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 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
I happen to agree with Renee Zellweger that all the chatter about her face is "silly."
updated 6:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
I have long thought millennials, who expect flexibility in the workplace, would be the group that would bring an end to the stigma that is too often associated with flex time -- the belief that wanting a flexible work arrangement means you aren't willing to work as hard. But now I'm thinking it's going to be men who will get us there.
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Say it with us: Kids today have it sooooo easy.
updated 2:29 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
An Atlanta judge reportedly reprimanded an immigration attorney for bringing her 4-week-old to court for a hearing -- a hearing she asked the judge to reschedule because she was on her six-week maternity leave.
updated 4:18 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Monica Lewinsky tweeted for the first time. She called herself "patient zero" of cyber-bullying.
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter with something to prove: "Kids and guns don't always mean bad things happen."
updated 10:57 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
"Breaking Bad's" Walter White may have cleverly dodged authorities during his career as a drug kingpin, but his action figure hasn't dodged the wrath of a Florida mother.
updated 9:50 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
strawberry ghosts
We love Halloween season. Sweets. Sweaters. Sipping hot cider (maybe spiked). Halloween can certainly get you in the spirit, and nothing warms our hearts like these healthy Halloween treats that help you stay energized instead of stuck in a sugar coma.
updated 3:23 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Does your baby cry during long flights, causing you to want to disappear from the glares of fellow passengers?
updated 10:52 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ask any teen if they suffer from social media anxiety and they would probably tell you no. But the truth is getting "likes" and the fear of missing out are adding stress to teens' lives.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to document stillborn and terminal babies' precious moments after birth.
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
As part of the insurance coverage offered to its female employees, Facebook is paying to freeze their eggs.
updated 2:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Amal Alamuddin was well-known in many important circles long before she snagged the world's most eligible bachelor. But Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney, according to her law firm's website.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Trends in young adult fiction have shifted from wizards to glittering vampires to bloodthirsty "Hunger Games" and now, to teens coping with illnesses and realistic issues.
updated 8:56 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Before he died this year, 14-year-old Martin Romero wanted to do something for his community.
updated 6:33 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
A 12-year-old girl called Dick's Sporting Goods out on its lack of female athletes in the Basketball 2014 catalog.
updated 12:36 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Before he was even born, Shane Michael Haley had already met the Philadelphia Phillies, been to the top of the Empire State Building and shared a cheesesteak with his parents.
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I read the initial comments from Microsoft's CEO on how women who don't ask for raises will receive "good karma."
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
A photo series "From the NICU to the Moon" imagines premature babies in future professions with a series of imaginative doodles.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
Jessica Dunne and her father Michael P. Dunne
"I don't think anyone is ready for grief. But when it hits you, it knocks you out cold," Jessica Dunne wrote after the sudden loss of her father.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Most moms will say they long for a day when moms stop criticizing one another, but most of us are guilty of tearing each other down.
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
When we think of terminal cancer patients, we don't imagine Brittany Maynard -- 29, vigorous, happy. But she will soon take a handful of pills that will end her life.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
"Back in my day, we used to walk five miles uphill, carrying all our books in the blistering cold and the pouring rain..." Some schools have found a new way to making walking to school safer -- and more fun.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
The death of a New Jersey boy, the first health officials are directly linking to Enterovirus D68, has parents wondering whether school is the worst place to send kids susceptible to the virus.
updated 10:22 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
It's a heartbreaking time for three families, football teams and communities after three players died last week. Investigations are under way, but some parents are wondering, is the sport safe for children?
updated 1:26 PM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Here's what some schools are doing to create welcoming environments for transgender and gender nonconforming children.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Nothing could prepare this mom-to-be for what she learned at her first ultrasound.
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A 15-year-old British schoolboy has struck a chord with his eloquent response to actress Emma Watson's United Nations speech encouraging men to join in the fight for gender equality.
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