Is Special K's 'Fat Talk' Ad a Hit or Miss?

Stop being so tough on yourselves! That's the message one cereal brand wants to send to women as part of a new campaign called "Shut Down the Fat Talk."

For the campaign launched Tuesday, Kellogg's Special K scoured social media in search of some typical self-deprecating messages women post online that shame their bodies, such as, "My face is so fat today. Gross!" "I just wish I was skinnier #fatty" and "Feeling so disgusted about my figure at the moment #cow." The company then created a fake clothing store, posted the messages on tags on the various clothing items and on signs around the room, and caught women's reactions on tape. The odd project's goal? To emphasize how damaging these thoughts can be when women go shopping. Upon reading the phrases, the female shoppers appear horrified and upset. "These are all things that I've said," one woman admits. Another exclaims, "This is like looking at the inside of my head." Another: "I didn't realize how bad it was. It's like you're bullying yourself." The women then make a pact to end fat talk and love their bodies, as is.

"This ad is a great way to start a dialogue about weight-shaming, a very prevalent phenomena among women that's become a sort of female bonding ritual." Robyn Silverman, a body image expert and author of "Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls," tells Yahoo Shine.
For example, a woman might complain, "Ugh, I'm so fat today" and then her friend will respond with: "You're not, but I soooo am." According to Silverman, while the friend may have sympathetic intentions, the effect of this back-and-forth is anything but healthy. "What happens is that even if you engage in fat talk and don't mean it, the message seeps into your subconscious and eventually, you'll start to believe it," she warns.

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But while the reminder to engage in body love is a step in the right direction, Special K's message is a bit muddled. The ad opens with a voiceover that says, "93 percent of women fat talk. We believe it's a barrier to managing their weight," yet nothing is said of the effect on women's mental health. What's more, the ad is a direct contrast to the company's 2011 "What will you gain when you lose?" campaign, in which the brand invited women to step on an oversized scale that, instead of a number, reads an inspirational word or phrase that represents the emotional payoff of achieving a weight-loss goal. According to Silverman, there's potential harm in implying that women's lives will change for the better when they drop a few pounds.

Regardless, the efforts are part of an evolving female empowerment movement that's sweeping pop culture. Recently, an overseas Pantene ad set out to eradicate gender stereotypes by asking, "Why is a man the boss while a woman is still called "bossy?" and "Why is a man called persuasive while a woman is called pushy?" The ad's tagline is: "Don't let labels hold you back. Be strong and shine." And earlier this month, plus-size blogger Jes Baker created a viral photo series called "Bodies Aren't Ugly. Bullying Is" that examined the effect of online fat-shaming on real people. "These types of ads are controversial but they start a dialogue,"says Silverman, "and that's the most important thing."

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