Pinterest announced Thursday that it would ban weight loss ads.
The company says the move is a response to a rise in unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders since the pandemic started, as reported by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
“NEDA is encouraged by this necessary step in prioritizing the mental health and well-being of Pinners, especially those impacted by diet culture, body shaming, and eating disorders,” Elizabeth Thompson, NEDA’s interim CEO, said in a statement posted by Pinterest.
Other social media companies, including Instagram and TikTok, have banned a subset of weight loss claims and products from ads — specifically ads targeted to young people. That was in response to the proliferation of digitally (and physically) altered Instagram bodies that promote unrealistic beauty standards, ads selling potentially harmful diet products (like detox teas), and the rise of social media-inspired plastic surgery. Pinterest, however, says its policy is the first to ban “all” weight loss ads.
The policy is quite broad. It prohibits “any weight loss language or imagery,” as well as testimonials, product shilling, idealization or denigration of certain body types, and references to Body Mass Index. It expands on Pinterest’s ban on ads that contain weight loss pills and procedures, before and after pictures, body shaming, and other more obvious forms of toxic diet culture.
There is, however, a pretty significant loophole. Weight loss companies are not actually banned from advertising on Pinterest. The company says “Ads promoting healthy lifestyles and habits or fitness services and products will still be allowed, as long as they don’t focus on weight loss.”
This is actually in step with current trends in the diet industry. Of course, there are still plenty of explicit diet ads on the internet. But some legacy players have shifted to accommodate new ad guidelines and consumer tastes.
In 2018, Weight Watchers rebranded to “WW” (maybe customers would forget what those Ws originally stood for?). It says it’s currently a wellness-focused company, and its new tagline is “Wellness that Works.”
You can bet the $2.5 billion corporation didn’t make that move entirely out of the goodness of its heart. Reports show that millennials are much more interested in healthy eating, body positivity, and wellness — not weight loss. The diet industry has adapted while still cashing in on diet products.
Under the new policy, companies like WW can still advertise on Pinterest, as long as they don’t explicitly reference weight loss — which might be just fine with them.