Macy’s Plates: The Damaging Impact of Normalising Food Restriction

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Content Warning: Eating Disorder mention. 

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where society dictates how women should look. While we may be heading in the right direction with the introduction of plus-sized models and mannequins, we can’t quite seem to escape the idea that the ‘perfect’ woman is skinny.

American department store Macy’s has taken a hit following a tweeted picture of plates on sale in their store.

At the very least these plates are fat shaming. They criticise those who are not skinny enough to fit into skinny jeans, as though skinny jeans were only made for those who are a size 4, and that women on the larger end should be wearing mom jeans exclusively, because god-forbid she might wish to wear tight fitting clothes.

The ‘foodie/food coma‘ plates suggest eating a lot of food is bad, that having a healthy relationship with food isn’t desirable. They also completely disregard the fact that it is the quality of the food being eaten that is what really matters. There is a massive difference between a plate full of a greasy fry-up and plate full of salad.

The worst part about these plates is that they are promoting the concept that food restriction is how to lose weight. While cutting down on calories is important in weight loss, there is a massive difference between that and restricting.

Imagine a young girl seeing those plates. Maybe she is already starting to hate her body, maybe she has already googled how to lose weight. She has seen the pro-anorexia websites that are all too easily accessible. They tell her that to lose weight she needs to restrict her food intake, that she should barely eat and that she won’t be perfect until her hip bones are jutting out. She might have brushed it off or maybe she is considering it, either way it is in the back of her mind. And then she sees these plates in a store. All of a sudden it is normalised in the real world. If she barely eats, she’ll be skinny and perfect. At 14 that’s all she wants.

This may seem ridiculous to some people but unfortunately there are far too many teenagers out there, girls and boys, who will have experienced this.

Information like this is incredibly accessible on the internet as it is, and when we start promoting it offline, it can have real, damaging effects on the mentality of people.

Pourtions, the company who designed the plates have this ‘mini-festo’ on their website:

Walk down any street today and one thing becomes immediately clear: we have really let ourselves go. Waistlines are exploding like the national debt. Arteries are jammed like Grand Central Station at rush hour. And there are plenty of helpings of blame to go around — fast food, slow metabolism, excessive elbow-bending.

Their designs are supposed to be ‘hip and humorous’ but I think it is one thing to promote healthy eating and another to promote restriction, which the plates above do. Not to mention that their ideals shame plus-sized people, which can then further the idea of restricting food.

Macy’s have reported that they will be pulling the plates from their stores, with the comment that they ‘missed the mark’, which completely dismisses the message and potential impact of the plates. They seem more worried about how it looks for them than the effect on consumers.

Some of you may be thinking this is an overreaction, all over some plates, but unfortunately the reality is that an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, from as young as 5 years old to as old as over-60s. In America this figure is estimated to be 30 million. The message that is sent to people in everyday life is important and it should not be that restricting food is healthy or that they are too fat because they wear mom jeans and not skinny jeans.

It is completely beyond my comprehension how this product was passed by several people and made it into production, and then accepted by a big company, and not one person considered the message and impact it could have.

If you are suffering from, or know someone who is suffering from, an eating disorder there are links provided below

NHS Choices: Eating Disorders

B-eat (Beat Eating Disorders)

Helpline: 0808 801 0677

Youthline: 0808 801 0711

Studentline: 0808 801 0811

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2019/2020 Travel Editor, third year English with psychology student with a love for travel and giraffes.

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