Emotional Eating Is Killing Us

Over the last few weeks, the online Reddi Wip™ commercial has garnered a respectable amount of attention from captive audiences that watch the ad as they wait for their online games and news articles to load up. However, many are noticing a subtle nuanced juxtaposition of science versus emotional buying.

We know that for generations, science has repeated the message that a balanced diet is imperative to good health. According to a national poll conducted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, over 80 percent of Americans support healthy school meals consisting of more fruit and vegetables and less high calorie and sodium food choices.

The CDC states that the rate of childhood obesity has doubled and then some over the last 30 years.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states on their website that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act follows the “latest nutrition science and the real world circumstances of America’s schools.”

So what’s the problem with the Reddi Wip™ commercial and others like it? After all, the Reddi Wip™ commercial shows middle school kids eating lunch at school and enjoying their lunch after the product being sold improves it. Here’s the problem.

Reddi Wip_01
Notice what’s in this child’s lunch box.  He has a medium-sized apple.  He has a large chocolate brownie.  He has a can of Reddi wip™ topping.  There’s a loving note from mom that says, “SMILE CHARLIE.”

The message imparted conflicts with what we know about the need to eat a balanced diet.  The implication is that by providing a skimpy lunch that’s big on empty calories and minimal nutrition, mom is showing how much she loves her child by defaulting to emotional eating habits.

The issue here is that when parents or school districts insist on students eating properly, there are advertisers who are busy undoing the message that a balanced diet is important for physical, intellectual, and emotional reasons.

According to study findings published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal in June 2015, proper nutrition by way of a balanced and high-quality diet is important for maintaining mental health.  Other scientific studies have shown that proper nutrition is vital in managing and preventing certain mental health conditions such as depression, ADHD, and more.

A balanced diet is also imperative to strong emotional health according to medical researchers.  In May 2009, “Preventive Medicine” magazine published the findings of a study that examined the effects of dietary patterns on mental health in two groups of subjects ranging in age from 13 to 15 years old.  The data proved that there was a higher percentage of negative behavior such as depression, aggression, and delinquency in participants who consumed an unhealthy diet.

What follows may seem innocuous at first glance, however, Charlie then decides to impose his diet on the diet of his peers and adults in his environment.  The chocolate pudding in his school mate’s lunch box is first (I hope she had more than just chocolate pudding and an apple for lunch).

Reddi Wip_03
Then he adds the topping to a teacher’s healthier lunch of fruit, presumably without the teacher’s permission (based on the surprised look on her face when she sees what’s been done to her fruit bowl).

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Finally, Charlie returns the favor and seems to have learned the lesson his mother has taught him by packing her lunch for her the next day:  One slice of pie and one can of Reddi Wip™ topping.  He’s even recycled his mom’s note, struck out his name and replacing it with MOM, and striking out MOM and replacing it with his name.

Reddi Wip_04
Even though Reddi Wip™ topping has cream as one of its ingredients, that doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy choice in the amounts shown in the ad with Charlie, and given the lack of other foods needed to create a balanced diet in his lunch box.

As the second most eaten brand of whipped topping in the U.S., there’s a certain balance that Reddi Wip™ ought to strive for, this being one that promotes their product while at the same time promoting healthy eating choices and appropriate behavior.

Maybe then the tagline #ShareTheJoy will ring true with consumers more than it already obviously does.  After all, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to promote healthy eating and good physical, mental, and emotional health over — perhaps unintentionally — promoting emotional eating and bad behavior in kids?

Elyse Bruce

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