I have three little girls, all under the age of seven, and before you start making the shotgun jokes regarding their teenage years, I'm here to say, I worry just as much about their here and now, as I do about their decade from now.
So what am I worried about now? Well, I'm not worried about the kindergarten bad boy who might try to convince my daughters to drink chocolate milk behind our garden shed. I'm worried about folks like the ruthless and downright evil marketers who think that my four and six-year-olds' self-esteem is fair game for them to target (thankfully my baby's still safe).
So what's got me fired up?
Skechers Shape-Up shoes.
While their existence is painfully stupid for adults, the fact that Skechers now makes its Shape-Up shoes for little girls is just plain wrong.
In case you aren't familiar with Shape-Ups, they're uncomfortable looking shoes with convex bottoms that are supposedly designed to help create, "more toned leg and buttock muscles", and, "may help burn calories."
Science and evidence be damned, they're an industry unto themselves, and now they're being targeted at children, including my pre-schooler.
The obnoxious cartoon ad aimed at my children is being aired by Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, and it shows pictures of boys dressed in hotdog, cupcake and ice cream cone costumes that can't keep up with cool, skinny, uber-made-up, Heidi in her skin tight shirt, mini skirt, and her new Shape-Ups. They even offer a lace-free Velcro version that presumably is meant for my four-year-old.
Do my little girls really need to worry about their butts?
The sad truth is, my girls are almost certainly facing a lifetime of advertisements that will be geared to make them feel like their looks are inadequate. They'll regularly be made to feel that their bodies are too fat, their lips insufficiently red, their skin too rough, their hair too frizzy, their breasts too small, and their butts too big. Magazines, TV spots, product placements, celebrity spokespeople -- there will be no shortage of unrealistic expectations to eat away at my babies' self-esteem.
Yet somehow I didn't expect them to start to encounter them before they lost all of their baby teeth.
Recent studies have reported that nearly half of six year old girls worry about "being fat". According to a 2002 survey, by Grade 9, nearly 30 per cent of girls had engaged in weight loss efforts. Nearly 1% of those girls will develop anorexia, 1.5 per cent bulimia and 3.5 per cent binge eating.
Eating disorders aren't trivial. Five to 10 per cent of individuals with anorexia will die within 10 years of disease onset.
One of the number one predictors for developing an eating disorder? Poor body image.
Little girls, I guess as far as Skechers are concerned, you're never too young to feel your body's inadequate.
Gee thanks Skechers, you folks sure are swell.
Now about that shotgun.
Follow Yoni Freedhoff M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/yonifreedhoff