Forever 21, that chaotic evil fast fashion empire of polyester and mesh, has been sending an insulting and toxic message to plus size shoppers. The company, as Jezebel reports, appears to have partnered with Atkins, a company famous for its early 2000's low carb diet, that now specializes in "low carb meal bars."
We know, because online customers been tweeting about discovering weight-loss bars in their orders as a bonus "sample item." The bars have been received by a number of shoppers, but based the online complaints, the freebie is primarily being included with selections from Forever 21's plus size collections.
Atkins is an old-school diet company leftover from the 2000's era of low-carb fad diets like Whole30 and South Beach that today, are understood as out-dated given what we know about diet culture's ineffectiveness and harmful effects of diet culture for people of all sizes. The particular product they're sending out is advertised as a "snack bar," but online, it's clearly marketed as a "a tasty way to stay on track" with a low-carb diet.
Forever 21 partnering with Atkins, let alone pushing their products on customers, reinforces diet culture's celebration of weight-loss and thinness, that undermines the worth of large bodies and promotes a toxic relationship to food and exercise. Beyond the emotional impact, low-carb diets can also be unsafe, and have been linked to cancer, stroke, and heart disease among women, as Jezebel points out. Unsolicited diet advice is never acceptable, and getting it from a company you thought respected you and your size is more than just annoying.
New York blogger @mermaidqueenjude, explained how triggering and irresponsible the marketing stunt could potentially be for those struggling with body image.
"I'm tired of diet culture and fatphobia, I'm tired of people thinking this is okay. I'm tired," she wrote. "It is so dangerous to body shame and suggest that someone eat less or go on a diet, you don't know their history with food. As someone recovering from an ED, this would've set me back so far... Fuck you @forever21. How dare you endanger your customers like that?"
Forever 21 has a mixed record on body positivity. It offers more plus-size lines, especially in swim and activewear, than most retailers and has worked with models like Barbie Ferreira and Lulu Bonfils. The brand has an Instagram just to promote it's plus size selections. Its bio read, "The F21 Plus Size destination for fashion sizes XL - 3X 💕 ✨ Body Positivity." However, a pretty quick search online brings up lots of criticism of those lines only going up to size 18, and being relegated to dingy, hidden sections of the store.
This post has been updated with statements from Atkins and Forever 21:
Forever 21: "From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way."
Atkins: "Today's Atkins is focused on a lifestyle nutritional approach where everyone can benefit from overall health and wellbeing. Our brand evolution is reflected in the current marketing efforts to highlight the health benefits of eating a low carb/low sugar Atkins lifestyle, with a portfolio of nutritious and delicious snacks for everyone. The intention of sampling Atkins products is to share snacks that taste great with optimal nutritional benefit."
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