Yoplait’s confessional

It’s time to confess your sins.

So says Yoplait. The yogurt company recently launched a campaign urging women to post their diet “fails” online using the hash tag “foodfessional.” It’s OK to slip up on your diet, says Yoplait—as long as you confess your sin and pledge to make the virtuous choice: opt for a cup of yogurt next time. Customers have responded on Twitter and Facebook, fessing up to their dessert and snack food binges for all the world to see.

In 2011, Yoplait aired an ad featuring a woman in front of the refrigerator, debating with herself over whether or not she deserved some dessert. Responding to complaints from groups such as the National Eating Disorders Association saying that the ad promoted eating disorder behavior, the company agreed to pull the ad. But apparently they haven’t learned their lesson.

The woman in the aforementioned commercial avoided potential guilt by choosing a Yoplait over a slice of cheesecake. Now the company is calling on those who didn’t make the “right” choice to come clean. The clear message here is that indulging over the weekend (or at any time, really) is shameful. As if women need yet another source telling us to feel guilty about the things we eat. We’ve been shown time and time again that fat shaming is unproductive. The public embarrassment of posting what you see as a diet failure will not ultimately help anyone achieve a weight goal. Not to mention the fact that a 100-calorie cup of yogurt is hardly an adequate meal replacement.

But there’s another issue here, and it’s one to which Yoplait purports to have already responded (see the 2011 ad). To those struggling with eating disorders (and I suspect to many who aren’t) the eating—shame—repentance cycle is all too familiar. We don’t need to be reminded to feel guilty for eating “danger” foods. The thoughts come automatically. It’s hard enough to push them away without being reminded that you should, in fact, feel guilty for your recent indulgence. “Foodfessional” is almost a direct translation of the immense guilt and fear that often accompany eating with an eating disorder. And yet these are the types of thoughts that the Yoplait ad is actively cultivating.

It’s all well and good for Yoplait to market their yogurt as a healthy alternative. But there is certainly a way of doing this that doesn’t involve shaming consumers into buying the product, a way that doesn’t echo and reinforce the voice of an eating disorder. It’s time for Yoplait to take a closer look at their ad campaigns and eliminate the dangerous messages for good. It’s time for Yoplait to confess their sins.

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