Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's the big deal with the Yoplait yogurt TV ad?

A thin woman looks longingly at a large raspberry cheesecake in the refrigerator. The woman attempts to decide whether or not to eat a slice of the cheesecake:

“Oh cheesecake! What if I had just a small slice, I was good today. I deserve it!

Or I could have a medium slice and some celery sticks and they will cancel each other out. Right?

Or… Ok I could have one large slice and jog in place as I eat it.

Or…Ok. How about one large slice while jogging in place followed by eight celery slices?”

The thin woman is joined by a thinner woman who says she’s been thinking about raspberry cheesecake all day and grabs a cheesecake-flavored Yoplait yogurt. The first thin woman comments to the other thin woman that she has lost weight and also grabs a Yoplait yogurt.

Recently, NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) in the United States managed to get this ad for Yoplait yogurt pulled from the air. From some of the comments regarding this article, many people do not understand the problem with the Yoplait’s television ad.

So what is the big deal? What is wrong with this ad?

There are two issues that I have with this commercial:

1) What message does it send when Yoplait picked these thin actresses to represent their target market? Both women are thin and both these thin women were hired to play the role of women still wanting/needing to lose weight. When is thin thin enough? The media continually reinforce the idea that you can never be thin enough.

2) The first woman is trying to figure out how she can somehow eat less, eat differently and/or exercise so she can have a slice of cheesecake. Although this behavior is common, it is not normal. I frequently negotiated with myself to eat desserts (including cheesecake), movie popcorn and even an extra serving of arrowroot cookies. And showcasing this language, this behavior in a television ad only reinforces the belief that this is normal.

The second point is the reason why NEDA asked for this ad to be pulled. From NEDA’s press release: “The language in this advertising campaign was seriously problematic for those affected by eating disorders and anyone who may have a predisposition towards developing one.”

You may do this food bartering now. I think it’s safe to say that this is common practice in the dieting world (common enough for an advertising agency to develop a 30-second TV spot). Until cognitive therapy, I thought this rationalization was a normal dieting strategy. But it is not healthy or helpful in weight loss. It is just another symptom of the psychological damage of serial dieting.

A raspberry cheesecake would not cause such an obsession and turmoil in a normal eater. A normal eater would decide to have a slice or not and quickly forget about it. For others who are not normal eaters this internal debate shows the stress, anxiety and obsession that restricting oneself to eating only “good” foods, no eating an "bad" foods and eating in limited portions. And as I’ve said previously, anxiety makes you hungry, eating relieves the anxiety but perpetuates the gain/loss, anxiety/hunger cycle.

This is not to say that every person following a diet will end up with an eating disorder or has an eating disorder. Many people can forgo a slice of cheesecake and not give it another thought. Obviously, to lose weight, one will need consume fewer calories than the body burns. Eating the raspberry cheesecake flavored yogurt instead of the real thing may be a suitable compromise.

Before therapy, if I said no to the cheesecake, I would obsess about the deprivation for days. This obsession would trigger a binge; eating everything available to make up for the cheesecake. Now, I make a decision to either eat a slice or not. If I eat a slice, I’ll ensure that enjoy and savor the flavor and creamy texture. If I decide to skip the cheesecake since I'm trying to lose weight, I say no thanks and forget about it.

Sarah, thank you for bringing my attention to this story and for commenting on my SYTYCD/Gatorade post; I sent an email to NEDA and I will post when I get a response.

So what was the damage from my french fry and baked goods filled Newfoundland vacation? Shockingly I lost a quarter pound.

Next post, I will continue my review of intuitive eating...

1 comment:

  1. Unsurprisingly, I know that internal debate all too well. Awesome post!


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