#BoPo (a.k.a. #bodypositive) has become a huge cultural touchpoint and, news flash: It’s now being abused as a marketing ploy for goods and services that, in a word, are unworthy of it. There’s the Special K ad running in Canada encouraging women to be “perfectly imperfect” and “own it all”… by eating low-calorie cereal? And a little British activewear company called Yoga Leggs that proudly offers a “full range of sizes” up to U.S. size 10 because “no two amazing bodies are the same [and] real women come in all shapes and sizes.”
But the offender I’m most riled up about at the moment is Beyond Diet, a weight-loss program run by a nutritionist by the name of Isabel de Los Rios, probably because I almost “liked” her Beyond Diet Facebook page. I noticed recently that a few of my trusted professional social media contacts had done so, and I’m always looking to expand my network of body-positive experts, but something tripped my bullsh*t radar. Something didn’t smell right.
All it took was a few clicks and right there on the homepage of this nutritionist’s (read up on the differences between a nutritionist and a registered dietitian) website is a presentation titled “5 Things to Never Eat.” Never? Red flag. Turns out it’s the same company behind the unavoidable web ad that proclaimed “cut down a bit of stomach fat every day by not eating these 5 foods.” (FYI, the five foods include some pretty normal stuff like soy and whole-wheat bread.) What incensed me even more than the glaringly suspect advice were the body-shaming images of sad women pinching their muffin tops.
I reached out to De Los Rios and Beyond Diet multiple times via email and Twitter for comment, but they did not respond, and nobody picked up the phone when I called the 800-number listed on the website. (In fact, the line doesn’t appear to be manned at all, as disgruntled customers have pointed out.) The one place I did finally get the company to acknowledge my request was in the comments of a post on their Facebook page, but the March 23 post seems to have since been hidden. (Not just my comments, but the entire post.) Curiouser and curiouser, cried Alice.
A bit more digging revealed that more than 30 clients have filed complaints about Beyond Diet with the Better Business Bureau in the last three years. So, yeah, maybe they’re a little press-shy.
My deeper point is this: If an image or marketing ploy for any kind of product, plan, or self-described “expert” doesn’t sit well with you, trust that instinct. While the body-love movement itself is far from a fad, it’s hot right now and some are treating it that way. People are co-opting body love language to sell us more of the same-old crap. We have to scratch more than just the surface when we’re looking for health and wellness brands, media, and experts to support—with our dollars and our “likes.”
Sunny Sea Gold is Greatist’s body image columnist and the author of Food: The Good Girl’s Drug—How to Stop Using Food to Control Your Feelings (Berkley Books, 2011). The views expressed herein are hers. A health journalist by trade and training and a mom of two little girls, she’s also an advocate and educator focused on reducing the rates childhood obesity and eating disorders by building Body-Positive Families. Reach out to her @sunnyseagold.