I went to town yesterday, and saw this. I was actually shocked, and I am very rarely shocked. Nor am I one of those people who declares shock to try and stir up outrage. But this medicine is messed up. It is marketed completely and deliberately at people (women, specifically) with eating disorders.
I had eating disorders from age 15 to 19 or something like that (my memory of teenage years is mercifully fuzzy) so I know. I still have some part of me, which is ever alert to weight and food weirdness. This particular thing has so many things wrong, which put together, add up to a very definite conclusion.
- There is a skinny body in the background. There is no reason for this, at all. No other reflux medicine has similar packaging. The body is androgynous, with pronounced neck and collar bones, in a faded grey. It’s all very ‘thinspo’.
- That it says ‘low calorie’ rather than ‘sugar free’. Who worries about the calories in their Gaviscon? Anorexics, that’s who. Diabetics (and parents of hyperactive children) are concerned with sugar specifically, and so usually products are labelled ‘sugar free’. Not many people think ‘Oh dear, I’m carrying a few extra pounds, I should change my diet a bit… I better cut down on the antacids!’
- Starving and throwing up both make you really need this product. Marketing team know this. Hell, I still need this product (although please, not caramel flavour), even many years later. (Although maybe the cider isn’t helping either.)
- Caramel flavour? Because real sweets bring too much guilt, this is your compensation. Yes, EDs are fun aren’t they.
- The text is pink. I know it’s fucked up, but pink is still considered the girliest colour, and eating disorders are stereotyped as a girl disease. Acid reflux in general is not thought of as a ‘feminine issue’. Why would they try to narrow down a wide market by being so weirdly specific? Because marketing is sexist, of course.
- The eating disordered population is growing fast. According to charity Beat, 6.4% of the population shows signs of an eating disorder, and the number of inpatient hospital admissions is increasing by 7% year on year. Sub-clinical body image and eating problems are widely prevalent, with up to two thirds of adults suffering negative body image. So it does make financial sense to market to the eating disordered.
- After all, what do you think the diet industry is?
I never thought that Wilkos were evil. I know they are just another capitalist conglomerate, but somehow they always gave off a nicer vibe than the other massive chain stores. Who knows why they have made this product? Like chocolate flavoured Ex-Lax, it is inexplicable in its weirdness.