Have you heard of Dietainment?? It’s a means of advertising unhealthy eating habits by disguising diet ads as a form of entertainment, often targeted at young women and girls.
In this ad the reader is led to believe that there is only one body type that is a “beach body”. Realistically though, any body is a beach body. You do not need to strive for one specific set of ideals in order to have a “beach body” as this advertiser is suggesting to consumers.
Recently, Cheerios has released a campaign with the motto “help stop dietainment from reaching our girls”. While many individuals would argue that the messages in such ads are not damaging, my background in media studies has led me to conduct significant research into the suggestibility of children and teens. What I discovered through the course of my research is that children and teens are highly suggestible and prone to the internalization of media messages.
In addition to my academic background, I can also approach this topic from the perspective of someone who has personally been damaged by messages such as this. I can remember being dissatisfied with my body from the age of about 8 years old, so much so that I started asking my mom if I was fat. By the time I was 12 I had already started experimenting with dieting which quickly manifested itself as a full blown eating disorder.
When I was 16, I started cutting out ads such as this from magazines and taping them to the back of my closet door for motivation. I remember looking at these advertisements as a teenager in order to inspire myself to skip meals, work out more, and essentially malnourish my body in an attempt to achieve the ideal body portrayed in advertisements such as the latter.
Admittedly, there were a lot of other things going on that led me to start restricting and purging in order to lose weight; however, this does not change the fact that the advertisements taped to my wall acted as a fuel to the fire that was my bulimia. While I do not place 100% of the blame on the media messages which I saw as a young girl and teenager, I believe that such messages certainly had a significant negative impact on my self-esteem and my self-worth.
Speaking as someone who continues to struggle with disordered eating, I can attest to the negative impact that dietainment can and does have on the impressionable minds of young boys and girls. Conversely, speaking as an academic who has conducted extensive research into the susceptibility of children and teenagers to media messages, I can also attest to the fact that these advertisements are dangerous and damaging. Something needs to be done to stop media providers from releasing such content.
Society agrees that pornographic images are not fit for public advertisements as these messages can be damaging to the psychological health of children. If this is the case for sexual content in media, why is this not the case for dietainment? Both are proven to be damaging so why do we regulate one and not the other?
Girls, boys, men, and women all over the world are starving themselves in order to fit into the unattainable photo-shopped ideals of dietainment ads. People are dying from eating disorders which are often a result of the media ads that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Why is this okay? How do media producers sleep at night knowing that their content could be contributing to the death of thousands of people suffering from eating disorders?
Something needs to be done. Dietainment needs to be stopped.