Do you feel like now more than ever, you are thinking about your weight and how your body has changed during the pandemic? Yeah, me too. Do you hate that we feel “less than” if our bodies changed? Me too. Never missing an opportunity to make women feel like they need to change how they look by losing weight, marketing companies are positively preying on us and our insecurities that they created in the first place.
The marketing of how all women should look a certain way is vicious. But, unfortunately, some of us don’t even realize we have fallen for it because it’s been around for so long that it’s ingrained in our thinking.
Why we fall for this marketing
Our bodies may have changed for a multitude of reasons during the past year and a half. Did we stress eat? Probably. Did we lose our workout routines and have trouble getting back into a groove because we were so discombobulated by COVID? Probably. Did we drink more adult beverages trying to cope with our world? Probably. Did we gain weight from some or all of the above? Probably. Are all of us okay with that? Probably not. Well, why not? Because we are the perfect target for marketers.
“Women fall for this marketing because we have internalized the belief that we owe the world an attractive, youthful, fit & toned body. The beauty and diet industries capitalize on our insecurities because objectification has been weaved into the role we learn to play as females,” said Stefanie Bonastia, Certified Health Coach. “We are bred to compare and keep up. The race to lose weight gained during Covid, which is otherwise a natural and normal byproduct of a global pandemic, is another way that we are kept in that hamster wheel.”
Ways we can disregard the marketing
But how can we get away from these messages when it’s almost everywhere you turn?
“You can filter what you see online. Probably the quickest and easiest way to disregard these messages is to set up your social media preferences to not show you ads such as those. Instagram gives you the option to flag ads that you find offensive or simply not relevant and slowly but surely, you can change your algorithm to rarely show you things like that,” said Jacqueline Davis, Bulimia Recovery Coach and Binge Breakers podcast host.
“When you do see ads like that, it’s probably best to remember why you disagree with that ad. It’s easy to see marketing like this and second guess all that you’re doing. It can be helpful to write a list of all the reasons why you are not following through with quick diet fixes and lose ten pounds in two weeks programs and have them in the back of your mind whenever you see something like that.”
Bonastia added, reject the instinct to be pulled into headlines or an inner-dialogue of “not enough“-ness by bypassing the message as “spam” and categorizing it as marketing. Better yet, unfollow brands that chronically push this messaging. Turn the volume down on these commercials, scroll past the advertisements (and report them as harmful), and flip past the magazine advertisements. Physically separate yourself from the barrage of messages you receive in your daily routine.
Why we should feel okay that our bodies have changed
Marketing makes us feel bad about ourselves. The last thing women need is anything more on our plates, which is why we hate this kind of marketing. Our bodies are fine; it’s the messages we hear that need to change.
“Accept that feeling insecure about weight gain is a normal part of living in a society that values thinness, but know that this is a social shortcoming, not a personal one. Put the onus on the culture rather than directing it inward. For example, weight gain during a pandemic is a completely appropriate response to being home more often, with increased stress and decreased access to emotional coping strategies on top of it,” Bonastia said.
She continues, “It is normal to seek comfort during times of uncertainty, and food is a part of the way we learn to self-soothe. If food has become your sole coping mechanism and poor body image feels debilitating, seeking support around these issues is more important than losing weight itself.”
Davis added, “Most people make weight gain mean that they have lost control, that they don’t care about themselves, that others are judging them, that they are no longer as valuable or attractive, that they are lesser in some way. I want to offer those people that that is not an undeniable fact. It is their thoughts. Thoughts aren’t always correct. I’d ask them to think about their loved ones and consider what they’d say to them if they’d gained weight. They would probably still love them. They would probably still value them.”
What marketing *should* be telling us
Instead of placing our value on our appearance and our appearance alone, the deeper, more important things in life are what ads should focus on.
“Most weight loss ads show people that have magically lost weight and are now suddenly happy, all problems gone. Realistically, weight loss does not solve all your problems. It can be a healthy thing for some to do, but it does not magically make them more confident, more capable, more anything. It just changes their physical state,” Davis said.
“Outside of that, I wish people were shown ads of who they could be. About achieving their dreams. Following their heart, education, mental health, having a family, doing things for others. Things that feel more important to daily life.”
Bonastia said women deserve to see more messages of self-compassion, self-acceptance, and body diversity. Unfortunately, marketing keeps us distracted from who we are and what we have to offer the world. It is high time for a change in how women are seen, heard, and valued, and responsible marketing can change the course of that narrative. With social media exponentially increasing the number of advertising women get exposed to daily, irresponsible marketing can damage future generations.
So if your body has changed over the past year and a half, and let’s be honest, whose hasn’t, IT’s OKAY. Please don’t buy into the marketing machine that tells us how we have to look. Better to focus on our insides – being thoughtful, kind, developing our talents, and pursuing our dreams.