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Pinterest bans weight-loss ads: Body acceptance is in, BMI is out

Fat Shaming
Fat Shaming 25:07

Pinterest said it is banning all weight-loss ads from its platform starting July 1, describing itself as the first major social media service to do so. The company said the new policy "embraces body acceptance" at a delicate time for many people as they emerge from the pandemic.

The company noted the policy is an expansion of its guidelines that had previously banned body-shaming and dangerous weight-loss products. The new ban goes several steps beyond that by prohibiting any weight-loss language or imagery, testimonials about weight loss and references to body mass index, or BMI, among other content.

The decision comes amid a broader body-positivity movement that is aimed at accepting people of all sizes. But Pinterest also noted that its ban on weight-loss ads comes as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, and that there has been a "steep rise in unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders in young people since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year."

"Many are now feeling added pressure as they look to rejoin their social circles in person for the first time in 15 months," Pinterest said in its statement.

The company said it developed the policy with the National Eating Disorders Association, with the organization's interim CEO, Elizabeth Thompson, saying the policy prioritizes the mental health of Pinterest users. Thompson added that she hopes the policy sparks other social media platforms to take similar steps. 

Even so, a search for "weight loss" on Pinterest on Friday brought up an ad for a "metabolic boost" supplement and an ad for weight-loss program Noom. There were also plenty of posts from users about how to lose weight.

A 2020 study found that subjects with eating disorders in the U.S. were concerned over "exposure to toxic social media" related to COVID-19-related weight gain. Searches for phrases such as "body neutrality" and "stop body shaming quotes" are up more than five times since a year ago, Pinterest said. 

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