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Yoplait Removes An Eating Disorder Triggering Commercial

Yoplait Removes An Eating Disorder Triggering Commercial

In a surprisingly mature move, Yoplait agreed to take down a commercial that eating disorder awareness groups claimed had the potential to trigger harmful thoughts and behavior in people suffering from eating disorders.  The yogurt company and its parent, General Mills, were commended by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)’s president, Lynn Grefe, who said, “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.”

The ad was clearly problematic: it depicted a woman standing in front of a refrigerator, obsessing about whether she could have a slice of raspberry cheesecake.  Running through her “options,” the woman debates whether she has been “good” enough to have a small slice, whether sticks of celery would “cancel” a larger slice out, and whether – most absurdly – she should jog in place while eating the cake.  A thinner coworker then stops by the fridge and grabs a raspberry cheesecake Yoplait Lite, showing the first woman what her choice should be.

This kind of thinking is familiar to anyone who has struggled with eating disorders.  As Jenni Schaefer, an author who wrestled with anorexia and bulimia in college and now writes books about her experiences, is quoted as saying in a piece by Laura Stampler, “When you live with an eating disorder, you divide all foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories, like the yogurt versus the cheesecake [in the commercial].  Pretty soon everything moves into the bad category.”

Yoplait and General Mills claimed innocence.  “The thought had never occurred to anyone, and no one raised the point,” said a communications VP.  “We aren’t sure that everyone saw the ad that way, but if anyone did, that was not our intent and is cause for concern. We thought it best to take it down.”

The fact that a large company like General Mills would be responsive to advocacy by an eating disorder association is certainly hopeful, although surely they shoudl have seen in advance why this ad could be damaging.  Even for women who don’t suffer from eating disorders, this encourages a way of thinking about food, not as nourishment, but as an enemy.  Real corporate responsibility would have been to refrain from running the ad in the first place.

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Photo from sweetfixnyc's Flickr photostream.

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166 comments

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5:56AM PST on Jan 29, 2013

I applaud General Mills' sensitivity. My opinion is that the ad is reflective of what many women go through these days re: food - unfortunately, listen to a women's lunch table at work - and that that probably formed many decisions of purchase.

8:28PM PST on Nov 21, 2011

Thanks for the post.

4:11AM PDT on Oct 16, 2011

I don't think the point is that more people in our society are fat than anorexic. When 50% of 3-10 yr old girls are worried that they might be fat, we need to realize that our pervasive media plays a huge part in that mindset. These food-obsessed ways of thinking about "good" & "bad" foods can just as easily lead to binge eating disorders & yo-yo dieting, which also decimate health over time, & cost the healthcare system more $ over time.

8:09PM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

This video didn't even make me think about myself being fat or anything. But even so, I'm glad the Yoplait company understands.

2:00AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

Thing is, yes, I do need to lose weight. I don't eat junk regularly. I watch what I eat. I eat 3-5 servings of real veggies a day (fresh or frozen). I eat fresh fruit, not juices. Whole grain bread, whole wheat tortillas, veggie pasta, brown rice - all in moderation. Lean meats such as chicken w/ skin removed, veggie proteins such as soy products...

I also work as a home care aid, so I'm also physically active. I help coach my son's baseball team, also, PLUS do chores at home, etc...

So am I a bad person because I can't lose weight? No. But commercials like that ARE a good reminder that yes, I do need to keep watching what I eat. Just because it's difficult to lose weight after 40 doesn't mean I should give up and be a glutton.

1:53AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

You know, this is nuts. To call the commercial "An Eating Disorder Trigger" is absurd.

What happened to personal responsibility? Thing is, I love my sweets too. I'm also diabetic. I get cravings for stuff I shouldn't eat either. So, when it's cheesecake or bust, yogurt would be a better option.

Thing is, how many people have an eating disorder for thinness, vs. being over weight? The only thing I fault Yoplait for, is the fact that they used a thin woman who was thinking about the cheese cake, and an anorexic looking one that "lost weight". Thing is, I wouldn't want to be that thin. They're not in the normal range.

8:04PM PDT on Jun 24, 2011

A major company listening to consumers is a wonderful thing.

12:31AM PDT on Jun 24, 2011

Well, we should all keep in mind that there are MANY MORE women (and men!) who NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT than there are ones who battle eating disorders. Really, if "democracy" rules, then the ad should stand. I am so sick of seeing big, fat, globby people all around me, watching them stuff ding-dongs into their mouths, or buying a giant cube of grease-saturated "curly fries" -- and then pour ranch dressing all over the mess..! I can barely resist slapping the stuff right out of their hands. Without a doubt, obesity is horrible for one's health and longevity, and horrible also for the taxpayers who'll certainly help foot the bill either thru direct taxes or higher insurance premiums. Ahem. Thank you.

9:25PM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

I see they brought back the commercial with the woman talking to the mean teddy bear cake. I never liked that one, but what's the difference? It's still about choosing yogurt over cake.

1:41PM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

Good.

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