Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Are You At Getting Terribly Fat? What Are We Teaching Our Children?

What do you get when you guzzle down sweets?
Eating as much as an elephant eats
What are you at getting terribly fat?
What do you think will come of that?
I don't like the look of it...

Those are the lyrics to the oompa loompa song in the movie, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Do you remember them? Do you remember little fat Augustus Gloop and his big fat mother Mrs. Gloop and how the boy, described in the original novel as having "fat bulging from every fold, with two greedy eyes peering out of his doughball of a head", ate and ate and ate while his mother encouraged him in this 'hobby' and smiled in approval? Augustus met his demise when he defied Willy Wonka's orders, bent over to drink from a chocolate river, fell in, and was sucked into a tube leading to the fudge room. Then, in a warning to children everywhere against gluttony, the oompa loompas sing the above song.

Four times in the past six months I have heard this song and its lyrics in public performances by children under the age of 12. Four times, large audiences of adults and kids of every shape, size, and background listened. Four times, I wondered, is this a good message for our kids? A funny one? A judgemental one?

Do I want my daughter singing that?

Maybe no one took offense. Maybe no one was bothered by the lyrics. Maybe they are true.

What are you at getting terribly fat?
What do you think will come of that?
I don't like the look of it.

I admit it. I cringed a little. I may have cringed a lot more had I been 278 pounds when I sat in that audience and listened to it. It feels a little personal, to me, having kids singing that song, wondering if everyone is looking at me as a glutton, wondering if they don't like the look of fat people. What about fat kids? All the kids singing or dancing were an average weight or thinner. Will they sing it or think it or say it to the next fat kid they see at school? Is it just a silly, harmless little song to teach about the consequences of gluttony? Or something more?

I don't like the look of it.

Do I really want my kids to make that kind of judgement? Is this telling them that fat people, larger people, cannot be attractive? Is this the beginning of an attitude of superiority and negativity towards people with a different body type?

I have to wonder.

My daughter skipped down the sidewalk on the way to first grade, singing.

What are you at getting terribly fat?
What do you think will come of that?
I don't like the look of it.

I took a moment. It's a silly song. She meant no harm. She loves the rhyme and the beat and the story. Yet it is imperative that we teach our children how to be compassionate, how to think about things from another's point of view. We have to explain to them how words can hurt others. We have to explain it gently to the young ones, because they mean no harm but need to know.

My daughter above all people I know has no judgement of people for their body type. Since she was very small she has loved and accepted people regardless of their skin color, disability, size, or other differences. She is a kind and compassionate girl by nature and by nurture.

Would I allow her to sing that song on the stage if she were part of the performance?
Would I encourage her to dance and pat her belly in gesture of the 'terribly fat' lyrics if her class were performing it?
What would this teach my child?

Maybe we are oversensitive as a society. Or maybe we are not sensitive enough.

What do you think?

29 comments:

Mirtika said...

I think the song pinpoints what MOST of us think, whether we want to admit it or not.

What is is you're saying when you detest your upper arms? Is it not the same as teh Oompa loompas and Augustus? You hate the fat upper arms. YOu cover them. You don't want them seen.

We all do this to some extent...we hate our own fat, and by extension, that's hating the fat of others. We may love others and never want to say anything that hurts them, but when our brains are peeled back and examined, and we had to say what we thought of Augustus..we'd say, "He's too fat and he's a glutton who's enabled by his mom. It's ugly."

If we thought being fat was great and beautiful, we'd not try to lose weight. We work at it to be healthy,b ut be honest, we do it to LOOK better as well.

We like the look of toned muscle under not too fat skin. We may be fine with plump or sturdy. But obese doesn't rock our world, or we'd be happy as clams and keep on eating without remorse.

We are all, to some extent, oompa loompas, even if the only glutton we despise some days is ourselves.

The thing is, I'm way harder on myself than others. I see the beauty of fat in art and in people walking around. But if it's a 500 pound guy in a scooter at Publix, what I feel is pity, not attraction. I don't get all hot and bothered over a guy who's so heavy he can't walk...

And that's honesty.

I don't wanna be mean or throw phrases at him (or her), but just as I'd look at fat me in a mirror and some days had despicably self-loathing thoughts at my belly, upper arms, thighs, butt...it's nt a stretch to say that's what we REALLY think without the civilizing layers of kindness and politeness.

We find is not great to look at...especially in ourselves.

I wish we were all fully non-judgmental some days..for all our sakes'..and thank God for mercy and civility and kindness and compassion...but if when I hate my fat, I hate all fat. Augustus' and everyones.

You can't escape that.

Hate your upper arm fat..and that's the message, right? You don't like the LOOK of it. And neither do many folks..maybe most folks...even if it's just themselves.

Erika said...

I could not agree more with the comment posted above. I HATE my own fat. Because I know it is there due to eating too much junk, and as a rational adult I had the power to say to myself "you don't need to eat that crap" but I did.it.anyway. Wow. To what purpose? To satisfy an instant feeling? I put that in front of long-term happiness?

This might be a little extreme, but I equate food addiction to a drug addiction because truly, both will kill you (one faster than the other, surely). I was completely addicted to being overstuffed and to every gross junk food you can think of.

Now, I do not have a daughter, and in fact I never allow anyone to hear me talk negatively about myself. And when I look at myself in the mirror (even at my fattest) I never thought, that is an ugly disgusting person. I thought "you must LOVE yourself, and you are WORTH SO MUCH MORE than what you are giving to your body".

Eating healthy foods, doing activities we love, is showing the MOST care for ourselves. It is the BEST way to live. And THAT is what we should be teaching our children.

Erika said...

Also Lyn I want to point out something just to add to your original point, but I want to state that this is in NO WAY a judgement on you or anything like that (because you are a HUGE inspiration for me, and I love you and this blog). BUT, your masthead says "I have to get out of this hellish nightmare". And I would agree that being obese IS a hellish nightmare (no less so because of how others treat you, all health concerns aside). So even though the song is just a silly one, I firmly belive "What do you think will come of that" = "Hellish Nightmare".

Andra said...

Interesting post, Lyn but by the same token, very well stated, Mirtika.

The song isn't necessarily about "FAT" but that gluttony is bad. And it is, we know where it got us. Just like the bad habits represented by the other children in the story.

The sad thing is, there are lots of "Mrs. Gloops" out there who are doing their children a disservice by passing on their food issues and bad eating habits to them.

Lyn said...

Well, actually, loving my body and what it has done for me is something I've worked on consistently and written about, such as "these are the arms that held my babies." But yes, you are right, I don't like the looks of my arms. However, it is not true that I don't like the looks of OTHER people's arms, fat or not. And I actually do think many large women are attractive, and beautiful.

As for the "hellish nightmare," oh it sure was! The ER visits for heart issues, being unable to fit on rides, being unable to walk a half block, almost seeing my toddler run into a busy street because I was unable to run and catch her... oh it was hell. I cried a lot. I couldn't tuck my kids in. BUT, there are some, perhaps many people who are quite heavy or large and do NOT live in a hellish nightmare. They are quite happy with their lives and their bodies. Being fat does not always equal a hellish nightmare, as it did in my case. But is that song classifying people who are fat as gluttons and unattractive in a 'us vs. them' sort of mentality?

Princess Dieter said...

I've learned to love my body a lot more, too, even with still excess fat and wrinkles and crinkles and sag and smooshies. I focus on a lot that you do--what I am able to do and enjoy with it.

But if I sit here and moan about how fat and ugly my belly is..and someone is in my vicinity whose belly is AS big or bigger, the message is still, "my belly is disgusting. your belly is disgusting. fat bellies are disgusting."

No different, though in our minds, we FEEL the difference in how we judge ourselves vs others, it really is the same to the one hearing it, seeing it.

Vi said...

I don't like those lyrics either, as they are so insensitive, and words can hurt more than anything else sometimes.
Vi

Nanette said...

I'm all in favor of leaving it as it is. if looked at in the context of the movie, it's used to discourage kids from eating excessive amounts of sweets. Each character represents a poor behavior. Augustus represents gluttony. Fat is an adjective, not a curse word.

Vicki said...

I have to say that I grew up knowing those lyrics (i was an oompa loompa aged 10) and the line "I don't like the look of it" has never entered my head as being about the physical appearance.
I have always paired it with the line before "What do you think will come of that?, I don't like the look of it" and understood it to mean there will be consequences of your gluttony and they don't like the look of what will happen.

On a different note obesity is not something that happened to us in a passive way, we allowed it to happen. We aren't all supposed to be a perfect size 10 (UK sizes) and many of us are supposed to carry a little weight (from out genetic background), however no one is supposed to be obese. Possibly being accepting and sensitive to the needs of obese individuals is allowing the propensity of this problem.
We should all have compassion for individuals no matter what the situation. However in the case of obesity I think I child needs to be made aware that although the person should be treated with respect, that it is likely that they have allowed themselves to get bigger by eating more food than they should (often unhealthy) and not being active.

Joyful Noise for a Joyful Life said...

It is hard to teach children to be tolerant of others with lyrics like that. We all know that having others judge us does not help but hinder us in being the best we can be.

N.R.E. said...

Interesting post. I've known that song since childhood, but never interpreted the lyrics in that way. I always figured that the songs and kids were examples of deadly sins: gluttony for Augustus, pride for Violet, sloth for Mike Teevee, greed for Veruca. I interpreted, "I don't like the look of it" as more a commentary about how Augustus was being raised than of his appearance. BTW, an interesting and disturbing factoid: in the orignal book the Oompa Loompas were Pygmies! Roald Dahl had some very messed up ideas...

NewMe said...

I'm probably in the minority, but I don't automatically think a fat person is a glutton. I often think to myself maybe she's just a naturally heavy person who's yo-yo dieted herself up the scale.

Everywhere I look, I see hatred for fat people and the assumption that a person is fat because he or she is a) gluttonous, b) slothful c) piggish d) disgusting e) unable to control his or herself, or f) several dozen more hateful things.

So no, I don't like that song. And as far as I know, hating fat people and/or hating oneself for being fat have never helped anyone to lose, much less, keep off the weight.

donner said...

I think its one thing to have a kid sing a song innocently, and another to teach a kid to be hateful, mean and intolerant of other people. Your kid sounds like a nice kid and I'm sure you aren't teaching her to be mean and ugly to folks. People will get offended by anything and everything now a days. I think people are WAY to oversensitive today.

Diandra said...

I'd be more worried about what a song like that does to children's self-image...

teresa said...

I think this song might be a subtle battle call for fat prejudice. It is not the blatant comments we need to worry about, it is the subtle places these comments are found. Little kids' value systems are formed by everything around them. Including the judgements of this song. Fat is not healthy but fat people should not cause someone to look at them in disgust.

Anonymous said...

this book has been taken out of the school curriculum here.

Dinahsoar said...

More is caught than taught. What are you teaching your daughter Lyn?

You cannot protect her from other viewpoints. And this trend to find offense under every rock is scarey. Toleration is path that runs both ways. If I only tolerates beliefs that agree with mine then I am intolerant of the beliefs of others. Where is the line to be drawn, and who decides?

My suggestion is you counter any teaching you disagree with by teaching her your belief and let others do the same. That's what happens in a democracy.

I fear we are running headlong into becoming a fascist society.

"Fascists believe that all actions should be done for the good of the state; they reject classical liberalism, which upholds the rights of the individual."

Anonymous said...

I think we live in a very sensitive society. Does the class only sing the Augustus part, to make fun of fat kids? Or are they singing about Veruca, Mike Teevee and Violet too? If you want to get into the lessons of the song then you need to teach her about being a greedy brat or tv junkie, too.

I think you're reading too much into the song. It's about all kinds of gluttony, not someones weight battle.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the song was not meant to be as literal as you took it. However, I too agree with some of the other comments most people do not find fat attractive and I highly doubt we ever will. Gluttony IS as bad an addiction as drug or alcohol abuse - all are forms of self-medication – except that we can all live life without drinking alcohol, taking drugs, gambling, etc, but none of us can go forever without eating. Much that is said in defense of fat is said for the sake of being PC. Very few large women are truly attractive or beautiful because fat, in our minds (subconsciously or not), is equated to illness, lack of self-control, gluttony and laziness. In fact many large women compensate for their size by making sure their hair and make-up are impeccable, nails are done and they are dressed well, all in an attempt to distract. Some may have attractive attributes, and if they do there's always the "she'd be so beautiful if she only lost weight" thought. I am being blunt and not trying to be hurtful, but again, if we were OK with being fat none of us would be trying to lose weight. Self love and acceptance is a great thing, but not on a delusional level.

Cathy said...

We watch that movie a lot around here, and I have thought about it too ... but I do think the song is about greed, not physical looks. And, I think we want to believe we have less control over what our children eat than over the behaviors of Veruca, Mike TV and Violet. But that is false, and that mindset is harming our children, us, and society in general

Anonymous said...

...And now for a slightly different perspective:

"Would I allow her to sing that song on the stage if she were part of the performance?
Would I encourage her to dance and pat her belly in gesture of the 'terribly fat' lyrics if her class were performing it?"


Hi. I'm a theater director, and the thought that a parent would pull a child from a performance or discourage her kid from participating in the way the director asked is galling to me. The director has responsibility toward the kids and ought to say 'we're singing the song while pretending to be someone who hates fat people. But in real life, we don't hate fat people. This is just pretend.' If she doesn't, the parent can, but I'm troubled by this idea that we just tell our kids to quit and be "offended" rather than teach our kids critical thinking skills. We can let them know that there are all kinds of people in the world with whom we may or may not agree.
Now, having said that, I hate that song, and always have. I agree with Lyn that it makes no distinction between gluttony and body size, and while that reflects the thinking of the time it was written in, it doesn't reflect my attitude, and I would happily talk to my kids about that.

On another note,
I'm angry with the manner in which Commenter "Mirtika" couches her personal opinions and prejudices by using a plural pronoun. I refuse to be part of her sanctimonious, judgmental "we." I'm not. What she terms "honesty" is not universal honesty; it's her own bigoted opinion. She's entitled to it, but just because she doesn't know people who don't agree with her does not mean that such people do not exist in large numbers. I claim my own point of view; it's arrogant and dangerous to presume to speak for others.

Anonymous said...

I see kids as really different than mothers of 4 kids. A normal, active, 4yo boy needs more calories than I do, a short, sedentary woman. But, the 4yo has a tiny stomach compared to me. So it's really, really difficult to get that heavy that young. in contrast, with every pregnancy women put on weight as a healthy part of growing their own children. Losing weight is not natural, it used to mean famine! While I understand that Lyn didn't become 278 solely through pregnancy, I find it difficult to believe that someone at that BMI/ fat percentage/ age is perfectly healthy and happy. Yes, there are bodybuilders with a high BMI because they've created a muscular frame, but even for them there is a toll on hips, knees, joints.

DaisyNYC said...

Well, I've also directed children's theater, and I totally disagree with "Anonymous." We don't teach our children "critical thinking skills" by telling them to just go along with a pledge, song or statement that is against their beliefs or ethically/morally bankrupt, just because the director pressures them with a rationalization.

If my children had the compassion to be offended by that song and refused to sing it, I would applaud their integrity. It's not coddling, and bears no resemblance to pulling a child out because they just don't like their part or took up a new sport that conflicts with the schedule.

Ironically, Anonymous, you're the one who showed little awareness of others' beliefs and opinions, not Mirtika. Don't purport to speak for the theatrical community - I think you're completely off-base.

DaisyNYC

Maren said...

For me personally, those lyrics are hurtful and insensitive. Plain and simple.

I just wanted to let you know that I came across your blog while googling for inspiration. I've just only started trying to lose weight myself, and you are a true inspiration. Thank you for that!

Anonymous said...

My cross-country-running, basketball-playing, super-athletic teenage daughter has been dealing with a terrible illness for over a year. The meds that ease her pain also made her gain 30+ pounds in 3 months. We all hate fat, but we are also quick to judge fat in others. Think before you sing.

Anonymous said...

All very interesting perspectives. I, too, take the "I don't like the looks of it" to mean the situation vs. the fat. But the song would still make me somewhat uncomfortable.

Lyn, I've looked through your blog to try to find a blog and comments about why others are motivated to lose weight. Have you done one? The closest I can come is the one on fat acceptance. I'd like to know what motivates others to start or restart, and what keeps them going on the tough days. Thanks!

Okiebelle said...

Are you ok? Haven't heard from you in a while.
Denise

Anonymous said...

Lyn, what's going on, hope you are ok. Also hope you haven't fallen off the wagon cause the holiday season is coming?

PaulaM

Anonymous said...

Hugs to you, Lyn, whatever you're doing and whatever (if anything) you might be dealing with. It's hard to be the one who is always "out there" in front of everyone, and in your special and unique way, giving so much to so many. Know you're appreciated!!