March 17, 2021

Dear Social, Can You Please Stop it With the Food Restriction Ads?

I’m allowed to be healthy, and I need to eat to live.

Warning: This post is a quasi-rant. But I decided to not hold back, and I’m sticking to that commitment...

Hey there social media advertisers: I love social media in so many ways. I love the connections. I don’t want to get off these platforms.

And, I am a woman of a certain age, and apparently social media advertisers have determined that I am most likely thinking about my weight almost constantly, presumably with an extremely negative slant. According to the messaging I see most, I am insecure, incapable of attracting the male gaze, and completely at my wits’ end about it.

I am over it. I do not need to see images of different body types so I can evaluate which type of intermittent fasting is best for me. I think intermittent fasting as a concept is extremely dangerous to ED (eating disorder) susceptible people. I do not need to see pictures of “delicious X, Y, Z-free meal kits” that will ensure I monitor every input. I don’t want to see the word “clean” associated with food ever again.

Social media advertisers, please stop telling me I need to lose weight, and please stop telling me that my life will be better if I look like some random cartoon “after” shot.

I’m done.

I don’t need to “earn” any treats. I don’t need to shame gluten. I don’t need a “cleanse.” I can celebrate solid food as an excellent and enjoyable source of nutrition.

I’m allowed to be healthy, and I (and all of the rest of us) need to eat to live.

I’d say 40% of the ads I’m served on social platforms are related to restricting food. It’s not healthy for me, and I know it’s not great for the many, many women in my life (and a couple of men) who have fought like hell to stay healthy around food.

I want to be in celebration of my body, your body, and our bodies. Today my body shoveled snow for three hours and then went cross-country skiing down neighborhood streets packed with two feet of powder in Boulder, one of the “fittest” (and most anorexic) towns in the United States. I cannot do this “work” or enjoy this “play” without food.

If I’m seeing these ads, I cannot imagine what’s dominating the social feeds of young women. It takes only one ad to trigger susceptible women to begin eating in a disordered way. One of my closest friends became anorexic in third grade after reading one article in Cosmo about how a model stayed thin.

If the social feeds of young women are like mine (probably with even more culturally idealized images of what’s possible), they’re seeing hundreds of messages every day. This is not a research post. As mentioned, it’s a rant. A quick bit of research will tell you that eating disorders aren’t harmless forays into the realm of short-term social acceptability; they can lead to a lifetime of tortured relationships to a daily part of life. They can also lead to death.

Social media advertisers: I’m sick, exhausted, and completely over you endeavoring to make me question the mere act of eating for survival and, yes, pleasure. I do okay around food, but I know my sub-conscious is taking this stuff in (see, as an example, the passion behind this rant). I am aware, but not immune.

So cut it out. Please. While you’re at it, pay close attention to the signals I give you. If you do, you will notice that I LOVE ice cream, road trips to cool locales, and shoes that look professional but are not stilettos. My wallet is open.

📷: Frederick Wallace on Unsplash

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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