I apologize for the lateness of this letter – I’ve been remiss in my movie-attending duties lately, and only just came across the most recent Coca-Cola ad to be featured in the product previews at my local SilverCity.
While waiting for The Place Beyond the Pines to begin – which is an amazing movie, by the way! – I was treated to Coca-Cola’s advertisement about tackling obesity. This was filled with some interesting tidbits, some of which seemed lovely, like supporting water and orange juice in schools, while some seemed detrimental, such as including diet pop in the ‘healthy’ drink category. That’s a debatable issue, so, oh well.
However, I was taken aback when I heard the non-sequiter “If you eat or drink more calories than your body burns off you will gain weight” which was stuck between two unrelated statements.
Coca-Cola, obesity does not only occur because people are eating too much. In addition, weight gain in and of itself is not an inherently negative thing. Your statement seemed inappropriate, to me, and reinforces the fat-shaming and blaming that tends to surround obese people.
A 100lb teenage girl does not near to hear that phrase, a quote that supports calorie-counting as a healthy choice. An obese person does not need to hear that, because they already know. And while that may be one thing that has an impact on obesity rates, there are many others not mentioned in your ad – such as making sure that low-income families have access to healthy food, making sure that people seek counselling for depression and mood disorders, asking your doctor for a check-up if weight gain comes on incredibly fast, or a myriad of other reasons that weight gain can occur. Calorie-counting is an unhealthy habit that equates diet soda with water, a donut with a steak dinner, and a binge/starve diet with a balanced approach to regular meals.
Your commercial, with this one mistake, is contributing to a fat-shaming culture that does nothing to help the problem of obesity. It gives watchers the impression that limiting calories will lead to weight loss, which is oversimplifying the issue. It gives obese people the impression that they are at fault, which is not always the case, and when it is, they deserve support rather than blame. And it feeds into the terror of weight gain felt by many teenage girls, of which I used to be one, which results in unhealthy calorie-counting and starvation diets in many women who are nowhere near overweight.
Coca-Cola, please be more careful in the messages that you attach to your ‘corporate responsibility’ advertisements. Many people cannot sift through statements in advertisement to find those which are true and those which are not, and it is your responsibility, as a corporation that is evidently attempting to have a positive social image, to do more good than harm.