Ask any woman and she will tell you there’s something she doesn’t like about her appearance. More often than not, a woman will critique her body, wishing for either slimmer legs or a flatter stomach, among other things. This can lead to a distorted body image and a disordered relationship with food. Media and society have long set an ideal for women to be thin, which is the main cause of eating disorders according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
Last summer, Macy’s launched portion control plates by New York-based brand Pourtions that they have since removed from shelves after receiving backlash for triggering disordered eating habits. The plates feature circles measuring out portions according to jean sizes and what kind of eater you are. One plate reads “Skinny Jeans” in the small portion, “Favorite Jeans” in the medium portion, and “Mom Jeans” in the largest portion.
Removing these plates was the right thing for Macy’s to do, as not only do they shame body types that aren’t “skinny,” but they also trigger both eating disorders and disordered eating.
As someone who’s in recovery from disordered eating, the Pourtions plates give me anxiety just looking at them. I’m a short girl (5’0”) obsessed with fashion, and grew up looking at models who had the same size waist as me but were an entire foot taller.
I never felt I was thin enough, no matter how much weight I lost or how much thinner my legs became.
My disordered eating lasted from ages 17-25. I spent those years counting calories, exercising compulsively, and, naturally, obsessing over portion sizes. Since then, I’ve spent the past year trying to adopt normal eating habits, while restoring my body from underweight to a healthy weight. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve eaten more than the “Mom Jeans” section of the Pourtions plate.
I see many issues with the Pourtions plates, a large one being that the sizing of each section makes zero sense. First off, the smallest portion, or “Skinny Jeans” section, appears to be less than five inches in diameter, which is not enough of any type of food to fill somebody up, and not enough room for the standard nutrients a meal requires. The “Favorite Jeans” section is already nearly double the size of the “Skinny Jeans” portion, which seems skewed. And sure, the “Mom Jeans” section seems objectively large for a portion, but often a “large” amount of food is necessary for the body.
For example, what if the large section is filled with vegetables and protein? What if the eater is in recovery and needs the nutrients of this portion? What if the eater simply didn’t have enough to eat that day and is making up for it?
The labels on this plate are distorted and can easily lead us to think about food in a disordered way—by bringing back old disordered eating habits or triggering new ones. Anyone who eats the amount that reads “Mom Jeans” would likely feel ashamed of their portion. As someone in recovery, I would definitely feel self-conscious eating this amount, even if my body needed it that day.
Eating the small “Skinny Jeans” portion can satisfy anyone’s inner ED voice (as it would mine), or whatever propels their desire to be thin, while leaving them undernourished and still hungry.
Unfortunately, these plates are still available for purchase on the Pourtions site, and sales have reportedly increased for the brand since the media exposure. What is most upsetting is the product description on the site, which reads, “Keep your eye on the middle circle and you’ll always be in fashion.” It’s disturbing and problematic.
Women shouldn’t feel shame for how much they eat, nor should they be praised for how little.
No matter what the Pourtions product is trying to imply, “thin” is no longer “in.” As often as body-positive and inclusive brands and models are showing up these days, what’s “in” is removing the thinness stigma and celebrating the diversity of body types.
We are all built differently, we all have different lifestyles, and our bodies all metabolize differently. We shouldn’t feel like we need to eat a certain amount of food to fit into a body type or a piece of clothing that’s “in fashion.” As the intuitive eating pioneer (and one of my biggest motivators for recovery) Evelyn Tribole says, “All bodies deserve dignity, respect, and nourishment—no matter what.”
We already have misinformed thoughts about diet culture from the media. We don’t need our plates telling us the same thing.