After receiving guidance from The National Eating Disorders Association, Pinterest banned all weight loss ads from its site. In an effort to support the body positivity movement, the platform is hoping to curb its eating disorder “thinspiration” content. Instead, they are hoping to promote healthier lifestyles and better self-image for users.
While ads about health and fitness will remain, Pinterest did ban before-and-after weight-loss imagery, weight-loss procedures, and appetite suppressant pills. “It’s an expansion of our ad policies that have long prohibited body shaming and dangerous weight loss products or claims,” Pinterest explained in an online statement. “We encourage others in the industry to do the same and acknowledge, once and for all, that there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all.”
A surge in eating disorders since the pandemic
Pinterest announced its decision after discovering that the Coronavirus brought about a surge in eating disorders among teens and adults. Since the start of the pandemic, The National Eating Disorders Association has reported a 58% increase in helpline activity. Long waiting lists for outpatient treatment and reports of full hospital beds depict the urgency of this situation. Clearly, there is a growing need for mental health resources that address this issue.
“Around the world, people of all ages are facing challenges related to body image and mental health, particularly as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and kick-off the summer season,” acknowledged Pinterest in its online statement. “Many are now feeling added pressure as they look to rejoin their social circles in person for the first time in 15 months.”
It’s not surprising that there has been an increase in eating disorders during the pandemic, though. With less face-to-face interaction, U.S. users significantly increased their average amount of time on social media. Studies have shown how social media platforms promote a “thin-ideal” and encourage people to engage in disordered eating patterns. As a result, more and more people are aspiring to unrealistic and unattainable bodies.
A pin drop in the bucket
While Pinterest’s decision is a step in the right direction, there is still an anti-fat agenda promoted in everyday life. The healthcare system continually dismisses those with real problems based on their weight and appearance. Doctors regularly misdiagnose patients and repeatedly tell them to lose weight instead of administering proper care.
The job market also discriminates against those who weigh more. According to one study, 60% of participants reported, “at least one occurrence of employment-based discrimination” due to their weight. Unfair hiring processes indicate that those who weigh more are less likely to be hired. Negative stereotypes further hurt their chances of employment and many receive lower wages. In fact, researchers have said that, in some cases, weight discrimination can be, “even more prevalent than discrimination due to gender and race.”
Thankfully, the body positivity movement is disrupting this harmful narrative. The movement aims to help everyone love the skin they’re in no matter their size. In addition, there is the growing fat acceptance movement, which has similar roots to the former but moves beyond the basic “love yourself” slogan to fight discrimination that larger bodies face.
Pinterest’s new ban will help support these movements, but until the fabric of society changes, it will only be a pin drop in the bucket.