Yoplait: Truth or Trigger?


Yoplait, who created an ad where a woman negotiates with herself to be “allowed” a slice of cheesecake (“I could have a medium slice and some celery sticks and they would cancel each other out, right?”), has pulled the ad in response to complaints from the National Eating Disorders Association, which declared that the woman’s internal monologue wasn’t funny or realistic—in fact, it was the depiction of mental conflict that could trigger a person suffering from an eating disorder.

Kudos to Yoplait, of course, for responding appropriately to the situation. Illness aside, here’s a question for you: When the woman in the ad regards the treat and negotiates with herself, what is her actual intention when it comes to her own actions? Let’s break it down:

Half Truth: To justify eating the cheesecake, I’ll limit the rest of my day to celery sticks.

Whole Truth: I’ll consider the celery, but I’ll actually just eat the cheesecake and go on as per usual.

To be honest, we identified with that ad when it showed up in our browser. What unrealistically well-adjusted woman doesn’t second-guess a high-calorie indulgence in the middle of her workday? By nature, Yoplait’s position as a substitute treat and healthy lifestyle aid puts it square at the intersection of health and mental health. And that’s a hard place to be.

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Women Are Compassionate But Self-Critical? Duh.

Self-compassion (aren’t hyphens handy?), is the newest buzzword on the block. The New York Times profiles the phenomenon, starting with a 2007 Yale study and progressing to two books published this year. The consensus appears to be that Americans, immersed in the society of “hard work will get you everywhere,” are working too hard and engaging in too much self-criticism and condemnation, to the detriment of their mental and physical health—measured in terms of depression and weight gain.

What You See Isn’t What You Get.

The article (available HERE) includes the following phrase barely a paragraph along:

“People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.”

How, exactly, is this surprising? It sounds like most women we’ve interviewed.  The profile of a person who is a compassionate, caring listener who holds herself to unreal standards to her ultimate detriment isn’t revolutionary. It’s the common profile of a mom, a female friend. It’s like looking into a mirror.

Where Are The Men?

Truly surprisingly, the research claims to analyze people in general. But the cited study was done among female undergraduates, who unknowingly submitted themselves to a study about food guilt.  Women with existing food guilt who were explicitly cautioned not to feel bad for eating a doughnut at the study’s beginning—as everyone had to eat them—ate less overall and felt  guilty about doing so.  What a shock. A more interesting version would have included men.

It’s an unusual case of reverse projection. All women are people, but all people aren’t women. Just like marketers who target women to the exclusion of men, these studies project their striking findings from a female cohort onto the half of the population whose own results may not be so nuanced. Assemble mental health and weight-loss data at will, but remember that conclusions can be only as broad as the research. Hyphens don’t solve everything.

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The Power of Nudge

I was glad to see the recent findings that declared that exercise and weight loss are just a nudge away. Supposedly, test groups of women who were reminded to exercise by human or computerized phone calls, worked out more often and lost more weight than the control group. Women are used to being nagged or to nagging themselves but these ‘nudges’ were done in a good way. Could positive reinforcement be the answer to the never-ending cry of “I don’t have time to exercise”?

I am a testimony to the success of this carrot vs stick approach. Although I worked out for years with trainers who could teach me good form, I never really cracked the code of exercising out of their sight. But (drumroll), one year ago, I started to work out with a wonderful woman named Colleen Tomko of Frenchtown, NJ and she has made all the difference due to one thing: a constant stream of motivational nudges, courtesy of text messaging. Every day she’ll write me simple texts like, “How was the gym?” (note her expectation that I went) or “H2O? Pushups? How are the food choices?” which make me grab the water, hit the floor and drop the muffin I may have accidentally grabbed.

For the first time in my life of up and down pounds, I’ve lost and kept off 20 pounds and exercised pretty much 5-6 days a week for a year and shockingly kept a positive mental attitude toward the whole process (or “PMA” as Colleen cheerily calls it.) It’s true that when I’ve shared my Colleen messages with others, the constant attagirl’s aren’t for everyone. But marketers who are wondering how to get customers re-engaged, might try the nudge approach—that doesn’t sell or scold—but simply reminds.

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Starting Weight Watchers? Head to McDonald’s…

McDonald’s branches in New Zealand (and soon America and Britain, as well) have partnered with weight loss chain Weight Watchers to offer three meals on their menu that equal 6 1/2 Weight Watchers’ points.

The Filet-O-Fish, Chicken McNuggets and a Sweet Chilli Seared Chicken Wrap are the same fan faves as before, but a combination of switching to a healthier canola oil and reducing the amount of sauce used cuts the calories (not to mention saturated fat) to diet-friendly proportions.

Definitely smart marketing on behalf of both companies—like ‘em or not, Mickey D’s is one of the largest meal providers around with something like 27 million people eating there everyday.  It’s nice to see them offering up healthier options for those that are trying to stick to their diet, but don’t want to give up their favorite indulgences.

But I have to wonder… isn’t the whole point of starting a weight loss program to try and learn new, healthy, sustainable eating habits…not just eat less of the same bad stuff?  Will this encourage more people to choose McNuggets because it’s easy and, technically, allowed when they might otherwise have selected a more nutritious item?   Is it (kinda) cheating?

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Ice Cube Diet – Feels like a Half Truth Brand – Hoodia thunk it?!

Hoodia is an ancient supplement proven to ward off appetite during long journeys. That’s at least what the packaging for The Ice Cube Diet  touts.

While shopping the frozen food section the other night at my local market, I couldn’t help but notice this very attractive packaging among the Lean Cuisines and the organic peas. But paying for diet ice cubes?  Isn’t that what water is all about?

First, I give them credit for getting out of the diet aisle and into the freezer. But what caught my attention the most is that they suggest that eating an ice cube with this South African ingredient is a natural way for quick and easy weight loss. Ahhh, the two most damaging words in the category.

While we know that women looking to lose weight don’t want to give up what they love to get results (see our post on Taco Bell’s Drive Thru Diet), this product seems to be stuck in the Half Truth land of believing women want miracles and will pay upwards of $65 at the hope of one. Women know better. Of course they’ll say they wish there was a magic pill but the Whole Truth is that the skeptic inside wants proof, results, data (and maybe a celebrity endorsement) before believing an ice cube from South Africa is going to make all the difference.

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*Results Not Typical

As women across America are forced to make hard choices on where to spend their money, struggle financially and emotionally (the number of middle class families heading to food banks is on the rise), and look for ways to cut fat out of the budget, they are hoping that the decisions they make are the best ones for themselves and their family.

So given these circumstances and thinking about tightening my own belt, I found myself angered by a recent Jenny Craig commercial.   Valerie Bertinelli introduces an average woman and shows off how much weight she lost. The message was strong and inspiring with promises of “you can do it too” but then I was hit with the asterisk at the bottom of the screen *RESULTS NOT TYPICAL. And in further investigation, I found that each of the success stories on their website came with an asterisk as well.  

Now I know we’ve seen this legal super before but if there were ever a time for honesty, now is it. Women don’t have the funds to waste on products that won’t deliver. In fact, in these economic times, women will become even more vigilante when products don’t work.


On the flip side, in a commercial with Alli’s new spokeswoman, Wynonna Judd tells audiences that she is not where she wants to be yet but she is much farther along from where she was…that’s trust you can bank on and honesty  you can win her over with, even in the toughest of times.

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Practicing What We Preach

For some time now we’ve been saying that one of the Half Truths about women is that they want to be healthy. Yet the Whole Truth is that they work out sometimes, eat well when they can, and avoid bad behaviors (as long as they don’t need a vacation tan, are stressed and need a cigarette or are just having too much fun socializing with friends).


So knowing this, I shouldn’t be too surprised that I found myself living this Whole Truth. Over the weekend I popped in a new exercise DVD and sat on the floor while I proceeded to “watch” the 45 minute routine. Now in my defense, I did want to see if it was a routine that I could handle (as it is my first workout since becoming pregnant)…but that really is an excuse I told myself. I knew I could do it.  So many women have the best of intentions but the worry and the excuses often get in the way – add the pressures of spending extra money on ourselves and more excuses will follow for putting off getting in shape, losing weight, getting to the doctor.  As January quickly comes to a close and new year’s resolutions are potentially waning, I know I could use a gentle wake-up call….a little truth goes a long way.

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July 24, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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