When I was twelve, Kelloggs ran an ad campaign that suggested that if I could pinch an inch of skin on my body, I had a weight problem. Kelloggs is just one tiny gear in a massive marketing machine that has fundamentally changed the way we think about our bodies. They dress up illness (extreme thinness) and call it beauty. By skewing what is normal, they put the majority of the population into a state of insecurity. It’s a strategy that’s good for the economy but bad for the consumer. We buy more to fix our perceived flaws but lose our sense of worth. I wrote this letter to Kelloggs because I didn’t want this legacy of body hate to be handed down to the next generation.
When I was twelve, you ran your “Pinch an Inch” ad campaign. In it, you told us that if we could pinch an inch of skin on our bodies, we had a weight problem. You demonstrated how to check our bodies for the apparent offender. You told us there was a solution to our embarrassing problem…. a diet including Special K.
I was young and impressionable. My body was changing as I became a woman. It’s difficult to feel comfortable in a transitioning body when you and others like you profited by suggesting that a normal body is an embarrassment. You sold cereal by selling insecurity. It’s a popular strategy that’s good for profits but bad for the consumer.
You humiliate us. You tell us we’re too fat, flat chested, lumpy, curvy, old, whatever. Barraged by so many similar messages we start to question our perfectly normal bodies. For many of us, the questioning turns to certainty and we turn on ourselves. We start to speak your language. We “fat talk”. We “diet talk”. We spread your dogma of body insecurity like a virus to our daughters, our sons, our friends and our family.
Insecure customers are the best consumers. They perceive more flaws and buy more stuff to fix and compensate for them. But you already know that. After all, you are one gear in a massive marketing machine that created the insecurity that it uses for fuel.
My twelve year-old self was creative, passionate and loving. She looked out for the underdog. She took care of her siblings, had her own babysitting business and made efforts to save animals from extinction. She was a light until she got stuck in the darkness of your lies.
For years, I wasted my valuable time and energy obsessed with the inches on my body. I checked for them and ate your cereal, just as you taught me to do. But it didn’t fix the problem, because my body wasn’t a problem. The problem is that you and many like you use your powerful and ever-present voice to turn little girls and boys into great consumers by making them feel like something is wrong with them.
The fuel on which you exist is no longer available here. I stopped buying your products years ago. It is not nutritious to nibble on processed grain flakes while you swallow down equal portions of self-loathing. Besides, I don’t feed lies to my children or myself.
Alison Ross, A Former Customer
Want help making the shift into a healthier mindset and body? Join us at Center for Eating Recovery for an 8-Week Eating Psychotherapy Group, Heal the Hungry Brain, or for Repair Your Reflection, our monthly, body image workshop where you will update the lens through which your see your body and start to build body esteem.
Alison Ross is the founder of Center for Eating Recovery in Agoura Hills, California. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in eating and body image. Alison was inspired to start the Center after healing her relationship with food and her body. Her mission is to help others rise above the obsessive and self-hating diet mentality in our culture to find true health through empowerment, awareness, love and self-care. The Center offers treatment for eating and body image problems across the spectrum including food addiction, binge-eating, emotional overeating, yo-yo dieting, bulimia and anorexia.