Is “Pouring on the Pounds” Just Pouring on Resentment?

December 17, 2009

Have you seen the latest ad from the NYC Health Department as part of their anti-soda and sugary beverages campaign?:

Wow. I mean…wow! I am a huge advocate for eliminating soft drinks and other sugary beverages, but, for me, this misses the mark. Not because I don’t agree with the message. I surely do, and I commend NYC for working to raise awareness around this and many other health issues. But does this particular ad raise awareness? Or does it just raise our disgust and defenses against the government trying to dictate what we choose to put into our bodies? Do ads aimed at reaching people through shock value truly accomplish their goals? Sure this might deter you from drinking the soda in your hand right now, but what about later today? Tomorrow? Next week? Do you truly feel educated as to how to make more informed choices on a daily basis?

If I’ve learned anything about what it takes to make positive change for your health, it’s that what people most need to experience are the benefits of making healthier choices before they will be prepared to relinquish their old habits. Most people know by now that drinking soda isn’t the best choice. They don’t need to be told WHAT not to eat or drink. They need help learning HOW to make a different choice.

And how does this ad address making a different choice? Milk is offered as an alternative. Well…on a caloric level, making this substitution is not going to do much to keep the weight off. Add to that the fact that many people have trouble digesting milk, and that there are just as many health problems linked to over-consumption of dairy as there are to over-consumption of soda and sugary drinks, and what have we really learned? (Aside from more about the influence of the dairy industry…but that’s another blog post for another day…)

We also need to be mindful of the contradictions people find between the message of the ad and their own experience. Many of the You Tube viewers talk about how they drink soda and have no weight problems, or stress that they only drink diet soda and, therefore, this wouldn’t apply to them. Have we helped educate those individuals on how sugar and artificial sweeteners have far more reaching consequences on your health than just your weight? And don’t be deceived –diet soda can contribute to weight gain just as much as regular. This is a great video that speaks more to this side of the story:

I’m not suggesting that NYC stop this ad campaign. If even one person pursues a more in depth conversation with a friend, family member, or health professional it’s completely worth it. But the politics of health is a tricky thing, and my fear is that ads like these may only serve to close the door for many people to an important conversation that they really DO want to have.

How do you feel about this latest ad?

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3 Responses to “Is “Pouring on the Pounds” Just Pouring on Resentment?”

  1. Adrienne Asta Says:

    Patti-
    Wonderful! I agree on all accounts and am equally as ready to become excited over your blog on the dairy industry.

  2. Jim Says:

    NY also runs pretty graphic and disturing ads offering inspiration and help to quit smoking, and has for many years. Is this really any different? A TV ad can only be what it is.

  3. Patti McCabe Says:

    Good point. I don’t actually think there is a difference with the anti-smoking campaign, or really with the other ads that have come before this one regarding soda. I guess it’s an overall feeling that making people feel bad about themselves is perhaps not the best way to encourage a change in any behavior. BUT I agree that a TV ad can only be what it is…and maybe someday I’ll be able to contribute something I feel is more effective. 🙂 Perhaps the one difference here from the smoking ads is that I don’t believe we are directed to or can call 311 for free “quit soda” patches. People need more tangible resources to make the changes these ads promote.


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