I find the whole thing offensive and annoying. Yes, yes, I know the big wigs on Madison Avenue would like us all to think that thin is better, but um, can you guys be a little more creative with your message?
Not surprisingly, eating disorder groups have been up in arms about the can and the message that it sends. In one article, a NEDA spokesperson said that the ad campaign was "thoughtless and irresponsible." In a more in-depth interview with the Wall Street Journal, NEDA CEO Lynn Grefe said:
“I could care less about the shape of the can,” Lynn Grefe, head of NEDA, tells the Health Blog. “They could make it doughnut-shaped for all I care.”
It’s the Diet Pepsi media campaign that’s the problem, she says. The campaign celebrates being skinny and suggests that strong, confident women must be so. That the Skinny Can campaign is being paired with Fashion Week, an event put on by an industry that has had to address eating disorders among its model ranks, is particularly problematic, says Grefe.
This campaign won’t cause anyone to develop an eating disorder, but could trigger someone who is already vulnerable to negative body-image issues to start dieting or become more extreme in their dieting, which could eventually lead to disordered eating, says Grefe.
...And recent evidence shows that hospitalizations for eating disorders are on the rise, calling attention to the messages that are being perpetuated about thinness and dieting. “It is exactly that kind of thinking that has truly caused the increase in people feeling bad about themselves,” says Grefe.
But there's quite a leap in logic there. No one's quite sure what is causing the increase in eating disorder hospitalizations. It's likely that EDs are on the rise in younger adolescents, yes. At the same time, most young people feel bad about themselves in some respect or another. Yet very few develop eating disorders.
All of Grefe's statements were technically correct. Yet I'm not convinced of the direct link between skinny can --> body image issues --> eating disorder. I had body image issues my whole life, yet I only developed anorexia after I was depressed and thought that eating better and exercising more would make me feel better. Okay, yes, I wanted to lose 5 pounds, but that wasn't the real motivator. Nor do I know that my body image issues wouldn't have been there in a non-diet-oriented culture. More and more studies are linking body image disorders with deficits in neurological functioning.
These efforts sound good on paper, and I don't think protesting the skinny can is bad in and of itself. Like I said, it's rather obnoxious. Frankly, if I'm going to buy one of your products, I'd like to be respected a
This "prevention" work sounds good. It's hard to oppose it and not sound like some sort of misogynistic skeleton-lover. It's not that I like these images, approve of them, or even think they're healthy. They're not. I'm just wishing more people would question the connection between these messed-up ads and their impact on eating disorders.
In the end, Laura said it best:
Somewhere in here, in the headlong and well-intentioned efforts, is also a confusion of ideas: disordered eating and eating disorder; and body image distress and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. There is an assumption that preventing body image distress will prevent BDD, and that preventing disordered eating will prevent eating disorders. That assumption needs to be questioned as well: do we really know that these are true? If so, how strong is the effect? One kid in 20? One in 1,000? One in 100,000? Not that one in a million isn't a good thing, but is that where our efforts should go? Or is preventing eating disorders the only reason for these efforts?