Nutrisystem: failure on a couple levels

I know what you’re thinking: why is SBG harping on commercials so much? Doesn’t she have anything better to do with her time? Trust me, I do, and I do better things. Really!

But for now, I have a real problem with the way society tries to tell us how skinny equals pretty and fat equals ugly. Even when it’s under the guise of “health,” this message is pervasive, and I know it’s not the only horrible, deeply ingrained thing being stigmatized (swap in black, gay, transgendered, short, bald, etc. for a myriad of terrible societal prejudices). We live in a truly challenging and sometimes awful world. So when I come across this commercial, which seems to air every break on the stations I tend to watch most, I am always appalled.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoqdCm-Sd5k

Notice how Jillian Barbarie acts all horrified at the fat person on the left hand of the screen, and very quickly kicks the image away. If this isn’t saying “fat is ugly and unwanted,” I don’t know what would. It’s blatant and horrible, but I suppose we’re to think nothing of it because she’s doing it to herself. But why is she doing it? Why isn’t she a beautiful woman forty pounds heavier? We can’t tell if she is or isn’t – for crying out loud, she’s wearing a frigging brown muumuu in her fat, ugly, old self before photo. I think there are very few people who could pull that off and be sexy…but that’s just it. WHY is the “fat” her draped in unflattering clothing?

I’m 10-20 pounds heavier than I would like to be (wholly for vanity, I’ll admit), but this does not mean I walk around wearing shapeless potato sacks in my shame at being heavier than I want. I’d like my curves to be less curvy, but that does not mean the curves I have are something to be ashamed of. I like to show off what I DO have right now. I like to look good where I am, because it helps me feel good.

Second on my peeve about this commercial is Jillian catching a football and acting all stunned and eye-blinky, questioning how many women could do that. Er, what? I can catch a football. Raise your hand if you can, too. I think, of course, it’s supposed to reinforce the idea women don’t like sports the way guys like sports. This is a pretty sweeping generalization. I personally know quite a few women who get all face-painted crazy right alongside men when it comes to their teams. All I can figure is that sports portion of the ad is supposed to lure the male portion of the audience. Except…the men are also probably lured to watch her hot, new, bikini-clad bod.

Somehow, realizing the commercial is actually geared almost entirely to the male and straight audience, makes the idea of Jillian kicking her fat self away almost worse. It makes me less inclined to believe she did it for herself, and more inclined she did it because it’s what people (guys) want to see. Being thin is the only way she’s attractive. I’m not saying that’s actually the case, but it is what the advertisement is implying to me.

Comments

  1. says

    Actually she says “how many girls can do that?” I don’t even think the word “woman” is in her vocabulary. (She’s a local Fox morning news fixture who’s been trying to get nationally famous for decades. This show involves the anchors blithering on for hours about their personal lives, thoughts and feelings, and she’s always given the impression of being a Spice Girls feminist. So naturally, approved females are “girls” or “gals” and “women” would be reserved for those crazy feminists who don’t think being gorgeous is important, or something like that.)

    And in answer to her little query: hell, even I catch things people throw at me before I realize what’s going on, and I’m about as disinterested in sports as is humanly possible – I just happen to have good reflexes. They’re not all located on Y chromosomes.

  2. sbg says

    You’re right about the girls. I just hate that so much I automatically switched it without even thinking. ;)

    I know, right? I’m not terribly coordinated and I’m fairly sure I could catch a football if it were tossed at me.

    To be honest, I’m still stuck on the big brown sack she was wearing in the before picture.

  3. sbg says

    *sigh* Pregnancy weight is now plain old regular fat? How did that happen? Though, honestly, I remember when one of my nephews was born (by C-section), my mom and I traveled to my sister’s house to help her out while she was recuperating. We only stayed a week, but before we’d left, my sis’ husband was already encouraging her to get off her ass and exercise that weight off. And by encouraging I mean forcing. It was ten years ago, and I’m still bothered by it. She is, not surprisingly, the only one of my sisters who doesn’t look like she could have possibly had five kids.

    But I have to wonder if that is really by her choice. Years of pressure to be thin and perfect…

    Also, I’ve seen some of the Nutrisystem “food.” It’s disgusting.

  4. Robin says

    This story just keeps getting more bizarre. Her 40 pounds was partly baby? Somehow, I don’t think Nutrisystem had anything to do with her shedding that part.

    I have no problem with people losing weight if it’s done in a sensible manner with the goal of being healthy, but they shouldn’t be shamed into it by society or (even worse) loved ones.

    On her weird sexist side-note: Personally, I’m not able to catch a football with any great accuracy, but that’s mostly because I don’t really enjoy watching football, let alone playing it. (I much prefer hockey and the occasional soccer game.) I suspect I could practice and get better at it if that were a skill I wanted to acquire. I’m fairly dexterous in other ways.

  5. says

    Yeah, no kidding!

    But you know what? I was very skeptical that she’d ever actually gained/lost 41 pounds (she’s a “weather girl”! how could this happen without it causing an uproar?) and figured the muumuu was covering the fact that at no point had she ever actually been as heavy as they’re claiming, nor lost as many pounds.

    Here’s Jezebel on it: “I consulted Google: indeed, she had gained 41 pounds. And what unfortunate fate had occasioned this traumatic bloat in Jillian’s trademark svelte frame? Oh, pregnancy. ” Some of the comments over there are priceless, too, like this one: “Oh yes. NutriSystem is a FANTASTIC WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT. Why yes, I would like a shit ton of preservatives & processed “food” that smells like feet!”

    So on top of everything else, I’m betting the muumuu picture is her after giving birth (she doesn’t look pregnant, nor 41 pounds heavier), which means she’s effectively kicking herself for having a baby. Now, one could argue 41 pounds is more than one needs to gain with a pregnancy, but it happens and it’s hardly an unhealthy or dangerous amount. And that’s assuming the number isn’t an exaggeration, which I’m still inclined to think it is.

  6. says

    And there are a ton of men who can’t catch a football, which has to balance out the number of women who can’t. It’s a false gender distinction.

    SBG, forgot to mention, this commercial has bothered me for a while now, but I couldn’t wrap my head around a post about it, so kudos for doing it! And men who pressure their wives to lose weight after having THEIR babies deserve a punishment I can’t describe here for legal reasons.

  7. Fraser says

    I’m reminded of the film America’s Sweetheart which not only asks us to believe that Julia Roberts would be unattractive to any man if she put on 70 pounds, but that she’d be a complete frump with no fashion sense or personality.

  8. sbg says

    This story just keeps getting more bizarre. Her 40 pounds was partly baby? Somehow, I don’t think Nutrisystem had anything to do with her shedding that part.

    Honestly, I have my doubts Nutrisystem helps anyone shed much weight, save for the weight lost from being ill.

    I take celebrity-types endorsing weight loss products with a HUGE grain of salt. You can’t tell me they don’t have resources most of us poor schmucks out here don’t have. If I had a personal trainer and the time to workout 3-4 hours a day, I’d be pretty darn thin myself.

    That image is so not worth the cost to me, and it sure wouldn’t change who I am for the better.

  9. sbg says

    SBG, forgot to mention, this commercial has bothered me for a while now, but I couldn’t wrap my head around a post about it, so kudos for doing it! And men who pressure their wives to lose weight after having THEIR babies deserve a punishment I can’t describe here for legal reasons.

    I’ve never quite forgiven my BIL, which is probably obvious. I love my sister, I do, but she spends way more time concerned with her appearance than anyone else I know.

  10. sbg says

    I’m reminded of the film America’s Sweetheart which not only asks us to believe that Julia Roberts would be unattractive to any man if she put on 70 pounds, but that she’d be a complete frump with no fashion sense or personality.

    The reminders that fat people, especially women, should feel shame and take no pride whatsoever in themselves are all over the place.

  11. bob says

    The commercial is clearly marketed to women. Nutrisystem has another one for men starring Mike Golic: former football player and now sports commentator. With weight loss products and fitness commercials advertisers use spokespeople of the same gender.

    The reason she catches a football are for two reasons. One she is/was a football sidelines reporter for Fox. And the other is as a reference to how easy the product is to use.

    With commercials about things that are difficult or hard ad companies often show the person failing (or bragging about doing) at something easy to emphasis the easiness of their product.

    This commercial isn’t aimed at men anymore than the myriad of women’s magazines that feature attractive women in skimpy clothing.

  12. says

    I’m not sure I understand what your point is, Bob. No one said it was aimed at men, so why go to the trouble of commenting that it’s not?

    And catching the football does not symbolize how easy the product is. If it did, JB would say something like “Easy as catching a football.” No, the entire point of the copy is that she’s “not your average girl”, and neither are you, Dear Potential Customer. Which is a fine direction to go, except Nutrisystem in its gender-biased stupidity has assumed the viewer’s answer to “How many girls can do that [catch a ball]?” will be, “Gosh, I only ever knew one! Wow!” when in fact the answer is more like, “Do you want a list?”

    And we’ve covered the ads that feature men in the past.

  13. says

    You said that certain aspects of the commercial seemed designed to attract the male gaze, but I didn’t take that as suggesting the entire commercial was aimed at making men buy Nutrisystem for themselves, which is what I thought Bob meant.

    The reason ads targeting women as customers feature sexual imagery meant to appeal to heterosexual men is not that they’re hoping the men will buy the product for themselves, but rather (a) in hopes heterosexual men will buy the product for the women in their lives and (b) so that if a woman wants to buy the product, any heterosexual man she discusses her purchases with won’t be offended by the ads ignoring his existence and discourage her from buying.

  14. says

    The reason ads targeting women as customers feature sexual imagery meant to appeal to heterosexual men is not that they’re hoping the men will buy the product for themselves,

    Also c) they expect that women will recognize that we are the product meant to appeal to heterosexual men, and buy the product to increase our saleability…which we are of course never meant to directly acknowledge, as that would be as crass as discussing a price!

  15. Goldberry83 says

    I just hate that so much I automatically switched it without even thinking

    I do the exact same thing – it leads to some bizarre slips of the tongue occasionally (e.g., “My cousin, the ten year old woman”)

  16. bob says

    Jennifer,

    Here’s where she states the commercial is aimed at men.

    “Somehow, realizing the commercial is actually geared almost entirely to the male and straight audience, makes the idea of Jillian kicking her fat self away almost worse.”

    I never said that the commercial was aimed at making at making men buy it for themselves. My point was just because a commercial uses attractive women doesn’t mean that it is aimed at men.

    A point you still try to argue:

    (a) in hopes heterosexual men will buy the product for the women in their lives

    (b) so that if a woman wants to buy the product, any heterosexual man she discusses her purchases with won’t be offended by the ads ignoring his existence and discourage her from buying.

    No sane straight man is going to buy a diet supplement for his significant other. That sort of thing is mainly used for throw away jokes in bad sitcoms.

    Nor will her discourage her from using one because it offends him. He would not protest against a product to make his SO “hotter”. Most men don’t care if a company that sells products aimed at women insults them. You can chalk that up to male privilege. But I feel that situation is more likely to happen if you switched the genders.

    The reason the commercial features her like that is they’re trying to sell her image. They want women to think if they take the product they will look like that.

    PS. You don’t see a lot of diet commercials for men because most products aimed at men are more about adding muscle then losing fat.

  17. says

    No sane straight man is going to buy a diet supplement for his significant other.

    Nor will her discourage her from using one because it offends him. He would not protest against a product to make his SO “hotter”.

    You are so wrong.

    Even if a man wants the woman in his life to lose weight, that doesn’t mean he’ll think Nutrisystem is the way to go. There are tons of alternatives, and if his opinion is asked, he might steer her toward something else. I’ve known a number of women AND men who want to go on Nutrisystem or similar, but the spouse says, “You don’t need that – you just need to eat less and exercise more.” This is part of why the Nutrisystem commercials for men are all about OMG MY SEX LIFE HAS STOPPED, MUST LOSE WEIGHT TO GET LAID and the ones for women – until Barberie’s – are all about “Wow, now that I’m skinny again my husband thinks I’m hot!” They’re reassuring the husbands that a woman’s weight loss isn’t about getting her laid (by who knows who), it’s about pleasing the husband.

    Which message do you think women would prefer to hear? I can guarantee you, there are a lot of single girls who want to lose weight to get laid, not to please a specific man in their lives.

    While I agree most people would not surprise their SO with a diet plan as a gift, some people suggest it when asked what they want for a holiday present. I’ve known people who got diet systems and gym memberships as presents and thought it was fantastic of their SO.

  18. bob says

    My point is, and has always been, that her conclusion is off. It would be more cohesive if she changed it to something like:

    After watching the commercial I feel like her maintaining a low weight is the only way she’s attractive. I’m not saying that’s actually the case, but it is what the advertisement is implying to me.

    If you want to discuss anything else I have written I will gladly answer on the discussion underneath your piece on nutrisystem as I feel this thread has drifted far off topic.

  19. says

    My point is, and has always been, that her conclusion is off.

    And my point is that some of your claims are absurd, and you ignore our arguments against them rather than counter them, yet you expect us to take your word that SBG’s argument is incorrect and yours is superior. The expectation that others should accord you excessive unearned credibility means either you have serious privilege issues, or you have a psychiatric disorder involving “grandiosity.”

  20. says

    *cough*concerntroll*cough*

    As per the actual topic… Sbg, you analysis, as always, is spot on. The male gaze is so obviously played up in that commercial it’s disgusting.

  21. melissa says

    When you look at the picture of her in her “MUMU” if you look at her arms are exactly same size as now, There is no difference in her actual body size. Face is EXACTLY the same size. If I put on that same outfit I would look fat through my body but my arms, face neck etc would still be the same size. Does Nutri System actually expect us to believe that a woman of her stature and “fame” would actually wear something that hideous? Oh please! to quote judge Judy “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining” It is a lie and to me false advertising.
    Why do people think they need any diet plan to lose weight? Just eat right, in moderation and excercise. Do not give these vultures your money. The people you see on the site in before and after could have done just as well without NS. And why do we always bow in omage to the “reults are not typical” disclaimer on the screen? Show me the majority who only lose one or two pounds and then quit. Show me the people who gagged on their food because they found it tasteless. Show the people who can go to the grocery store get Lean Cuisine and do better because they are actually out getting excercise by walking from parking lot to store, around store, and then in reverse. People wake up quit being a sheeple. Be yourself. Use the common sense the good Lord gave you to be what you want to be. There is no magic potion. No instant anything that will help you, you have to do it on your own in a sense.

  22. says

    Melissa, not only do I think you’re right, but this lends credence to something else I wasn’t sure of until someone reminded me of something…

    There was a different version of this commercial, originally. Instead of showing Barberie in motion in her pink bikini, it showed a still photo of her in a red bikini. Missing was the tattoo she’s had for years on her leg – dead giveaway it was not her body. Plus, the head didn’t look like it was lit quite the same way as the body.

    Now, THAT would suggest they didn’t think her real “skinny” body was adequate (not surprising – Julia Robert’s body wasn’t “good enough” for the promo posters for Pretty Woman), though I think she looks just fine in the pink bikini.

    Whatever is going on here, it’s definitely bullshit.

  23. sbg says

    Kind of how Marie Osmond lost a tone of weight and toned up considerably during her gig on Dancing with the Stars…and then showed up as a spokesperson for NutriSystem, claiming NS was why she’d become so thin.

    Riiiight.

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