Sometimes we get overwhelmed. If you’re me, being overwhelmed leads to heightened anxiety and a tendency to enter severe panic attack mode. Sometimes we can’t explain it. But the smallest thing can trigger that part of the brain that tells you it’s time to hyperventilate and freak the hell out.
The past month has been a roller coaster at the Stress Parade. And yesterday was the climactic moment where everything and anything raised my anxiety to at-risk levels. The trigger: a photo I had taken about eight weeks ago of the back of a Special K cereal box. Special K’s chocolatey cluster cereal was my favorite way to start the morning. I realize the brand is targeted at dieters, but hey, I liked the flavor and I never actually followed their ridiculous baby-portioned serving size recommendations. I don’t really know anyone above 80 pounds who would. Anyway, whilst sitting at home about to pour myself a big girl bowl, I read the back of the box. The cereal told me that if I lost weight, I would be flooded with vitality, pride, and the cherry on top, joy.
I believe that one’s appearance should be directly correlated with whatever makes that person that happiest. If you’re the kind of person who is truly, innately, happier at a low body weight, well, go for it. In this case, losing weight may indeed make you feel more active, and thus have a better sense of vitality, more proud because you reached your goal, and joyous because you look the way you really want to look. But if you’re like me, and feel more confident, healthier, prouder, and thusly, happier at a voluptuous, chunky state, then really, there is no need for a cereal box to tell you otherwise.
Two things really bothered me about the Special K weight loss promise. Firstly, it takes into assumption that everyone in the world actually wants to lose weight. Whoever wrote the pledge seemed to have no kind of perspective – no awareness of the fact that people aren’t all programed in the same fashion – that just because he/she wanted to lose weight, does not mean the entirety of cereal eaters feels the same. Fair enough, this is a pet peeve of mine. When people take one look at me and assume that because I am big, I must want to lose weight, I do get frustrated. I really, truly, without a doubt, DO NOT WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT.
Secondly, the joy issue. Why is it ok to tell people they will be happier if they change who they are/what they look like? Since when did it become acceptable to blatantly tell people to change? Sure, the media has created aesthetically acceptable norms that many strive to follow. But it’s very rare for a large, supposedly respectable corporation, to make a claim as big as “YOU WILL BE HAPPIER IF YOU ARE SKINNY.” That may be the message that the media tries to portray, but at least most outlets leave it to the individual to interpret whatever it is they’re putting out there. This cereal box, however, does not leave it to interpretation. Again, I understand that perhaps most of its consumers are dieting, or trying to. And fine, by all means, Special K can come up with meal plans for the success of those diets. But to tell EVERYONE that they will be intrinsically happier at a low weight is disgusting.
So, if I were to write a letter to Special K, it would go something like this:
Dear Special K,
I cannot believe that you, a seemingly respectable, mega-million dollar corporation, would be so presumptuous as to assume that every one of your consumers wishes to lose weight. While I understand that you are marketed as a healthy/dieting product, you also must realize that when you put substantial amounts of chocolate in your cereals, you are appealing to a larger (no pun intended) demographic. I for one, do not want to lose weight. I simply purchased you because I am a fan of chocolate clusters in anything. As a larger woman who actually likes being large, I am consistently told that I am wrong in choosing to look the way I do. And I do not appreciate being nagged further first thing in the morning when I try to pour a bowl of you.
To make the promise to your consumers that they will all be happier if and when they lose weight is simply sick. Quite frankly, the most miserable years of my life were those I spent dieting and counting calories and trying to become someone I’m just not. It is hard enough in this world to truly be yourself without your boxes trying to diminish any advances at self-love. Honestly, I worry that your ego is so large you actually have a God-complex. Who in their right mind would make such a blunt, bold and audacious claim as: You will be happier if you lose weight. To tell people they will be happier if they do anything is absurd. How can you speak for the whole population? How can you just assume to know what all people want. And since when, do all people want the same exact thing? We aren’t that simple, Special K.
I feel that you are completely offensive — like more offensive than Miley Cyrus’s racist performance at the VMAs. And though I was once a loyal customer, I am submitting my official resignation. Until you can become more open-minded and accept that you have acted like an egotistical dictator of aesthetics, I will not be your friend any longer. What makes me the saddest is that somewhere there is a chunky boy or girl being bullied and made to feel like crap on a daily basis. It is very likely that that boy or girl will try to change themselves. Maybe even they will buy your cereal. And when they read your box, they will be told for the umpteenth time that they will be better if they are skinny – that they will be happier. And they will try to lose the weight. And they will change themselves. And maybe they will be happy. Maybe everyone will like them more. Or maybe they will be miserable because they have lost the person they once were – because they realize that most of those people they tried to please didn’t really like them for their true self. And all you will have done, Special K, is acted as one more member of the corrupt, repulsive group, that made a child feel there was something fundamentally wrong with them for being different. Congratulations.