Yoplait & The NEDA

Rarely do I get so riled up by something that I am compelled to write a letter to a company. But when this does happen, at least I have the wherewithal to take a few deep breaths and write several drafts before I send it. I want to make sure that my points are clear, well articulated, and build a sound argument. Otherwise, my emotions may get the best of me and the letter might come off as the ramblings of a crazy lady. What could possibly get me so fired up?? To fully understand my position, we need to backtrack a bit.

A few weeks ago my husband mentioned this fabulous commercial he thought I would appreciate. He described how it showed a thin woman standing in front of the refrigerator mentally going back and forth, creating all sorts of unnecessary drama over whether or not she was going to eat a slice of cheesecake. Then a second, thinner girl steps up to the fridge, says “mmmmm raspberry cheesecake” and reaches for the raspberry cheesecake flavored Yoplait light yogurt (no mental mind games in sight). The first woman asks the second woman, “Have you lost weight?”

My husband was right. It is a fabulous commercial because it clearly illustrates the difference between the traditional “diet and exercise” approach to weight loss and the Happy Calories Don’t Count model.

Yoplait would have you believe that the second, thinner woman had lost weight because she chose yummy Yoplait light yogurt as her snack – something that tastes just like real raspberry cheesecake, but has far fewer calories. And in that respect, Yoplait is merely another company whose advertising messages further promote the flawed, ineffective and unhealthy diet and exercise paradigm in which so many people stay stuck.

But from a Happy Calories Don’t Count perspective, what you eat – real raspberry cheesecake or sweetly flavored yogurt – isn’t as important as what you think and feel and believe about what you eat. From the point of view of alignment, that physical raspberry cheesecake has far less power over the woman than all the mental games she plays and the drama she creates over whether or not she’s going to eat it. Calories are simply a measurement of energy, and that woman has far more emotional and mental energy going on than any physical energy that cheesecake could hope to provide. The second woman, by contrast, does not engage in any mental or emotional drama about what she wants to eat and therefore, doesn’t create any extra unnecessary energy.

I love this commercial because it so clearly brings to light the difference in attitude between someone who is in alignment and someone who is not. Again, Yoplait’s message – taken at face value – only contributes further to an ineffective paradigm of diet and exercise. It promotes the idea that you can have all the tasty satisfaction of a slice of raspberry cheesecake at a fraction of the calories. But if you view the commercial through the lens of alignment and Happy Calories Don’t Count, it illustrates how ineffective that traditional paradigm is.

So what go me so riled up?? Apparently, Yoplait had been getting heat from the National Eating Disorders Association and therefore, pulled the ad. The NEDA claims that the commercial tells people “society really wants you to be thin” and that the act of showing a woman doing mental gymnastics over what she could eat might suggest to people struggling with anorexia and bulimia that mental drama was healthy and normal.

Are you kidding me?!?!

First of all, people with eating disorders are not the only people creating mental bargains to justify what they eat – unless one would like to claim that 97% of the American population has an eating disorder! It’s very “normal.” Listen to conversations in restaurants. Check out your friends’ Facebook posts. Listen to the inane comments by the hosts of the evening news!! Nearly everyone – consciously or unconsciously – goes through a mental checklist, evaluating and rationalizing food choices before they actually eat something. We have been taught to do this by the culture in which we live.

The NEDA is indeed correct on this point – mental bargaining is not healthy. But taking a commercial demonstrating this problem off the air does not solve the problem. If anything, we can use it to illustrate how ridiculous this is.

Secondly, Yoplait is not the only company that creates commercials touching on this subject. Special K runs a commercial in which a woman stands in front of her closet, mentally considering the idea of skipping breakfast because she is having “dinner with her friends” that evening. Cheerios runs an ad showing how a diet “high in whole grains” helped a woman fit into her skinny jeans, and the list goes on.

The problem is not Yoplait’s or Special K’s and any other’s marketing campaign. The problem is this conventional “diet and exercise” paradigm itself. It suggests that you can control your body’s shape and size simply by manipulating your dietary habits and exercise choices. Everyone assumes this is a sound and effective weight-loss model, and therefore the media uses it to market products, which only reinforces these flawed ideas and premises, thereby creating a society that “wants you to be thin.”

But waging a war on the media or the culture is futile and pointless. We don’t need to change the world – we only need change ourselves. And pushing away or fighting against that which we don’t like is a very ineffective path to healing or to change. We need to look within ourselves and focus upon that which we want to create. When enough of us have healed ourselves we reach a tipping point – and with that, the culture is changed and healed as well.