637 words • 4~7 min read

Selling Food Shame

I’ve been catching up on 30 Rock on Hulu. If you’re not familiar (though I generally assume everyone is) Hulu is ad-supported, even when you pay for it. I’m not bothered by this, except that it’s been the same four ads for the past season and a half: something about oil sands, a commercial about how Pediasure will help your picky eater thrive, one I never remember, and this one:

Maybe I’m overthinking it, but this commercial drives me out of my mind. There is so much bullshit in this ad that I cannot see it without wanting to throw something at the screen.

It’s not that I mind people supplementing their kid’s diet — God knows that one of the only reasons I continue to breastfeed is because Miles’s diet is terrible. But this commercial isn’t saying, “We understand sometimes kids don’t eat.” That’s the other one. This one says: “Your kids will fail and not fit in. Everyone knows what you feed your kid.”

It’s interesting, because the “Bad” Mom isn’t bad looking, but her stature and demeanor says she feels inferior to PediaSure mom. She’s looking at her kid and not seeing her kid playing a game, but her kid’s diet. I understand this concern; I think any mom who eats out with their kids does.  But she’s judging her child right there.

And then the “Good” mom chimes in, “Well, kids are what they eat.”

The kid obviously isn’t a tub of French fries. You know what we’re supposed to think when we see that kid? That kid is chubby. Probably not even overweight — soccer team and all that — but presumable “Good” mom is looking at “Bad” mom’s chubby child and seeing what “Bad” mom lets him eat. And of course: child is more interested in food than the game, because obviously chubby kids only care about food, and bad food at that.

And PediaSure wants us to know that it’s bad. That it’s regrettable. That they feel bad for us. That they can help.

It bothers me that they take kids playing a sport — something good, something that we want to encourage — and reminds us that the chubby kids out there are a problem to be fixed. As though a kid being chubby is indicative of a problem at not a normal part of kid’s growth cycle, and that when we let our kid’s eat something bad for them that everyone knows and we’re ruining them.

Kids with poor diets who aren’t supplemented with this product? They won’t fit in, and they won’t succeed, not like the kid whose mom buys her PediaSure (and presumably doesn’t let her eat doughnuts or French fries):

Maybe I’m over-reacting after seeing it a dozen times in two days, but this just feels like a company trying to sell me a product based on food shame, and implicit fat shame.