Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Halloween Grinch to replace candy with fat notes?

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1935 GMT (0335 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A woman tells radio station she will hand out warnings to obese kids on Halloween
  • It's unclear if her suggestion is real or merely a radio station stunt
  • But such an idea has been met with outrage online
  • "Wrong strategy for a real problem" is a sentiment shared by many

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- I know whose house I would avoid on Halloween if I lived in Fargo, North Dakota.

Instead of handing out candy, a local woman called into a radio station, saying she plans to pass out letters to trick-or-treaters she feels are "moderately obese."

How do you say killjoy?

"I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight," said the woman, who identified herself only as Cheryl, during an interview with WDAY-FM radio in Fargo.

"I think it's just really irresponsible of parents to just sort of send them out looking for free candy just 'cause all of the other kids are doing it," she said.

Read: Am I a bad parent if I give my kids candy?

Since news of such a Halloween plan went viral, people have called CNN affiliate KXJB-TV questioning whether the story is a hoax, according to the station.

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

But "Rat," WDAY-FM's morning co-host, told CNN it was definitely not a radio station stunt. "The woman Cheryl did call into our show," he said. "We have been unable to get her back on the phone."

It remains unclear if the woman truly plans to hand out obesity letters or if this was all a prank.

"Whether Cheryl goes through with handing out letters or not seems to be a Halloween mystery," said JT Thaden, brand manager for WDAY-FM. "If any local children do get a letter, we're encouraging them to stop by (our) studios and we'll exchange it for a piece of candy."

The radio station said the woman e-mailed it the following message for parents: "Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.

"My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits."

Her goal, she said in the interview, is spurring action to battle a communitywide problem.

Street smarts for trick-or-treating
Should obese kids receive 'fat letters'?
School's letter says this child is fat

"Their kids are everybody's kids. It's a whole village," she said.

CNN iReport contributor Tony Posnanski said he was motivated to write a response of his own after hearing about what he calls the "fat-shaming letter."

"Any kind of fat letter is just a shame. It doesn't solve anything, it just shames people," he said in his iReport.

Prank or not, Posnanski said the whole concept could still affect people. "It can influence others to send in fat letters, too. When I was a child, I was overweight. I think the more that people pointed it out, it only put me through hell."

Posnanski said he plans to hand out his own positive letter along with Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters, pointing out how "awesome" they are.

"I don't think (my letter) is going to affect kids or parents, but it is better than handing out fat letters. This is a holiday for kids to have fun; this isn't a holiday for candy," he said.

Plenty of people in my social community had some other choice words.

"This is despicable," said Sue Scheff, author of the book "Wit's End: Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen," on Facebook. "Talk about giving a child a complex and deflating their self-esteem especially in front of their peers."

"Holy cr*p! This is just plain mean," said Sarah Winer Maizes of Los Angeles, a children's book author and blogger, also on Facebook. "It's just plain heartless. Can we videotape someone giving her a 'you're a heinous creature of a human being' note?"

"This is terrible, particularly for the girls already overly concerned about body image," said new mom Katie Resnick Lamoureux of Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Opinion: 'Fat letters' from schools to parents are wrong

Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, agrees, saying such a concept, along with letters from schools to parents about a child's body mass index, would be the wrong way to go.

"So-called 'fat letters' have no place in schools and certainly no place in our kids' Halloween buckets and bags," Grefe said. "Bringing attention to a child's weight and size in this way is yet one more thoughtless approach that targets and bullies children, putting them at risk for low self-esteem and ultimately developing an eating disorder."

She added, "Health should be assessed by a medical doctor, certainly not a stranger who might be dressed as one."

Everyone in my social networking circles was horrified by the North Dakotan's possible approach, but some also recognized there's a real problem.

CNN\'s Kelly Wallace: \
CNN's Kelly Wallace: "I know whose house I would avoid on Halloween if I lived in Fargo, North Dakota."

"I agree that the community as a whole should support and promote healthy lifestyles because it does take a village, but this is not the way to go about it," said Janet Abrams Piechota on Facebook.

Said a reader who goes by the Twitter handle @nunoc3, "Wrong strategy for a real problem."

"Maybe she should just give out healthy snacks to all," @patgee59 tweeted. "Don't be the fat monitor."

Yes, she can join the small number of families (less than 5% according to a poll for a story I did a few years back) who give out healthy snacks -- raisins, fruit, even toothbrushes and dental floss on Halloween.

Read: Halloween, behind the scenes with Martha

Like the woman in North Dakota, I guess these families also have good intentions, but come on, folks, it's Halloween.

Mike Adamick, a stay-at-home dad in San Francisco, had another idea. "I want to hand out letters to people who hand out raisins or dental floss ... although with a kid there, I suppose the correct response would be, 'Thank you.' Still, killjoys," said the blogger and author of the book, "Dad's Book of Awesome Projects."

I agree, which is why I sent my children to school with what my husband called an "unconscionable" amount of candy in small baggies to give out to their friends.

Now I just hope their moms don't send me a letter.

Follow Kelly Wallace on Twitter and like CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
April 3, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Recreational weed is one option for Colorado vacationers who want to relax after a day of skiing. But when the kids are along, parents have to plan accordingly.
March 28, 2014 -- Updated 1812 GMT (0212 HKT)
It's like any other group for moms to get together, chat and blow off steam. The only difference: All these moms are legally blind.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
"Princeton mom" Susan Patton argues that young women should look for husbands in college before the pool shrinks. CNN's Kelly Wallace disagrees.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 2131 GMT (0531 HKT)
Pinterest can cause already stressed-out moms to feel like we are in constant competition to throw the perfect birthday party, make the perfect school snack and take the perfect family photo.
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
When Cathy Sarubbi's first child was born, she couldn't imagine the girl would grow up to become a U.S. Paralympian; she didn't even know if the baby would live through the night.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
Many of Hollywood's hottest award contenders brought Mom along to share in their Oscar glory.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1449 GMT (2249 HKT)
From Blue Ivy and Suri to North and Matilda, these celebrity kiddos have totally inherited their mothers' style smarts.
February 28, 2014 -- Updated 0432 GMT (1232 HKT)
So many parents dread the teenage years -- the eye rolling, door slamming and lack of conversation. But there are ways to get a teen to open up.
February 28, 2014 -- Updated 0430 GMT (1230 HKT)
Ask parents of teens if their children are more stressed than they were at the same age, and they'll usually tell you, "Absolutely."
We want you to tell it like it is: Let's share the mess-ups, the chaos and the truth -- good, bad and ugly -- about all stages of child rearing.
ADVERTISEMENT