Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Halloween Grinch to replace candy with fat notes?

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
updated 3:35 PM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
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
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
A mom questions if she wants her daughters seeing a "sado-masochistic relationship, dressed up as a Hollywood love fantasy?"
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
In 2014, why is society still so incredibly uncomfortable with public breastfeeding? Kelly Wallace gets to the root of the controversy.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Seven years ago, Barbara Theodosiou, then a successful entrepreneur, stopped going to meetings, leaving the house and taking care of herself. She grew increasingly distraught -- her two children were addicts.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, throws America's problem with talking about race into sharp relief.
updated 10:25 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Mo'ne Davis is the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series. She's an inspiration, but will she change the face of the sport?
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
There is a reason why when people post pictures of themselves during their middle school years on Facebook for "Throw Back Thursday," we all stop and take notice.
It could cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise your child -- and that's not even including college costs, according to new government estimates.
updated 12:09 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
From parent to son, uncle to nephew, there's a raw, private conversation being revived in America in the wake of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Children sometimes get left out of our conversations about mental illness. The truth is, they suffer too.
updated 5:14 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
CNN's Kat Kinsman says that talking freely about personal mental health and suicidal thoughts can help others.
updated 1:26 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
morning person
Easy tips on how to improve everything from your dinner order to the song in your head to your career.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
The case of an Arizona mom who left her kids in a car during a job interview highlights the fluid line between bad parenting and criminal behavior.
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
A children's book about gun rights has benefited from an unexpected boost in sales after it became the subject of a mocking segment on a talk show.
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
Some campers and counselors keep the campfire flames burning with summer flings that become lifetime commitments.
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
After letting her 7-year-old son walk from their home to a park to play, a Florida mother faces up to five years in jail for child neglect.
updated 3:16 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, who lost her son in a hot car, hopes mandatory technology in cars and car seats will stop child death from heatstroke in cars.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Not to mention your jeans, bras and pillows? Here's a definitive guide to keeping all your quarters clean.
Imagination Playgrounds have snaking tunnels, platforms and springy mats just like any other playground. But they're different in one fundamental way -- they're built by kids.
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Grammy Award-winning singer Sarah McLachlan, a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls, talks about parenting, sex and whether women can have it all.
updated 7:54 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain.
updated 4:41 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
The case of a South Carolina mother arrested for allegedly leaving her 9-year-old daughter at a park while she was working sparks debate over how young is too young to leave a child alone.
updated 11:15 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
CNN's Kelly Wallace reveals 5 common parenting mistakes that many parents admit to making.
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Is it a bad idea for parents to let kids drink underage at home, or does an early sip make drinking less taboo? Studies are divided on the subject, which is a tough nut for parents to crack.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cellphones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night
updated 2:40 PM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
Professional photographer Timothy Archibald uses his camera to connect with his autistic son.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Do you wish you could outsource the summer cooking, cleaning, and camp planning associated with kids? Here are 5 ways to do it -- and why you shouldn't feel guilty about it.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
The death of a Georgia toddler in a hot car raises the question: should government or automakers get involved to prevent accidental deaths from heatstroke inside a car?
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
It's not just the 'baby blues.' Postpartum depression affects about 15% of new mothers. Here's what one 'warrior woman' is doing to fight it.
Post your personal essays and original photos, and tell us how it really is.
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
What does it mean to run "like a girl"? A new viral video points out that the answer changes depending on whom you ask.
updated 5:22 PM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
CNN reporter Moni Basu lived in the U.S. nearly 30 years before becoming a citizen. Here's what it meant to pledge her allegiance.
updated 5:07 PM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Her daughter was cut from the team. Her son didn't get into that coveted honors class. It was hard but also helpful. Here's how one mom learned to find lessons in failure.
updated 11:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
The presence of transgender and gender nonconforming youth at NYC Pride March is latest effort to increase visibility of the transgender community.
updated 6:27 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
A new ad by the hair care company Pantene asks why women are always apologizing and raises the question of whether women say "sorry" more often than men.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The American Academy of Pediatrics announced new guidelines this week urging doctors to tell parents to read to their infants and toddlers.
updated 1:47 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
A new survey says that working fathers, like working mothers, find it hard to balance work and family.
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.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT