06/03/2014 07:00 am ET Updated Jun 03, 2014

7 Of The Worst Food-Shaming Ads Of All Time


Food commercials typically prey on our lowest impulses and emotions. The worst ones exploit our desires and feed off of our insecurities. It's nothing new that food advertising -- particularly and most dangerously fast food and junk food -- unfairly targets children and women. But a recent look at the evolution of yogurt from health food to dessert product reminded us just how bad it's gotten. We'd like to think we've come a long way from this vintage Grape Nuts ad, in which a woman holds up a little dress and winks, under the tag line, "Any protein cereal helps you keep the right size ... as long as it's Post Grape-Nuts." We're not sure how far we've come at all, however.

These predatory food commercials are a kind of fat shaming, employing food as the villain and pinning people, particularly women, as the helpless victims. Food is portrayed as an evil temptation for which only the weak fall. It might be as seemingly harmless as an escape from daily life (hello, Dove Chocolate), and gets as bad as fat-shaming women into eating disorders. In 2011, Yoplait ran an ad so explicit that the yogurt company had to pull the commercial and apologize.

Food commercials also sexualize food, likening it to a lewd pastime that could replace sex altogether. At face value it's insulting and demeaning -- advertisers shouldn't equate food with something illicit, nor should they equate a woman's sexual drive with something off-limits or obscene. Moreover, are these ads suggesting that women who give in to the temptation of food don't need to worry about sex because they won't be thin enough to get it? It's a twisted perspective that food commercials need to stop promoting.

Women should not feel guilty about eating the food they want to eat -- and it's high time advertisers stop making us feel like they should. From visual artists to comedians, the world over seems to be fed up with food-shaming messages. Artist Lee Price recognizes the complex relationship between women and food and challenges the customary food-shaming in a series of self portraits. "Price's subjects don't ask to be pitied or judged. Their enjoyment of junk food, rather, is equated with a joy of life, and a grand 'screw you' to all who attempt to censor their needs and desires," explains HuffPost Arts & Culture editor Priscilla Frank.

Last month Amy Schumer made a hilarious sketch about women food-shaming themselves and confessing to friends. "I'm so bad," was the repeated refrain. It's important to laugh at the ridiculousness of food-shaming -- but it's equally important to realize it's gotten out of hand, and to recognize the corporate interests at play.

Here are seven of our least favorite food-shaming commercials. Be prepared to get mad.

  • 1 Mullerlicious - Nicole Scherzinger Commercial For Muller
    Yogurt has never looked so sexual -- and women never more desperate. This ad depicts a woman sitting alone, in a silk nightgown, indulging in Champagne yogurt like it's a sexual act. The yogurt has a strawberry "under layer" and "little coco-dusted balls of deliciousness." The 2013 commercial, featuring former Pussycat Doll front-woman Nicole Scherzinger, is as dumb as it is annoying -- not to mention insulting. (Also, Champagne yogurt?)
  • 2 Taco Bell Girlfriend Commercial
    In which stereotypical girlfriend #1 feels guilty about eating food when her boyfriend orders wings, nachos, tacos and fries. So she sneakily takes a bite even though she knows she shouldn't. Don't worry, there's a happy ending. Said boyfriend buys his girlfriend her own Taco Bell griller at the end... because he's sick of sharing. Now the girlfriend doesn't have to feel so guilty? It's all wrong. See here for the full video.
  • 3 Yoplait Raspberry Cheesecake Ad
    Yoplait agreed to pull this ad when NEDA -- the National Eating Disorders Association -- said it risked triggering those suffering from eating disorders. It's an awful ad, one where a woman deliberates in front of the refrigerator, telling herself she's been "good" that day and calculating how much she would need to exercise to burn off a slice of cheesecake. Another woman slides in and grabs the dessert-flavored yogurt, and women all over the world cringed.
  • 4 Pretzel Crisps "You Can Never Be Too Thin" Ads
    In 2010, Pretzel Crisps released ads telling passerby that "you can never be too thin." Posters for the ad series also read, "tastes as good as skinny feels." The company promptly removed the ads after the predictable feedback, which was something along the lines of "WTF are you f$%&ing kidding me?!"
  • 5 DOVE® Chocolate "Only Human" TV Commercial
    "We're only human," is the excuse DOVE gives for women eating a little square of chocolate. Why is eating chocolate weak? Can't we like chocolate because IT TASTES GOOD?
  • 6 Yoplait Diet Commercial
    As a woman lists off all the amazing "desserts" she keeps in the house, her husband rifles through the fridge, looking for the apple turnover, Boston cream pie and chocolate strawberries. All he finds is yogurt -- because his wife doesn't allow herself the real stuff. She's eating all this dessert-flavored yogurt instead, and her diet is going great, she tells her friend on the phone. Women, you can eat dessert, and it doesn't have to be the fake yogurt kind.
  • 7 Pepsi Skinny Can
    Pepsi's Skinny Can advertisement was released during Fashion Week in 2011, to the dismay of basically everyone. It introduced the new diet Pepsi can as "taller and sassier" than the traditional one, reminding everyone that "skinnier is better," right? WRONG.

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