One of my memories as a child was going to McDonald’s to get a Happy Meal. (It happened maybe once every six months.) I knew that my mom didn’t think that the Happy Meal was a healthy meal, but it was a treat. I still wanted to eat it more often, like my friend Beth, whose parents took her to McDonald’s every week. My mom didn’t think it was healthy, and so we weren’t allowed to have it often.
The Happy Meal that I remember is still the same. The hamburger, fries and a drink meal that was first debuted more than 30 years ago has remained virtually unchanged, although apples and low-fat milk were introduced as options in 2004 in an effort to make the kids favorite more healthy. Unless specifically requested, however, each Happy Meal included a 2.4 ounce serving of french fries. Now that I have children, I (shh!) make the same choice as my own mother – McDonald’s isn’t a healthy choice for my family and so we visit rarely.
McDonald’s is hoping to change our minds.
Many fast food restaurants have marketed collectible toys that come along with their child size meals for years. As the fifth largest burger chain in the country, Jack in the Box recently announced that they will be ending this promotion and instead begin a focus healthier menu items for children.
This restaurant and others like it have come under a lot of opposition from activists groups who claim that the use of toys in marketing directly contributes to the major problem of childhood obesity.
These are high claims. However these claims are the fuel behind certain states placing bans on the use of toys in children’s meals. There’s definitely a controversy taking place. There are enough people in the public agreeing that the toys have a negative effect that it could soon be illegal to place an action figure in with a child’s burger and fries.
Her Barbie certainly looks like an exaggerated ideal, much like other cartoons and toys. Unfortunately, Galia wasn’t able to create a proportional head and used a toy to top off her life-sized Barbie, but the other proportions are dead on for what Barbie would look like if she were a real woman. While it is certainly clear that Barbie’s waistline is unrealistically thin, I would hate to see what any of Disney’s princesses would like compared to a real human body.
Barbie is just one more example of how the media favors an unrealistic ideal when it comes to body shapes and sizes. Let’s not forget He-man and G.I. Joe when we consider what toys suggest to children. There are toys and cartoons and then there are airbrushed images in magazines and movie stars. Call it unrealistic or idealism, we are surrounded from early childhood. The problem comes when we start to expect this impossibly unrealistic exaggeration from ourselves as real people. That is when we can start to see unhealthy attempts to achieve such impossible ideals and the development of eating disorders.