Why Is it Okay to Scorn the Overweight on Halloween?

A North Dakota woman is giving out shaming letters instead of candy. A Montco dentist has a better plan.

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The Internet has blown up over the story of a woman who says she will give some trick-or-treaters a letter instead of candy for Halloween.

The letter would only be given to children the woman believes are “moderately obese.” So if your child wears clothes marked Husky, this woman sends him home with a letter that reads, “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.”




The woman who called into a Fargo, North Dakota, radio show, and wisely only identified herself as “Cheryl,” says “I want to send a message to parents of kids that are really overweight…I think it’s just irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just because all the other kids are doing it.”

The letter goes on to say, "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."

I don’t know about you, but if my child came home with that letter, I would ask him to walk me back to the house where I would show him the time honored Delaware County tradition of egging a house, the “trick” in the "trick or treat" option. I would be stunned if this woman didn’t wake up to see toilet paper-draped trees through her egg coated windows and a little present on her front steps courtesy of the neighborhood dogs.

The story, first reported by USA Today, quotes a doctor from Bucks County who likes the idea.

David Smith, a cardiologist from Doylestown, claims the woman who has nominated herself the Fargo Fat Sheriff is doing a public service.

"I think it's a tough-love letter," says Smith. "Eating disorders are a problem but the magnitude of that risk just pales in comparison to obesity. Obesity in the last decade has taken over smoking as the leading health problem we face today."

Oh yeah, a love letter: “Dear little fat boy, you are too fat to trick or treat on Halloween. Please take this love letter home to your bad parents. Love, The Neighbor You Wish was Dead.”

When did it become okay to tell your neighbors how to raise their kids? I blame the current crop of nanny politicians, led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and followed by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who I’m certain approve of the note. Yes, obesity is a real problem in this country, but does that mean we have to point at the overweight and publicly scorn them. When did it become okay to be rude, to be heartless, in the name of public health?

"Giving candy to an obese child is like giving a cigarette to a person with emphysema," says Dr. Smith. "It is giving a drink to an alcoholic. It is giving heroin to a drug addict."

No, it’s like letting a child participate in a tradition with all of the other kids in the neighborhood. Let his parents deal with the candy when the child gets home. It is possible to be proactive without being rude like Fargo Cheryl or over-reacting like the good doctor.

A good example is Dr. Angela Stout, “Dr. Angel,” of Cresheim Dental Associates in Erdenheim, Montgomery County. She has come up with a much more positive way for parents and kids to deal with the over-abundance of candy in the kitchen. For the third year, Dr. Angel is encouraging children to bring their candy to her office at 716 Bethlehem Pike next week. The candy will then be packaged and sent to troops in Afghanistan.

Stout told Paula Riley of the Chestnut Hill Local that she considers it a “win/win." All children who donate candy will be entered in a raffle to win an iPad touch. If you happen to be a patient of Cresheim Dental, you get $1 a pound for the candy, up to five pounds.

Finding positive alternatives over public scorning is always better. Unless, of course, you want to egg Fargo Cheryl’s home, in that case, scorn away.

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  • Ali G

    I agree with you on most of this, but have no idea why you felt the need to compare “Cheryl” with Mayor Nutter’s proposal for a soda tax. One is public shaming and can cause adverse effects on the minds of these children, potentially leading to an eating disorder. The other is something that generates revenue for a city by adding some change to the cost of an unhealthy beverage and in no way calls someone out to their face for being obese. You should possibly consider writing an OpEd like this without bringing in your political values, just your human ones.

    • Erin M

      I was just about to wrote the same. A soda tax would have positive effects on this city and it doesn’t necessarily target the obese.