Kim Brittingham

Kim Brittingham
New Jersey,
December 05
Author of the memoir "READ MY HIPS: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large" (2011, Random House).


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JUNE 21, 2011 8:40AM

Pop Chips Says: Hate Your Body

Rate: 5 Flag

Pop Chips Says: Hate Your Body! 

Last night I dropped in on the annual Garden Party for New York's LGBT community center, where restaurants and food manufacturers were giving away samples of their edibles.  Pop Chips was among them.

In case you haven't tried them yet, Pop Chips are airy, puffed potato disks dusted with flavored powders in varieties like Sea Salt & Vinegar, Sour Cream & Onion and Barbecue.  The Pop Chips booth was covered in its own advertising, which included a mini-billboard that read: "Love. Without the handles."

Surely, when Pop Chips settled on this phrase, they thought they were being cute.  The creative department of their ad agency surely congratulated themselves on being adorable, too.

But the bottom line is this: Pop Chips has chosen to join the chorus of doubt-yourself demons that lulls Americans into a neurotic semi-sleep and spawns eating disorders.  And those disorders include the explicit ones, the names and symptoms of which we're all too familiar, and the murky, muddy, subtle ones we don't even know we have. 

When Pop Chips quips their products are "love without the handles", they're suggesting that "love handles" are something we shouldn't want -- neither on ourselves, nor anyone else whose bodies we might routinely look upon.  They're advocating a superficial, snobbish, beach body-worshipping attitude, letting us know in their light, tittering way that love handles are an undesirable human feature.

Hey, guess what?  Love handles are just flesh.  Grabbable bits of flesh that you may or may not have around your abdomen.  They say nothing about your underlying health, nor the strength of your body.  When you whittle away your love handles, you are effecting something purely cosmetic.

And to each his or her own, where aesthetics are concerned.  But when companies arrogantly try their hand at influencing larger societal attitudes in the process of selling their shit, they are crossing a dangerous line.  There's more at stake than they're willing to admit or for which they're willing to take responsibility.  And it's time they were held accountable for the fallout from those careless ways in which they wield their power.

Wait a minute, wait a minute, you may be thinking.  This is just a stupid ad we're talking about.  For potato chips.  Get over it!

If that's what you're thinking, then you're kidding yourself too.  They've got you by the balls, and bad.

I may be picking on one stupid ad.  But it took decades of many stupid little ads working their collective mosaic evil to make us thee most eating-disordered splat of green on the planet. 

Don't make the mistake of underestimating what these light, transitory ads can do. 

They make kids ask, "Mommy, what are love handles?" 

They make Mommies make self-deprecating jokes about their bodies to their impressionable children. 

They make eight-year-old girls stand before their bathroom mirrors, squeezing and scrutinizing their middles. 

An ad like Pop Chips' will make a fourteen-year-old boy hurl into a toilet somewhere.  Yes, a boy.  He'll be tearing up his esophagus, but he won't care.  Besides, when he was six, he overheard his mother sharing her secret to puking noiselessly in a public restroom.

An ad like Pop Chips' will bore into the mind of a college freshman who's already terrified of getting fat -- terrified of the "freshman fifteen", a phrase and concept that's been so widely spread, I'm disgusted to have such handy recall of it.  The ad will swim with the other sharks in her manipulated young mind and she'll come to believe that some thick flesh around her middle makes her patently unlovable

On a grand scale, these "innocent", "clever", stealthy ads turn women into soul-less robots, too distracted by their love handles and muffin tops and cankles to make any real contribution to the world.  They turn us into chronically unhappy, pill-popping counters of calories. 

They make us our own worst enemies.  They generate hatred in the world -- hatred of ourselves, and hatred of others who dare to flaunt their undesirable features in public, uncorrected. 

Pop Chips does not want you to be at peace.  They're selling you air-popped potatoes with a side of inner turmoil.  Doubt yourself, loathe yourself, nit-pick, toss and turn. 

But they'd like you to take the responsibility.  For listening to them.

Even if you started listening to them at ten years old, before you knew any better.  Even if the grown-ups in your world weren't aware enough to assure you those ads are bullshit. 

Sometimes the people behind these effed-up messages are completely brainwashed themselves.  Really, when they make a phone call to have "Love without the handles" shrinkwrapped onto the side of a city bus, they have no concept just how sick the underlying meaning is. 

Take Tom Forsythe, Vice President of Corporate Communications for General Mills.  When his employer was criticized for promoting eating disorders in TV commercial for Yoplait, he told the Huffington Post, "We had no idea. The thought had never occurred to anyone (that the woman in the commercial was echoing eating-disordered thinking), and no one raised the point. We aren't sure that everyone saw the ad that way, but if anyone did, that was not our intent and is cause for concern. We thought it best to take (the commercial) down."

General Mills had no idea.  A woman battling it out inside her head while standing before the open refrigerator -- to eat or not to eat -- came across as completely unremarkable to them.  They saw it as the American female norm.

And that's precisely the problem.

And these are the people in charge of what you hear and see every day

Oh, but it's just a little joke.  Right?  "Love without the handles"?  Ha, ha.

Well here's a catchy new phrase I think I like even better: 

"Life without Pop Chips". 

Without Pop Chips and the other mindless, heads-up-their-well-compensated-butts, we-don't-care-how-what-we-do-affects-other-people people and their dopey products.

I used to buy Pop Chips from time to time.  They're weirdly addictive.  The Sea Salt & Vinegar ones were my favorite.  But it's been a few weeks now since it occurred to me to buy them.  That proves to me I can live without them. 

So I will.

Besides, I like Pirate Booty a heck of a lot better anyway.

-- Kim Brittingham

Author of Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large (May 2011, Random House Three Rivers Press)

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Chips are bad for people. Chocolate is the thing. Thinness is a cult, you know, and devotees recognize code words and phrases for products that help with maintaining a slim figure. The companies are playing dumb.
Great piece! I'm so in agreement with you!
If you're a company who wants to be a job-creating player in the market and is so rash as to do it by selling food, you're in for a hard time these days.

If you're a McDonalds, a major counterpoint in times of lessening employment, you're dragged over the coals because you're contributing to obesity; if you decide to go the other way, you're subject to contributing to eating disorders, probably a lesser health problem in terms of prevalence. (I see a lot more fatties around than hurlers.)

The unwholesome premise underlying all of this is that the individual is helpless to make personal food choices in the face of advertising, which is vintage twaddle. If a person wants to lay on the carbs and risk repelling partners they may want to spend some quality time with, let them make that choice. If persons want to exercise--well chosen word--their right to sculpt their bodies to enlarge the partner pool from which to choose, let them do likewise.

Consumers have a last clear chance to make a personal choice which completely neutralizes whatever suggestions have been made via advertising. Fortunately, the author of this post doesn't come close to inhibiting the power of this producer to advertise its product. The suggested retaliation is boycott--by far the most civilized response to any social complaint. The only problem for the boycotter is whether the forsaken diet chip will be replaced with a BigMac.

I'm all for giving people the freedom to be fat. And to be fair, there are those, usually fat themselves, who purport to find it appealing. But let's not pretend that most consider it beautiful for, with the possible exception of Queen Latifa, they don't.
I remember when cookies, margarine, snacks, just about everything became light or fat free. Guess what? We all got fatter because we thought we could eat more of it. Wrong!! I totally get where you are coming from. My 1st husband was a yoyo dieter for his entire 54 yrs. on earth and I could write volumes on this. -R-
Equating food to love is an even bigger problem. When I fell in love with an overweight man, I worried that I would be a young widow. But there was no doubt that I was in love with him.
In my experience, people who exercise strenuously just don't worry about this sort of thing. They don't talk about their diets or counting calories or fat grams or carbohydrate grams or anything else. They don't talk about pounds or inches or dress sizes. They don't obsess about stupid stuff like "love handles" or "muffin tops" or cellulite. And most of them don't have esthetically perfect bodies, either, but they don't care. They enjoy their bodies, instead of obsessing about minor imperfections.
Speaking for myself, I've eaten plenty of Pop Chips, have more than my share of love handles, yet don't doubt myself, loathe myself, nitpick or toss and turn. The ad is a simple reference to the amount of fat and calories in standard chips, not a declaration of psychological warfare.
Bit over the TOP! Love it! Opps, did I offend?

I adore satire. Opps, did I offend?

Are you working for PopChips? I think their stock price just rose.

Delicious rant. Opps, did I offend?

Enjoyed the piece. Opps, did I offend?

Let me try another non-food distorted ad-ditive turn of phrase.

You are the Salt of the Earth. Opps, did I offend?

Ms. Brittingham,

I apologize for trying to compliment you. It seems now all I now do is worry that I'll make someone gag, someone's 10 year old stand in front of a mirror and an eight year old innocently question idioms if my compliment holds a questionable word or two.

I just cannot handle anymore groups of people that are subjugated by the act of reading- and really the advertisement was not that achingly stealthy done.

Paranoia used to contour my mind and this was with medicine! Five years free of paranoia, and I feel very, very happy- that I have better drugs and that even in my illness remission is possible. I just don't like smart people paranoia- no matter if Random invests in your pen. What you've done in this piece is add to the SCAREMONGERING tactics of pun-ditz culture.

Your writing was smooth and layered. I loved the execution (Opps, did I offend?). I hated the new questions I must ask myself in the work of writing and work of thinking- that there is a subgroup of "others" ageless by your definition who are being poisoned by reading- chipbags.

I laud reading of ALL types and of ALL sizes of Americans at ALL ages. In education preschools across this great land have spots of environmental reading within their classrooms. For me as an educator that sign would of been like mana- but... I digress, and not as effectively as you do in your RANT.

Kudos, but as an overweight blond who only threw up when I've had food poisoning even I am going to have to think about reading your pithy titled book. Hey, there might be a short, flat-chested woman with thinning hair crying when she read your book's title.

I guess we, 30 to 40 year old women, have been Oparized. We think for honesty in society to exist that incomplete disclosure and tears of one's subjecation in front of strangers is lifting. But, she gave away goodies- cars, my fav things. What are you giving away? More fear of ? Reading between the lines. Two lines?

Before you castigate me know that I've not lived in America for 20 years. I've had no America ads hounding me to buy, or too eat.

Take care,
Annie Shay
Wow, I initially took the love without the handles thing to imply that these chips so low calorie even skinny people can eat them without consequences. I'm surprised at the passion of the author's hurt feelings, although I do get it.

BUT I don't buy chips. Ever. I like them very much, too much, but they don't get in my house. I eat cherries or a fresh tomato when I get the urge for a snack. I stopped eating junk food because I stopped buying it, and that actually works. I'm not skinny but I'm not overweight either, not anymore.