Do You Want To Be A Skinny Cow?

Many years of nutrition studies can make you think about food in funny ways.  Over the past six years, my mind has been trained to see foods from many angles, including the perspective of a dietitian, a marketer, a health communicator, and consumer.

Sometimes, these perspectives blend together in strange ways, and lead to me to have some very interesting thoughts.  Last week, I was struck by such an episode, as my mind ran wild with questions over a brand of ice cream called The Skinny Cow.

The Skinny Cow, a division of Nestle, produces portion-controlled, sweet treats of the frozen kind for weight conscious consumers.   As I browsed through their website, there were a couple of things that stood out to me.  Have a read through my list and see if your perspective matches my own:

  • Is it just me, or is there something inherently offensive in naming a company Skinny Cow?  Sure, the cow could be in reference to the milk used to make ice cream.  But it has typically been a derogatory term for an overweight or obese person. It may be coincidental that this product has been designed for the weight loss market, but it seems there are some underlying anti-fat sentiments here.
  •  Can ice cream really transform fat cows into skinny ones?  Marketing in the weight loss industry is tricky, but portion controlled, low calorie ice cream will not magically transform consumers into skinny beings, nor will it improve their body image.
  •  Aren’t cows are supposed to be large?  A skinny cow, from an agricultural perspective, is either diseased or famished.  Either way, it is not profitable, so no one wants a skinny cow.
  •  There’s a measuring tape around the logo of the cow.  Why?  Cows are not regularly consumed by thoughts of losing weight.  Humans are (sadly); which leads me to my next point…
  •  Has anyone else noticed that the logo looks like a GQ model, with a feminine shape, mildly sexual pose, and ever-so-luscious lashes?  How glamorous!  I understand from a marketing perspective, this logo allows female, weight-conscious consumers to identify with your brand.  But really?  It’s a little silly if you ask me. 
  •  Why does a “Club Skinny” exist?  Club Skinny is a online group organized by the brand Skinny Cow, where consumers sign up using their social media accounts and earn points.  What is eerie about this is that psychologists and body image specialists have argued that that when it comes to weight, there is a sense of belonging to a group.  Being skinny is an elite title that is highly sought after, while the reverse is true for obesity.  It appears that Skinny Cow has now made it possible to belong to the elusive “Club Skinny”, all while eating ice cream!

As you can see, there are several different viewpoints I take on this matter; however, the take home message I want to communicate is that the marketing of our foods has distorted what it means to be healthy.  Healthy does not mean eating as few calories as possible.  Healthy does not mean being thin.  And healthy definitely does not mean belonging to an elite group of skinny folk.

Healthy is a much larger concept than this (and quite frankly, deserves a blog post of its own).  It is too large and too complex of a concept to be captured and sold in the form of a frozen dessert.

So if you love ice cream, go ahead and enjoy it from time to time.  But remember that healthy goes beyond calories in and out.  Nourishing your body with healthy foods, being active, and taking care of your mental health is what will get you there.  Ice cream just makes the journey a little sweeter.

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