The way that consumers look at food is seeing a sweeping shift; we are now defining health based on fueling and strengthening the human body, not cheating it. Going to the gym, eating well, and strengthening fitness has become the centerfold of today’s health campaigns. The affect it’s having on body image is not only fascinating, but it’s something marketers need to pay attention to. The message: super skinny doesn’t equal super healthy, and we’re seeing it everywhere – in food, fitness, and fashion.
Despite doubts and controversy, the fact that there is any transformation at all in the beauty ideals is really pleasantly surprising. The new models and the way people are dieting are merely support for a much bigger, much overdue mind shift in this country. We’ve been historically superficial especially when it comes to women, which has in turn put pressure on all women, but most frighteningly on girls, to obsess over weight instead of health. Now that health is becoming the priority, there is a real opportunity for marketers to get with this very refreshing program. And some actually are.
As our perception of what healthy looks like on the outside starts to shift, so does our perception of what’s healthy to put into our bodies. Higher calorie healthy foods like avocados, olive oil, and even butter are now being marketed as “healthy fats” that should be included in any well-rounded nutrition regimen. Author of Eat fat: Get Thin, Mark Hyman, has implemented successful diet plans on the idea that low-fat diets increase cravings, but balanced, healthy fat and whole food diets speed up the metabolism and make weight loss more attainable and sustainable.
Even modeling industries are finally recognizing what customers have known for years- that one size does not fit all. Making space for fuller models within the story of a brand, not as a “plus-sized” chapter of it, is a positive incarnation of the changing relationship between consumers and their food. This year one of three Sports Illustrated covers featured Ashley Graham, who presents a very different body type than Americans are used to seeing on this famous issue of SI.
Our idea of what is irresistible as consumers is incentivizing brands to become more inclusive towards all kinds of female bodies, although there are still some challenges. This month, a controversial Lane Bryant lingerie commercial showing plus-sized models promoting “#thisbody” didn’t clear major networks. According to the brand, this is not the first time they’ve encountered issues with TV networks who still appear to favor giving airtime to slimmer lingerie models. In a similar body-positive movement, Target launched a summer bathing suit campaign, “Target Loves Every Body,” this year that highlights five different body types to guide real women to great fits for their figure. These campaigns are doing well and are becoming more culturally acceptable because they are capitalizing on the consumer shift in values – it’s now about overall clean eating and living, not just about being super skinny. The brands that connect with the consumers that have been waiting and waiting for this message have a huge opportunity to win customers for life.