If you've noticed that scrolling through your social feeds feels like a constant barrage of scammy weight loss "solutions" and transformation photos that make you feel crummy about your body, you're not alone. It can feel impossible to go on social media without seeing messages related to weight loss and dieting, which is why Pinterest is taking a firm stance and taking steps toward removing it from its platform entirely.
ICYMI, Pinterest recently launched its Creator Code, a set of guidelines encouraging users to make intentional, inclusive, and compassionate content. The idea is to foster a safer, kinder digital space — and starting July 1, that space will be free of potentially harmful advertisements about weight loss.
Though other social platforms have taken steps to minimize triggering content (for example, Instagram recently shared resources to support users with eating disorders and body image issues), Pinterest is the first major platform to ban all ads related to weight loss language and imagery. This includes any testimonials regarding weight loss or weight loss products; any language or imagery that idealizes or denigrates certain body types; references to Body Mass Index (BMI) or similar indexes; and any products that claim weight loss through something worn or applied to the skin. Pinterest had previously banned ads containing weight loss or appetite-suppressant pills, supplements, or other products; before-and-after weight-loss imagery; weight loss procedures like liposuction or fat burning; body shaming, such as imagery or language that mocks or discredits certain body types or appearances; and claims regarding unrealistic cosmetic results.
It's admirable that Pinterest is removing all triggering weight loss-related ads, but the environment of the platform (and any social platform, really) is largely determined by the content its users are posting — and that's exactly why this ban goes hand-in-hand with Pinterest's Creator Code. The code asks Creators (someone with a business account that publishes new content on Pinterest vs. saving existing content to boards) to pledge to "be kind (ensure content doesn't insult or put others down), check their facts (make sure information is accurate and factual), be aware of triggers (practice discretion when it comes to visually sensitive content), practice inclusion (never intentionally exclude certain groups or communities), and do no harm (Make sure any call to action or challenge is safe)."
The code rolls out for Creators while additional tools are available for both Pinners and Creators alike: There will be new "positivity reminders" encouraging Pinners to adhere to platform guidelines and reconsider potentially offensive comments before posting; moderation tools for Creators, including comment removal and keyword filtering; and new spam-prevention signals to detect and remove bad comments. In addition, Pinterest has partnered with the National Eating Disorders Association so that whenever a Pinner searches for keywords on the platform related to eating disorders, Pinterest blocks the search and directs them to the NEDA website to find additional resources.
In support of their mission, Pinterest has also partnered with model and Pinterest Creator, Tabria Majors, who sees their ban of weight-loss ads as both a positive step and a bold move, especially given how pervasive and normalized weight loss content is online.
"I think it's a very bold move to remove targeted ads, especially when it comes to weight loss," Majors told Shape. "Brand platforms make their money from ad revenue, and so taking a stance against toxic imagery, [such as] weight loss imagery and ads, is very admirable because you're saying, 'I don't care that we're potentially losing out on a form of profit if the result is damaging people's mental health.'" (FYI, here's why racism needs to be part of the conversation about dismantling diet culture.)
She pointed out that these ads often make extreme, unhealthy claims, and can send even the most body confident person down a "terrible rabbit hole." Along with promoting the notion that the only way to live happily and healthily is to change your body size, plenty of weight loss content online isn't backed or vetted by medical professionals and can have far-reaching and long-lasting detrimental effects on social media users, both physically and emotionally — even if you're not falling prey to ads promising quick weight loss from tummy teas, waist trainers, or other appetite-suppressing supplements.
Majors hopes Pinterest's move will help "spark conversation about what's best for people's mental health and how we don't need to be bombarded with weight loss language and ads all the time." She added, "I personally hope that other platforms follow suit, but I think. at the minimum, it will start a great conversation about what's really important and how we can combat these issues."
As for her own work as a designer and a model for major brands, Majors wants to get to a point where it's not "groundbreaking" to see bodies of all sizes in an ad campaign — because ads should represent real life, in which fat people are not seen as brave for simply living their lives in their own skin. "I just want it to be normalized," she shared. "I don't want people or brands to be praised just for having a plus-size person in a campaign — it should just be normal. It shouldn't be this groundbreaking thing that we're seeing fat people on screen — but it still is — so I just want to get to a point where it's normal to see fat people on the beach in bikinis and swim trunks. That's just how life is."
She's also totally on board with a shift away from body positivity toward body neutrality — that is, instead of striving to love your body after possibly decades of internalizing messages about why you should change it, just meeting yourself where you're at on any given day.
"Body neutrality is an outlook more based on acceptance as opposed to body positivity where you're always aiming to feel and look the best that you can," she said. "I think it's so unrealistic to expect people to try and feel 100 percent [about themselves] every single day, especially with the current climate of the world and society. I don't think it's healthy to expect people to feel that way… I may not feel super great about how I look today but I'm here, I'm up, I'm healthy, I can do what I need to do, I'm getting it done. And sometimes that's all that you can do in a day."
Removing that pressure — along, of course, with digital spaces free of body-shaming content — can certainly help you feel more at home in your skin without worrying about trying to change who you are. And that's a beautiful thing indeed.
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