Is There Any Such Thing As A Skinny Cow?

by Risa Green


Ever since my daughter was born, I have been vigilant about safeguarding her body image. Words like “calorie,” “fat,” and “diet” were banned from our house, as was the bathroom scale. My husband and I made a pact that we would not refer to foods as good or bad, but instead would talk about them as being healthy or unhealthy. I stopped keeping fashion magazines lying around the house, and when I get dressed or look in the mirror, I am always careful not to criticize myself out loud if my daughter is within earshot – no offhand comments about my how big my butt looks in my jeans, or how flabby my arms seem in certain shirts. But as much as I have tried to shield her from the cold, cruel world that women inhabit when it comes to their bodies, I have always known there would come a day when I couldn’t protect her any longer. It seems that day is now.


I always imagined that her awareness of the “thinner is better” mentality would derive from the inescapable images of impossibly skinny girls on billboards looming over the streets, and magazine covers at the supermarket. Or, perhaps it would be a friend who introduced her to the idea of hating one’s thighs, or coveting someone else’s. But never, in a million years, did I imagine that it would come from right inside my own home. I was way too careful for that. And yet…there it was. The ever-present diet aid television commercial.


Have you ever paid attention to the commercials that run during seemingly innocuous, innocent, family programs? It is all about dieting. Nutrisystem. Jenny Craig. Weight Watchers. Supplements whose weight-loss claims have not been verified by the FDA. You name a diet, and I can promise you, it is being advertised during any number of shows that a seven year-old girl might like to watch. Food Network Challenge? Yup. Jon and Kate Plus 8 (before the affair – when it was still appropriate for children)? Yup. Deal or No Deal? You betcha. Now granted, I realize that these shows are not intended for children, and I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t run these ads just because impressionable young minds might be watching. I’m just saying that I, personally, have always been so busy worrying about whether the content of a television show was appropriate for my daughter, that I never paid any attention to the content of the commercials that run in between them. Oops. My bad.



It can be so hard to deflect all the negative images of women that come at our girls from all angles! Like you, I make a big effort to keep all things "fat or skinny" related out of my girls range. Then along comes an early evening jeans commercial where 2 teenagers are clearly trying to get each others pants off. Why? Why do I have to become a person who objects to this? I always thought people who complained about the content on TV needed to shut up and change the channel. Sigh.
I told my girls (3 and 5 at the time) that those teenagers needed to get their pants off to go potty, they waited too long you see, and now its an emergency. Yes, we all agreed they should have gone when they first felt it.


Regardless of their specific content, commercials are bad for children and if you have the means to prevent them from watching commercials - use them. In my house my kids only watch commercial-free channels or DVDs.


You are obviously a kindred soul... I have assiduously tried to protect my three dots from these messages... as well as tried tried tried to shield them from my (increasingly unfit) body issues... I try and copy what my older brother (the doc) tells his kids about foods with extra fat -- they're just not that healthy. Keep up your brave and honorable task!


I have taken a different approach. I talk to my daughters about the commercials, about how the companies that make the products make outrageous claims just to get women to buy the products or how often the women who are eating some stupid "diet" product are actually normal. That's the part I really hate. I don't buy many women's magazines anymore because there is always a "finally, a diet that really works" or "how to lose 20 pounds in 10 minutes" article on the cover. They see these magazines at the supermarket when they are waiting in line with me or at their grandmother's house, but they know I think they are crap and I don't read them. I run, I eat chocolate, I try to make healthy choices with dinner and they see all this. It took me until I was in my 30s to be really happy with my body even though it has pretty much been the same all along. I hope it doesn't take them that long and I hope they don't waste as much time as I did thinking I needed to lose weight or trying to do some diet when I was lucky to have a strong, healthy body, and when there were so many other more important things to do.

Have you ever read The Feminine Mystique? I sometimes think there is some whole male conspiracy to keep women so focused on their bodies and their looks that they will be too busy to become president or take over companies or find their true calling.

Mom to 3


My daughter is four and a half so it's nice to have some kind of time line of when to expect this. I know people think I'm over protective with my kids in terms of their viewing habits but you just gave me the perfect reason to continue to keep a close eye on what they watch. Thanks!