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Pinterest Is the First Social Media Platform to Ban Weight Loss Ads

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

If you feel like weight loss ads are clogging your social media feeds, you have one less platform to worry about — Pinterest is banning the weight loss ads that once dominated their platform. While other social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram, have limited ads for weight loss products, Pinterest is the first social media platform to ban them completely.

Pinterest collaborated with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) as they made this historic step toward limiting the influence of diet culture on social media. The decision to ban weight loss ads was made in part due to increased searches for healthy eating and fitness tips during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah Bromma, Pinterest’s head of policy, elaborated on the company’s rationale for removing its weight loss ads, explaining that: “a lot of people are following challenges related to body image and mental health, particularly as we’re emerging from COVID restrictions.”

The decision to remove Pinterest’s weight loss ads doesn’t just have the potential to help people with their overall mental health; it’s also a significant step in reducing triggers for people with eating disorders. Being constantly bombarded with crash diet products and “health fad” items can be harmful for people with eating disorders, especially if they’re inclined to fixate on calories or use weight loss products. Not seeing weight loss ads on Pinterest could help people with eating disorders reduce their exposure to triggers and make recovery-oriented choices, and it could also prevent people at risk for eating disorders to curb eating disorder behavior before it even starts.

Though social media platforms have become a haven for body positivity, they still contain a significant amount of content that promotes dangerous diets, exercise for weight loss and restrictive eating habits. And although most people may not associate Pinterest with the same level of weight loss promotion as Instagram, some of the ideas and advertisements on Pinterest before the ban were heavily influenced by diet culture and may have negatively influenced the platform’s fairly young, predominantly female demographic — the same demographic at the highest risk for eating disorders. Women who love Pinterest but struggle with eating disorders or body image may have grappled with some of the diet culture messaging that was previously on the site, and people of all other genders aren’t immune to the suggestion that weight loss is a necessity or a form of life improvement, either.

Pinterest’s decision to ban weight loss ads — and its acknowledgment of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on mental health — can’t erase all of the other diet culture influences that dominate our society, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. Hopefully, more social media platforms — like Facebook and Instagram — will follow Pinterest’s lead in banning weight loss ads entirely. Though not everyone is affected the same way when they see diet culture messaging, banning weight loss ads could empower people with eating disorders to know that they don’t need to lose weight to feel happy — and that recovery is so much more fulfilling than dieting.

Photo by Madrona Rose on Unsplash

Originally published: July 5, 2021
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