Santa: Put Down the Cookie

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness

Amy Julian

Paging Jenny Craig: Santa Claus needs your Holiday slim-down program STAT!

The latest in ridiculousness has all fingers pointing at Santa Claus for being the culprit in spawning childhood obesity.

Wait, what? Santa, the jolly face of Christmas, is being forced to slim down because some think his rotund physique is giving the kids the message that it’s OK to be overweight. The day I heard the news, the Boston Herald ran a photo of a slimmer St. Nick. I looked at it and cried inside. Santa does not evoke images of slimness. Santa is big, and jolly, and that’s why we like him.

To use Santa Claus’s build as a scapegoat for the rising obesity epidemic among children is absurd. “Santa Schools” telling their prospective Kris Kringles to watch what they eat, practice self-control, and refrain from non-nutritious foods are completely out of the realm of the Santa-makers.

Children do not aspire to be Santa Claus. They do not spend their time practicing their reindeer calls, making lists and checking them twice, or counting the days until they can start growing in a full Santa-eque beard. Santa is a character, a fun representation of Christmas, not a role model. What’s next? Are advocates going to make sumo wrestlers, also characters, slim down because they don’t want to send children the wrong message? Do these advocates feel that all persons of authority slim down? Police officers, fire fighters, actors, teachers, priests? should all of these people who mold young minds be instructed what they can and can’t eat in order to protect children’s health?

Santa isn’t the only figure blamed for obesity among kids. The Sesame Street Cookie Monster has been said to promote overeating and snacking. But still, even if they are influenced by the television (which I agree may teach children unhealthy behaviors), children are ultimately under the control of their parents. Don’t blame Jim Henson for wanting to create a brand and character that would make him millions of dollars. Blame parents who allow their children to sit in front of the television all day who don’t teach healthy eating habits. After all, who buys the food?

Childhood obesity does have a genetic component. Not all cases can be prevented, but those cases that are genetic also have no connection to any fictitious character. It seems as though some seek to blame anyone but themselves for their child’s health problems. I’m also not saying that parents “cause” obesity, but behaviors are modeled at home, not on Sesame Street or in the North Pole.

I’d like to see how the “skinny Santas” dispositions change toward children, since they are probably hungry. When Santa laughs, do we have to forgo the analogy of a “bowl full of jelly” and replace it with “bowl full of fat-free protein shakes”? Let’s leave Santa alone and focus on teaching children healthy year-round habits rather than pointing fingers at Santa, who is only here for a few months.

Don’t forget to put out cookies and milk this Christmas Eve for the big guy. Not Snackwells, Oreos. And whole milk. He’s been around the world. They big guy deserves it.