America has certainly some food issues to work out. We have attached our emotions to food. Whether we feel happy or sad, angry or just generally bad, down, bored, lonely, sleepy, guilty or stressed, we tend to "eat" our feelings. And while Weight Watchers latest commercial aims at promoting the company's proven weight management program as a helping hand to overweight and obesity, it is likely to offend those people who suffer from emotional eating and binge eating.
Many people suffer binge eating. American restaurants offer giant portions at cheap prices— and let’s not forget all-you-can-eat buffets. This encourages consumers to consume well beyond what they need (or want) in order to take advantage of a good deal. Advertising takes advantage of the American psychological fixation on food.
No one does this better than the marketing team at Weight Watchers.
Positive + Negative Reinforcements
One of the latest Weight Watchers commercials features a series of different people eating junk food in myriad situations. The score of the commercial is a jangly and mocking version of the classic children’s song “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” But instead of clapping our hands, we’re eating a snack.
Our Feelings, Our Food
The characters at the beginning are smiling as they lick ice cream cones and have fun at a bachelorette party. I thought Weight Watchers was attempting to say that snacking is good for you! But no. Things took a dark turn after that.
As the commercial progresses the characters become sadder and more desperate. We are no longer eating because we are celebrating something; we’re eating because we are lonely and bored. We are emotional eating. We are eating our feelings.
The worst part, of course, comes at the end where the last line of the song, which has become very aggressive and mean sounding:
“If you’re human and you know it eat a snack.”
Part of the Problem
I’m Catholic, so I know as well as anyone that shame and guilt can be a really effective tool when trying to provoke someone. But using it as a tool to make people who may be suffering from actual mental disorders change is cruel.
Binge Eating Disorder, which this commercial so gleefully mocks, is a real and recognized mental disorder. And, unlike other eating disorders like Anorexia and Bulimia, both women and men of all races are affected at very similar rates.
Shame on the Shame
Weight Watchers has advanced through the years. The idea of creating a support group for people who genuinely want to change their lives is such a positive idea. But using shame and guilt is not encouraging those people to find coping skills or work through their struggles. It is only adding to the problem.
Regardless, millions of people have joined the program through the past decades and have received support toward a healthier lifestyle. Take a peek at this review of Weight Watchers to see how it works, and their latest deals and promotions.