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Weighty Matters: Yogurt Commercial Promotes Disordered Eating?

June 17, 2011

Does this commercial encourage eating disorders?

is the weighty matter being discussed on Yahoo! today. Before I weigh in, let’s view the raw material:

Is the message that this yogurt tastes as good as cheesecake? That you should make healthy food choices at work? Or that, even if you’re thin, you’re still not thin enough?” posits the Yahoo! article.

The ad has already been pulled from the air by General Mills as many Eating Disorder associations and specialists have voiced concern that “showing a thin person anxiously doing mental gymnastics in order to justify eating dessert—and then denying herself the treat because she wants to be even thinner—could reinforce the idea that such deliberations are healthy and normal.

Is it not problematic that this is the image used in the Yahoo! article? Is this not a trigger?

Is it not problematic that this is the image used in the Yahoo! article? Is this not a trigger?

Jenni Schaefer, who suffered with an Eating Disorder for over a decade of her life and today is fully-recovered and a best-selling author and spokesperson on the issue, ends the article with an extremely intuitive and nuanced quote:

”    Sometimes I worry that the fight against obesity is really scaring children,” she said. “What I strive for today, with food and with exercise and body image, is balance.” That means flexible, “intuitive” eating that allows you to assess your hunger and satisfy your cravings. “And there’s no shame, there’s no guilt attached to food. Food is just food,” she said.     ”

Thank you, Ms. Schaefer. Thank you for finally gloriously promoting what one lovely reader on this site (Julius!) referred to as a “holistic approach to eating,” which is all about balance and listening to your body and mind and giving it what it needs to be healthy. And, without balance, you are much more likely to end up at either end of the weight and disordered eating spectrum. Because as much as we as a society chalk it up to lack of self-control or making bad choices, being obese is also a form of disordered eating. And while this commercial purportedly is promoting making healthier choices, it is simultaneously promoting shame, self-denial, and guilt.

So this is what this commercial most fundamentally lacks–balance. The featured woman is trying to rationalize eating something that she wants and craves and, yes is not ‘healthy’ by most standards for her, but is shamed into eating something completely different by her thinner co-worker, albeit something societally constructed as ‘healthier’ for her. I always find the “Comments” on these articles and videos to be extremely interesting (so please comment on this blog! Unless you’re a troll…internet trolls are the scourge of the earth) and this issue seems to have provoked many. The debate rages on (could it trigger eating disorders? should it have been pulled from the air? is this an issue even worth discussing?) but many insightful considerations have been brought up, such as “There is NO REASON not to enjoy some of the delicious-looking dessert shown at the beginning of this video. Enjoy it, savor it, and then move on. Just don’t eat 5 slices in one sitting… Or, you could eat 5 fat-free yogurts with the same amount of calories, feel grumpy because you really wanted that dessert, then still not feel satisfied. Sometimes, the body just needs a nice helping of fat. Fat is necessary for life.” or  “How about you just eat a really nice piece of cake/pie/etc. once in a while instead of having some nasty chemical-ridden yogurt? Think about it: 110 calories per day = 770 calories a week. What if you just saved up those calories for a high-quality dessert on the weekend? Think about it…

You can hate/love/be indifferent to this commercial, believe that it promotes disordered eating or just simply promotes a product,  but…at least it gets you thinking. These are issues that we need to be questioning and forming personalized opinions about–how society and the media displays eating and weight and body image–so that we can make choices and create balance in our own individual lives.

(I also find it interesting that Yahoo! Shine also posted this article about controlling food cravings, geared towards women aged 18-35, the same day…)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2011 5:04 pm

    Have you seen the other videos in this series? This one for example infuriates me:

    Its amazing how gender plays such a huge role in food consumption. Men perform masculinity by gorging on high calorie foods that they have the stomach strength to keep down. In the video we are told that the power of an entire lemon meringue is no match for his virile appetite! (or a fast food lasagne for that matter). Women however must constantly perform sacrificial rituals where they put someone else’s ‘needs’ (like societal demands or expectations of ones partner about body image) over their wants.

    P.S. 3 yogurt cups is NOT a substitute for a meal! Let’s take a look at the ingredients for that ‘mouth watering’ raspberry cheesecake yoplait light:

    Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Raspberries, Modified Corn Starch, Nonfat Milk, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, *Aspartame, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Tricalcium Phosphate, Potassium Sorbate Added To Maintain Freshness

    So, instead of eating proteins and carbs and fat and green vegetables with vitamins we are encouraged to put High Fructose Corn Syrup (The 2nd highest ingredient), Modified Corn Starch and ASPARTAME into our bodies. At this point it would actually be better for my health to eat an f-ing slice of cheesecake than this fake food pretending to be yogurt.

    hAngrily,

    C

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