Yoplait pulls eating disorder triggering commercial off the air

After the National Eating Disorders Association called Yoplait out on a commercial that normalizes disordered eating, the company has agreed to pull the commercial off the air.

A NEDA press release says that “after conversations with General Mills executives Eric Galler, vice president of marketing, Yoplait, and Jeff Hagen, director of consumer services – the company agreed to discontinue the concerning ad campaign, which contained language NEDA says is a trigger for those most vulnerable.”

The ad might still show up in a few markets in the coming weeks, but the company has agreed to pull it as quickly as possible.

Lynn Grefe, the president and CEO of NEDA, says that “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.”

No shit! The ad shows a woman standing in front of a fridge trying to “justify” eating a piece of cake. The strategies she comes up with for making cake acceptable include “canceling it out” with celery sticks and, I kid you not, jogging in place while she eats the cake. Yeah, that is called disordered eating, and it’s really unhealthy. The ad then presents Yoplait Lite yoghurt as an alternative to all that bargaining and obsessive and jogging in place, demonstrating the incredibly thin line between dieting and disordered eating.

Grefe credits Yoplait and their parent company General Mills for being receptive to NEDA’s concerns (and the concerns of the many people who, it seems, contacted the company to complain). “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 applaud the company for being receptive to complaints, too – and I hope that they, unlike the folks who make Pretzel Thins, actually learn from this experience.

But it saddens me deeply that this ad even got made in the first place. Ads like this one have to be approved by a lot of people before they ever get made, and it’s dispiriting to think that no one, at any stage of the process, noticed that this ad explicitly normalizes and encourages unhealthy behavior.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/geekgirl/ GeekGirl

    That sounded like the inside of my head. “Maybe just half a donut and I’ll eat less at lunch”. :(

  • http://feministing.com/members/smartbunny/ Robin Groves

    I never thought of it as an eating disorder; but it is annoying how the lady taking the yogurt is like, “I thought about this all day!’ No, you didn’t. Like the few minutes we ladies get to eat yogurt is our Special Time that we get to have in our busy lives. Yogurt time! I can’t wait!

  • http://feministing.com/members/accidentalbeard/ Mo

    I’ve never had an eating disorder of the kind one can diagnose, but I’ve had disordered eating habits since I was about ten years old (I am now 28). I am much better at managing this than I used to be and tend to only slip into this habit every few weeks or months, but it feels like the shadow of obsessing over what I eat is always lurking somewhere.

    I remember trying to justify eating some candy by hopping/running in place and feeling ridiculous while I did it but not being able to stop. It’s pretty horrible that no one working on this ad stopped to think about its content.

  • http://feministing.com/members/emfem/ Emily H

    Whoa, this is great. I saw this ad about a week ago, and it was like a last straw for me in the harmful chaos of our weight obsessed culture. After viewing it, I felt compelled to start a blog called “Eat the Cheesecake”. I haven’t, though. I’ve never been at a weight considered fat/obese by society, so I’m not sure I have the perspective, experience, sensitivity necessary to write about weight obsession, fat shaming, etc. Or maybe that’s a cop out. I’m not sure.
    I agree it’s sad that this ad had to get all the way to our TV screens before anyone pointed out how disturbing it is.

    • http://feministing.com/members/kayle/ Kayle Moore

      accidentally reported, sorry! buttons were linked in my view.
      DO IT. :)

  • http://feministing.com/members/nancyshrew/ Nancy Shrew

    Ugh, thank God. My mother and I hate that ad so much.

  • http://feministing.com/members/jessieellner/ Jessie

    If that is disordered thinking, I bet 90% of women in America have disordered thinking.

    • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

      Amen, sister. Plus, running in place while eating cheesecake? Choking hazard and makes a total mess! Just get a tiny slice of cheesecake if you’re so damned worried, worrywort-lady-in-commercial!!!!!!!!!

  • http://feministing.com/members/kkapple/ K.K.

    this reminds me of Kate Fridkis’ daily unroast of her body at Eat the Damn Cake and amazing photoblog celebration of dessert at Women Eating Cake LOVE

  • http://feministing.com/members/emolee/ Emolee

    I am glad that they pulled this ad. But I notice that in many descriptions of the ad (not here, but for example, on HuffPost) they describe it as “An ALREADY SLIM brunette is frozen in front of her office’s refrigerator, her inner monologue announcing a complex barter system that could justify a piece of raspberry cheesecake” (emphasis added). It’s pretty clear that if this were a diet aid aimed at the “overweight/obese” it would be viewed differently.

    I’m glad that the OP here points out the ad’s “demonstrating the incredibly thin line between dieting and disordered eating”…

    As I have been learning more about eating disorders lately, I have been shocked to find out that much of the behavior of those people with eating disorders is the same behavior that I was taught to do all my life to be “good,” i.e., dieting.

    What fat people are told to do is (often) the same behavior that is considered dangerous for those (thin people) with eating disorders. Of course, fat people can have eating disorders, too, but that is usually not recognized (unless it is binge eating disorder). A fat person with a restrictive eating disorder is often applauded- even by most mainstream doctors- as doing something positive. Doing her part to win the War on Obesity (TM).

    There is so much that is the SAME between dieting and eating disorders. The main difference is that dieting is for fat people, so it is acceptable. Yes, I know many thin people diet. But fat people are EXPECTED to diet and are told EVERY TIME THEY TURN AROUND to get on a diet. And the “diets” preached to them, even by doctors, are often eating disorders in disguise. I have been told by doctors to eat 600-800 calories a day, for example. Or chew my food and then spit it out. “Do whatever it takes.”

  • http://feministing.com/members/dancepetuniadance/ Sarah E.

    You know, I have never understood why yogurt commercials exclusively target women in the first place. It’s not even one of those more obvious feminine stereotypes like cleaning products or something; every man I know who isn’t lactose intolerant enjoys yogurt just as much as us ladies.* When did the media deem it to be a “lady product”?

    *For proof of its “normalcy” among men, see Michael Westen of Burn Notice.

    • http://feministing.com/members/emolee/ Emolee

      I think it is marketed to women b/c it is Yoplait “Lite” and is being marketed as a weight loss product. There are other Yoplait ads with men in them that talk about taste and “eating healthy”. And I do love me some Burn Notice. Go Fiona!

  • http://feministing.com/members/forthequeen/ mike

    Honestly, this seems like a common thought process that many people in North America go through. It’s also not just women, men do this to, (i.e. if I hit the gym and do extra sets of bench presses or squats etc. I can get away with eating an extra burger).

    I’m assuming Yoplait was trying to convey the idea that they are a company that is just as common as the “common person” so it would encourage everyday people who worry about their weight to buy Yoplait products because Yoplait understands your thought process and we’re your coming from. That’s why I figured it got approved by all those people before it hit the airways. Many people, I assume, would not consider this type of behaviour abnormal or atypical, but in fact, rather common.

  • http://feministing.com/members/molliekm/ Mollie Murphy

    This is appauling! As an eating disorder survivor I am extremely irked by mass messages such as these. They make me realize why I was so troubled in high school and make me thankful that I have the knowledge to stand up to such disturbing messages. I am glad someone opened their mouth and got this off the air. It’s the last thing women need to be seeing. Men, too.

    • http://feministing.com/members/shaniquequa92/ Shaniquequa

      I agree. I used to behave like this as well and due to that, I’ve had a lot of random faints in high school as well as being sick a lot. This thought process is not healthy.

  • http://feministing.com/members/kayle/ Kayle Moore

    yeaaaaaaaaaaah, that is pretty bad. make you wonder if it was a room full of people who are not women on diets going, “what is it women on diets are thinking? yeah, let’s put that in there.” that’s usually how oversights like this one happen: take the least effected group and ask for their opinion on how to sell something to the target group…um do they know they’re asking for stereotypes? and that stereotypes are usually disastrously unhealthy when they exist in real life?? No, no one *in the room* knows that, no. It’s just “truthy” to them from their perspective. big D’oh, Yoplait. Kudos for pulling it. and thanks to NEDA.

  • http://feministing.com/members/swellesley/ Caroline Narby

    The ad definitely has NOT been pulled. I’m literally watching it on TV as I type this.