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I recently read this HuffPo article which talks about a Yoplait yoghurt ad that had been pulled in the United States in response to complaints and concerns about its content, specifically for those who are suffering from eating disorders.
This is the commercial.
HuffPo reports that Lynn Grefe, president of NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association), said, “the ad’s language, seemingly innocuous to some, could easily serve as a trigger for those vulnerable to disordered eating.”
As someone who is vulnerable to disordered eating – less so now, but it is certainly in my past – I have a few thoughts.
First, some of you might be wondering why the ad was pulled in the first place. Others are as well – go to YouTube or other forums and you will see some people metaphorically scratching their heads as to what the big deal is all about? This kind of polarity, BAD food vs. GOOD food, has been depicted before. What’s so dire about this particular ad?
What’s troubling to me, who for the record doesn’t like the ad and also feels as though I’ve seen it before, in other incarnations, is when I see the other comments: ‘More Americans should learn to rationalise this way – then they wouldn’t be so fat’ or ‘Gee, it’s willpower, how is that so shocking?’ (I’m paraphrasing the sentiments), and I realise that for as long as this debate is conducted as Good vs. Bad / ‘Normal’ vs. ‘Abnormal’ then we come no closer to understanding how sufferers get caught in this cycle and see ‘normal’ people who can easily reach past the cheesecake and grab the yoghurt, right? It’s that easy, isn’t it?
No. It’s not. For some it might be, yes. Others, no.
But I have another point to make. I can only speak for myself here but the inner monologue I had as an eating disorder sufferer is not remotely similar to the nice, expletive-free one this woman has with herself.
No, mine were deeply troubled, filled with self-recriminations and loathing. Not only did I say them in my head, I wrote them down.
I was being calorie-restrictive in this month (1997) so at least I was eating (then). But the day ended badly (“vomited”). Worse than the minute detailing of calories and where they came from (70 calories from a bread roll, 200 from fruit) is the name calling, “What a dickhead… gym for you tomorrow!”
I get so sad looking at this picture now – and I have the diary still, page upon page of similar tallies, and worse ones.
I have been there; I stood in front of that open fridge like those people who object to the ad and I know what runs through the head.
I can stand in front of the fridge trouble-free now but this took many years.
In a press release, NEDA said,
“We applaud Yoplait and General Mills for taking the time to speak with us, listening to our concerns and their quick action to provide a solution. I believe the company had no intent to harm and gained insight into a very serious issue that we hope will influence their marketing decisions in the future.”
I’m sure there was no intent to harm on Yoplait’s part and I’m glad it appears the case has been settled. But for those who think the whole matter was overblown, I’m not sure I wholly share that opinion.
How body image is represented is never simple or shouldn’t be seen to be and more often than not it is a piece of something larger, something uglier: a hierarchisation of worth based on what foods you choose to say yes or no to, which leads to a suppression of instinct and, dare I say it, pleasure.
It troubles me.
I can only hope other companies will have their “marketing decisions” influenced in such a way “in the future”.
For some, that will be too late.
I don’t want to make anyone or anything the ‘evil’ party here, but we all need to be aware of how our bodies are being represented in the media, how to be critical, know what to accept (or reject).
Be sympathetic. Walk a little in someone else’s shoes.
Karen Andrews is the creator of Miscellaneous Mum. This is one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country and is a two-time finalist in the Best Australian Blogs competition. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Is an exercise junkie (when she finds the time).
I’d not heard of the issues with the ad but wow… what an important post on so many levels.
The whole ‘good vs bad’ ‘thin vs fat’ assumptions scare me… for me as an adult but especially for my children. When did food and what we look like get so destructive? And when did society get so immune to it all???
Good questions, Kate. Wish I knew!
Such a scary disorder/disease because you cannot see what you are up against, as a family member trying to help. I’ve been reading about it on and off for the last year and I do not yet have a grasp on what is going on in my family member’s brain. Your post has helped me to see more clearly what might be going on in her head.
Eccentricess recently posted..Positive reinforcement
Oh, my pleasure. I’m sorry for your family member and I’m sure your efforts at helping are being appreciated. Wishing her well x
I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to think of something to say other than “yeah, I agree with Kate”, but I do.
I think more so now that I’m raising girls the idea that they’re going to exposed to the “fat=bad” mentality really concerns me. Especially as Erin requires high calorie food to maintain her body weight and doesn’t grow if she doesn’t get it. I worry too because I’m fat. It’s not something that bothers me, it’s just what it is, but I worry about what other people will say to my girls so I’m trying very hard to instill a “health at any size” thought process so that they can be happy with themselves and ignore the mean spirited things others will say.
Yes, that’s important too, I must say. Be aware, be mindful. Absolutely.
Healthy food vs sometimes food is something that gets discussed a LOT in our house, mostly as it is something that Miss 4 brings up herself. That’s okay, we don’t say she can’t have that lolly, but we do say how many lollies have you had today or are you wanting one after dinner? Maybe have some fruit instead. This is easy.
When your 4yo is telling you she is fat, that’s so much harder. Knowing that what she is saying has probably come from listening to what you say about yourself? A real kick in the teeth. We have become so unconscious to it, it’s more than likely what we grew up with in our own homes (I know I did), and it is so much easier trying to help someone else stop thinking this way than making ourselves stop.
I saw a recent 50′s style pin up picture on Pinterest over the weekend and thought “Wow, that model is my size. I wonder how she compares to the original models?” It’s amazing how the perfect size/shape (as dictated by society) constantly changes over time. It also means we will never feel comfortable in our own skin unless we choose to let it be so.
I always think of Marilyn Monroe – she was philosophical about her curves (I can’t remember the quote now) and by today’s standards she’d be considered large, but by the same token she’s also considered one of the most beautiful women ever.
Like you, I worry about what messages our girls are getting
I think that rather than focusing on body weight, which is different for everyone, why not focus on fitness. A level of fitness irrespective of weight is far healthier than being skinny. Obviously exceive weight is not good, but by being fit – ie: excersising three times a week – you will lose excess weight without becoming unhealthily or under weight.
I think too many people confuse weight with health. Yes being over weight leads to unhealthy habits, but it does not mean that you are unhealthy. 100kg weight for me would be unhealthy, but on someone else it is the ideal body weight. I know people who look fat, but are actually very, very fit. Have a look at any rugby front rower to see what i mean.
Syrilion, great point. I agree. The focus should be on fitness and health rather than weight per se.
Great post Karen.
And thanks for sharing your diary. That’s pretty much exactly what mine looks like (right down the the writing getting bigger and angrier at the end), except mine involves a *LOT* MORE SWEARING.
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Aw, A. You know, I’m with you, <3 you x
With 3 budding ballerinas in the family, a huge focus in our house is nutrition: getting the right food, until you feel full, to give you the energy to get through the 20 classes the 3 girls do in a week, plus school, sport and all those other fun things.
One of our girls is scrawny, but the other two get a few looks from other ballet Mums, because they’re not the skinny ballerina they “should” be. Well stuff that. My girls are fit, healthy and eat a variety of food, mostly good, sometimes not great (try finding a healthy breakfast at 6am when you’re on the way to a competition with a husband driving while you’re trying to finish hair and makeup in the backseat), but balanced.
I also get looks at how much my girls eat. Most of it is ok, but on nights when they have 2-3 hours of class, or Saturdays when it’s up to 6 hours, that’s a lot of energy they’re using. Now I’ve started two classes a week, I feel it myself too.
So I guess, my long winded way of saying, focus should be on nutrition for your lifestyle, fitness and health, not “fat vs thin”, or overweight, or whatever other label we could put on ourselves. My sister is scrawny and unfit. I’m “technically overweight” but can do 2 hours straight dancing. I feel a hell of a lot healthier than she does.
If Keira keeps up with her gymnastics, I feel we might be in a similar boat. She is so tall for her age, and muscular, she needs the extra energy. I think you’re doing a terrific job with those girls, Kin
you know what? It is bloody scary the advertising messages sent to our young. I have a son battling some weird sort of nausea.
He is 11, weighs 35 kilos, so whilst on the lower end of average, he is still in the range and thus the “professionals” are not really worried. I am. Because he worries about getting fat – HE IS AN 11 YEAR OLD BOY FFS! They think the nausea may be anxiety related, I am not sure, I think there is more to it, BUT just the fact he has worried about becoming “Fat” raises red flags for me.
What the hell are we doing to our kids?
Madmother recently posted..Oh- Get Over It!
Goodness! It is worrying isn’t it. Thank you and Jayne for sharing your stories about your boys. It’s a pervading anxiety – or becoming one. Scary
I’m cross at these types of ads as my son is having the same issues as Madmother’s boy, which wasn’t helped by a ‘professional’ telling him “these medications will make you fat” and so we now have more of a battle to not only get him to take his tablets but to stop fretting if he’s putting on weight, grrrr.
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How distressing! grrrrr indeed
I have had this post open for hours, wanting to say something but unable to find the words. I still can’t think of the right ones.
But thank you. Just thank you xx
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Oh! You’re welcome x You sound sad?
Thank you Karen for your insights into this ad – and for sharing your experiences.
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PJ, you are most welcome. If I thought I could/have helped anyone I’m pleased x
I really don’t know how to comment yet, this ad is just too real and it frightens me that it is seen as being so normal, that it makes me feel normal.
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Yes, Karen , thank you for sharing and enlightening us to what runs through the mind of those who suffer eating disorders. I do the same things myself (stare at fridge deciding what to eat – not that I have an eating disorder) to rationalize my choices. Good or Bad – then I run or whatever. Advertising has the power to send awful messages to our children.
I can see it is very complex.
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Pleasure Trish, and thank you for your comment x
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