"Eat This" poster image

Eat This

Okay. It’s 2:30am, and this has been stewing all night, and on the heels of my GaymerX talk hitting YouTube and my expanded version of it getting into GDC, this feels like the right thing to do. So I’m gonna make a quick blog post to talk about a thing that bothers me, and perhaps pre-emptively address some of the critiques of why I’m angry that are gonna pop up.

This is about a Weight Watchers commercial that I saw tonight during Peter Pan Live (shut up). More info after the cut.

Okay so if you haven’t seen the commercial, it’s presented as a cute and funny ‘haha!’ thing but I, in fact, have some serious problems with it. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s up on YouTube — only a minute long, so give it a watch before reading further. I don’t think there’s anything really trigger warning-required about it, but just in case: it’s a video with a lot of eating in it and a weak but consistent fat shaming thread.

Right. Well. Let’s talk about this.

First off: hey, fuck you. This was clearly written by someone who thinks the link between mood management and eating is sort of a cutesy, always-conscious-choice thing. And it often is and can be, but for many people — especially those with disordered eating that is tied to body dysmorphia of some kind — it isn’t a cutesy behavior. It’s a compulsion with psychological and emotional roots which, astonishingly, are exacerbated by the weight loss industry in this country and its hyper aggressive way of reminding us that being fat is evil/wrong/bad and that eating is clandestine/criminal/wrong. So there’s that.

But the truth is, even if we’re not talking about someone with disordered eating? “Eat your feelings” is a thing that gets on my nerves, first of all. Beyond that, though, I’m deeply frustrated at the core implication here: this commercial tacitly argues that the source of your bad emotional state is being fat, which happens because you “eat your (negative) feelings.” There you go. That line right there is bullshit, by the way, and I hope the circular argument present in it is obvious. You’re sad because you’re fat (which companies like Weight Watchers have established in advance as always-already bad), so you eat. But that makes you fatter, so you feel bad. So you eat. But the whole reason you’re fat to begin with must be because you eat because you’re sad. So if you could just stop eating for five seconds, fatso, you’d be happy.

Fuck a whole warehouse of that thinking.

I mean, here’s the list of things we’re being asked to feel bad about:

  • Being fat
  • Eating
  • Eating while being fat
  • Feeling negative emotions (or even positive emotions! Or even feeling anything at all!)
  • Eating while feeling emotions
  • Eating while feeling emotions and being fat

But the insidious thing about this bullshit is how it’s couched in terms of “We’re here to help you.” I mean, look at the accompanying text for this video (which is on Weight Watchers’ official channel) from YouTube:

When we’re happy, we eat. And when we’re sad, we also eat. And when we’re angry and sleepy and busy and nervous. Our relationship with food is complicated. Weight Watchers is here to help with the hard part.

“We’re here to help. Everyone does it. It’s okay! We can make it better.” It’s this rhetoric of ‘help’ that really gets in my craw, because they don’t care about you. They are manufacturing your negative emotions to drive their business. Period. If you feel bad about your self-image because of your weight, then WW already has its hooks in you on some level. They’ve already got you primed and ready.

Before anyone rolls up in here to fight on the internet: if you wanna lose weight and Weight Watchers is helping you, great. I hope it works out for you, for reals. If you’re trying to adjust disordered eating tied to your emotional states, that’s cool too! Stress eating really can have harmful impacts and cutting those off is worth your while. But I don’t think either of these situations are where these asshats targeted these ads. They’re not for people at the level of medical intervention. It’s about fear, and fat shaming, and making fat people feel terrible not just about their bodies, but about how they feel about their bodies. That’s monstrous.

In this country we’re willing to put up with a lot of abuse from people if they appear to be “well-meaning” or “trying to help” and the weight loss industry uses that to their advantage with a vengeance. This presentation of WW as people willing to “help” means that people like me who complain about their manipulative media tactics are painted as mean or jealous or whatever. “They’re just trying to help. Why are you against losing weight? You’re just jealous of people who can take the weight off.”

If I have said this once I have said it a thousand times: No matter what their body, or even their orientation toward their body, fat people deserve basic respect. Period. I’m talking to you as someone who hates that he is fat, who constantly feels ugly and disgusting because of it, but who has also tried many times (with medical assistance in some cases) to lose weight that doesn’t come/stay off. Just because I wish I weren’t fat doesn’t mean it’s okay to abuse me for being so.

Being told to lose weight for the wrong reasons does active harm to fat people’s emotional well-being and self-esteem. There is nothing wrong with wanting to reach a goal weight, be it through gaining or losing weight. But that’s not what these people are about. They’re about creating the illusion that being fat is the worst thing you can be, and then putting in your head the seed of fear that this might be you. It creates the awful spectre that a fat person can fix their emotional problems by shedding pounds. It is about manipulating you and making you feel terrible.

I know it’s hard, but don’t let them. If you’re angry about this bullshit and you know it? Eat a fucking snack.

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