The National Eating Disorders Association has convinced Yoplait's parent company General Mills to pull a yogurt commercial that features a woman agonizing over whether to eat a slice of cheesecake.
The group says the spot promotes disordered thinking about food.
In the commercial, a woman opens her office refrigerator to see a giant raspberry cheesecake. She then has a conversation with herself about whether she should eat it and, if so, if she should eat celery sticks or exercise to cancel it out.
"What if I had just a small slice? I was good today, I deserve it!" she thinks to herself. "Or, I could have a medium slice and some celery sticks and they would 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…"
Then another woman comes to the fridge, saying, "Mmmm, raspberry cheesecake. I've been thinking about this all day." She then grabs a cheesecake-flavored Yoplait yogurt. The first woman tells her, "Wow, you've lost weight," and grabs her own Yoplait.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, National Eating Disorders Association president Lynn Grefe said of the ad, "To see this behavior in a commercial tells people with eating disorders, see, it's even on TV. It's OK and normal for my head to go through all these mental exercises."
General Mills' vice president of corporate communications told the Huffington Post that the company never thought their ad was encouraging disordered eating: "No one raised the point. 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."
As a woman, I can attest to the fact that the self-talk in the ad is very common. It's somewhat sad that so many women bargain with themselves about eating sweet treats, but I don't think this ad endorses disordered eating. The woman in the ad is telling herself she also needs to eat healthily and exercise - she's not saying "I'll have one large slice, and then go to the bathroom and purge," or "I'll have a slice, then not eat for the rest of the day."
In fact, bargaining with yourself could be said to be an essential part of making sure you don't overeat. It's important to be conscious of what you're eating, and balance it with the rest of the food you've eaten and are planning to eat that day, as well as with exercise. Yes, it's probably not the healthiest idea to jog in place while eating cheesecake, nor is it the best nutritional choice to replace it with artificially flavored and sweetened yogurt. It is, however, a good idea to think carefully about the nutritional choices you're making - and I think this was the original point of the ad, however clumsily it was presented.