience, especially children. To start off, check out this video. It seems kind of basic, but the figures from the experiment say a lot.

Get it? Exposure is everything. I believe that it’s the food advertiser’s faults when it comes to message intake and how these messages are interpreted and internalized and then found in the everyday habits of young kids. Advertisers have an edge and are trying to sell a product. Like the video mentioned, McDonald’s doesn’t want to inform you of how bad their french fries are but they do want to evoke this sense of happiness surrounding the meals in order to engage the audience and make them crave that food and desire that feeling. Advertisers know what they are doing. In “A Portrait of Food and Drink in Commercial TV Series,” a coalition of communication professors from universities across America examine the effects of food and drink habits through television exposure. It states that, “the social cognitive theory contends that viewers can learn and can model behaviors based on observing them in media portrayals.”

This reading presents a set of factors that enhance the viewer’s potential to model what they are observing.

1. Attractive models engaging in the behavior, for example, eating fatty food

2. Realistic portrayals

3. Whether the behavior is rewarded, for example, “Clean you room and I’ll give you some ice cream

4. Whether the behavior has consequences, for example, a stomach ache

5. If it is socially acceptable, for example, everyone’s eating pizza

and finally

6. Whether it is visual/graphic, for example, you can watch them eat

In my opinion, advertisers take this set of factors and use it to manipulate messages for their personal benefit, to sell a product, without a care of the consequences they will be subjecting their consumers to. There’s definitely a fine line between informing a consumer, entertaining a consumer, and persuading a consumer for the purpose selling a product but bottom line is there’s a way to market a product while still allowing the consumer to make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to actually deal with the repercussions. Kids are extremely impressionable and innocent and it doesn’t take lengthy exposure to have them hooked. It’s morally wrong to have restrictions on guns, violence, nudity, and profanity, but nothing protecting kids from a potentially life threatening issues such as diabetes and obesity. Advertisers need to be limited and held responsible for the damage they are causing.

I don’t know about you, but my kids aren’t going to be allowed to watch TV if I have anything to do with it. What happened to the good old days of playing in the sand box or riding bikes in the neighborhood? Why are we so sucked into these media channels and how can advertisers have such a hold over us? How do we even begin to manage this?! HELP!

– Al

WP 3.22