I find myself defending the most unlikeliest of people. Today it’s Honey Boo Boo and her mother.
For those unfamiliar with the names, Alana Thompson – AKA Honey Boo Boo – and Mama June Shannon burst onto the pop culture scene on the reality show “Toddlers & Tiaras” and followed that up with “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” That later bit of reality TV spun a mixture of down-home charm with chagrin over the family’s life, but after a serious controversy (and declining ratings), TLC dropped the show.
But once you’ve been in the pop culture eye, ending up in front of cameras again can happen, especially if you’re willing to let others tsk-tsk over the way you live. And that’s just what’s happening now.
Honey Boo Boo and Mama June have been popping up on TV talk and entertainment shows lately. The big topic is the little girl’s weight. At age 9 and 4-foot-6, she is 125 pounds, which categorizes her as obese on the Body Mass Index scale.
And while their visit to “The Doctors” did conclude with constructive advice – alternative recipes for her favorite foods (all, coincidentally, from the cookbook by Dr. Travis Stork, who was interviewing the pair that day) – that came well after subtle fat shaming and a major blame game for Mama June.
Watching clips of the little girl preparing her breakfast (a microwaveable breakfast bowl) and hearing her favorite foods – chicken nuggets, pizza, fried chicken – it hit me. Honey Boo Boo and her loved ones eat what so many strapped-for-cash American families do. People are eating this way not because they want their families to be fat and unhealthy (Honey Boo Boo has asthma). They choose these highly processed, carbohydrate-rich items because these are the cheapest, most readily available foods around.
Why can’t any talk show focusing on this family mention that?
Mama June’s family has some money now (I hope), but her own eating and cooking habits began when she was young, and from all appearances, mom came from a modest background. She discussed on “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” the ways she’d stretch $80 a week to feed her family of then-six.
If we truly want people to eat better, shaming them is not the way to go, yet that’s a big part of it these days. True, as Stork said to Mama June on the show, “It all starts with you,” but when parents needs cheap, convenient food and what their budget permits is the crappy but affordable choices that are out there, I’d say they aren’t entirely to blame.
We nag Americans constantly to eat better, but we have to improve the readily available affordable choices if that’s what we want them to do.
“The Doctors” is providing Honey Boo Boo’s family a personal chef to cook for them, someone who’ll explain what they should be eating and demonstrate how to prepare healthier yet tasty meals. Mom and daughter are invited to return in May (another coincidence, during a TV sweeps ratings period) to see how things are going.
That’s all great for this one family, but what about the rest of overweight American?
How refreshing it would be if the next time TV decides to do a weight blame game that it takes on government subsidies – that highly support the bad carbohydrates in our diets – and a food industry that makes dubious food choices so affordable. Now that would be must-see TV.