Does Yoplait Ad Promote Anorexia? (A Baltimore Fishbowl Debate)

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This month, a Yoplait yogurt commercial (please view on our video landing on the home page) made headlines when the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) condemned the spot’s language as promotional of eating disorders. Yoplait and General Mills acted quickly to pull the ad.

In the commercial, we are privy to one female office employee’s internal should-I-or-shouldn’t-I-eat-this-yummy-cheesecake? monologue. Some viewers (as represented by online chat respondents) say the scene is completely playful, real-life practical, no big deal, while others agree with NEDA that Office Chick’s leaning toward an anorexic mindset.

In our first ever Baltimore Fishbowl Debate, staffers Kristin Hughes and Betsy Boyd shout it out.

Kristin’s Pro Yoplait Side:

I think the Yoplait commercial is completely harmless. Seriously, who is NOT offended by something these days? Who cares if Woman A fights with herself, trying to justify eating a piece of cheesecake over a yogurt? Any woman (and I’m sure a bunch of men) would say those things in her/his head while staring into the refrigerator. Everybody is so touchy. God forbid we offend someone! I’m sure someone reading this will be offended that I just used the word “God!”

It’s yogurt, people. Not some comment on eating disorders. I actually read a quote on That’sFit.com about the commercial by someone who was terribly offended, saying, “People don’t realize that it is like walking off a bridge every time a person with an eating disorder opens a refrigerator.” (Really? Is it really like they’re walking off a bridge? Get over yourself!) Back to the main idea, though: Any woman conscious about the food she is putting in her body would have that inner debate over cheesecake or yogurt. People should have an inner monologue to talk themselves out of eating fatty crap over a salad or some fruit. Maybe then, the obesity epidemic in our country (and our very overweight city) would become a lighter problem. The bottom line is, this commercial is not harmful, but potentially helpful. Both Woman A and Woman B are about the same size and weight; they are both normal-sized women, considering thoughtfully what to snack on. I can’t believe people think this mild yogurt commercial is toxic! It just makes me hungry for yogurt…and cheesecake. –KH

Betsy’s Con Side:

Kristin, my friend, lucky you, sounds to me you have a very healthy relationship with food and body image. Sadly, many women and men do not. You don’t offend me, but I believe your view is narrow–and somewhat insensitive.

Check it: The control-freaky young woman depicted in this ad is way OCD, which goes hand in hand with anorexia. To review, here’s what she’s saying to herself as she opens the fridge door and stares down the dessert: “Ohhh, cheesecake. Okay, what if I just had a small slice? I was good today. I deserve it. Or I could have a medium slice and some celery sticks. And they would cancel each other out, right? Or, okay, I could have one large slice and jog in place as I eat it.” Still, she continues. She is beyond health-minded–she is hellishly fixated–trapped in a cycle of repetitive thinking, and therefore obsessive.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Anorexia is an emotional disorder that focuses on food, but it is actually an attempt to deal with perfectionism and a desire to control things by strictly regulating food and weight. People with anorexia often feel that their self-esteem is tied to how thin they are.” Sums up normal-size Woman A in a nutshell! When her noticeably thinner, cheekbone-jutting co-worker, Gal B, approaches the fridge, Ms. A takes on a stooping, frowning stance of intimidation. “You’ve lost weight,” A tells B, sheepishly. Swiftly then, A decides that she, like her associate, will opt to consume fat-free cheesecake yogurt rather than delicious, full-flavor cheesecake.

Laid-back Kristin, are you offended yet by my studious detail? The following additional behavioral signs linked to anorexia (also courtesy of the University of MD) also remind me of our Gal A: distorted perception of self, being preoccupied with food, skipping meals, eating only a few foods, and compulsive exercising. I’m pleased that General Mills had the sense to pull the ad.

Advertisers, listen up: We need an appropriate role model for ladies (and gents, for that matter) who intend to watch their weight wisely, not obsess over it! Woman A ain’t it. –BB

Who wins the debate? Which side are you on? Please watch the ad and weigh in!

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  1. The answer is, like most answers to questions of this kind, somewhere between you both. Humor is often an exaggeration of real life, and for those of us with perpetual weight issues, that conversation is very real. Having it doesn’t make us anorexic or anything like it. It makes us frickin’ neurotic. And Yoplait wants to sell some yogurt to women who are attracted to cheesecake by letting them know that cheesecake-flavored yogurt is a sensible choice. I don’t think they’re successful in that message, but there you have it.

    Still, it does go a little overboard. And here’s the problem with the first argument: the women in the video, especially the second one, who’d lost weight, were not “normal-sized.” They were skinny. Skinny. People who shouldn’t be worried about having a slice of cheesecake.

    Ads like this perpetuate the belief that skinny is normal for everyone and that losing weight is always the goal. Yoplait’s response was a brilliant one, not only from a business standpoint but from a cultural one. If only the crappy magazines with the same bullsh*t diets on the cover every other month would take the hint and stop airbrushing the life out of their models and promote sensible living

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