Watch Your Words

There is a television in the locker room at the pool we went to this summer. I estimate that I walked my children through that locker room 18 times in the six weeks we used the pool. More often than not, there is the same girl glued to that television watching The Tyra Banks Show. From now on, I will refer to her as Young Girl because she is one. I estimate she is 11 or 12 years old. Any thoughts or comments on this scenario so far? Here is what I predict the experts might say:

Pediatrician: Why does this locker room have television? Shouldn’t Young Girl be in the pool expending calories? This show better count towards the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations of less than 2 hours of screen time per day.

Psychologist: Where are Young Girl’s parents? Is The Tyra Banks Show appropriate material for a young girl like Young Girl? I know The Tyra Banks show tag line is “The Tyra Show gives young women the ‘girlfriend’ they want to hang out with, and the role model they need”. With all due respect, I think Young Girl is too young to “hang” with Tyra when last Wednesday’s show topic was Strange Sex.

Teacher: I am certain Young Girl has summer reading to do. Turn the television off.

Being the pediatric nutrition expert, I have my own thoughts and comments on a particular interaction I had with Young Girl and her Tyra Banks Show a few weeks ago.

I was changing my kids near the television viewing area and Young Girl had one of her friends with her. Tyra had just introduced her guest, which was a popular teen actress. The second this actress walked onto Tyra’s stage, Young Girl, in an awfully snotty tone, said, “JEEZ…SHE HAS PUT ON SOME WEIGHT!” Without missing a beat, I said, “Now that is not a very nice thing to say, is it?” Young Girl shot me a look like I have never seen before because my daughter is only three. (From what I understand, I will most likely encounter this look in my home in approximately eight years.) YIKES! I didn’t mean to open my mouth, but I did. It takes a village, right? I could not believe this nasty comment exited Young Girl’s mouth in such a disgusted tone of voice; I had to intervene.

There is no doubt that Young Girl’s friends are influential and that she may have learned to make snide remarks about other female bodies from them, but the reality is parents, especially mothers, exert a stronger influence in body image issues with girls. Young Girl’s weight comment, coupled with her tone of voice, makes me think there is dialogue at home that I would disapprove of and promptly halt if they hired me. When you think your daughter is not watching, processing and learning, you are wrong. If you eat salad when she has hot dogs, she is watching, processing, and learning. If you complain about your hips, thighs, boobs, and butt, she is watching, processing and learning.  And if you comment on other people’s body types whether they are fat, thin or normal she is watching, processing and learning.

I happened to see Young Girl and her mother walking out of the locker room tonight.  In my expert opinion (and sensitive tone of voice if I were speaking these words to you), this mother was overweight.  I had to wonder if they were going home to eat the same dinner.

About Melanie Silverman

Melanie is a pediatric registered dietitian nutritionist (RD) and a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) working primarily in pediatric nutrition for well over 15 years. She spent seven years as a clinical dietitian at The University of Chicago Medical Center in the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit, adult and pediatric burn units, and high risk pediatric follow-up clinic. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University Chicago. Melanie has presented at state and national meetings for the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN), March of Dimes, Prader-Willi California Foundation, Texas Prader-Willi Association, Oklahoma Prader Willi Syndrome Association, Foundation for Prader-Willi Research (FPWR) in the United States and Canada and the Prader-Willi Syndrome USA (PWSA). She worked hard for her Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and Spanish from Indiana University and a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center. A member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, California Dietetic Association, Pediatric Nutrition Practice Group, Women’s Health Group, Nutrition Entrepreneurs and an active member of the International Lactation Consultant Association.