Campbell's, perfect for an eating disorder

The soup you can eat when 310 calories is way too much

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
Published January 27, 2010 1:28PM (EST)

Want to get a peek inside the eating disorder mindset? It might look something like this: a supermarket full of women, blindfolded, randomly grabbing "light" foods. Then they take off their blinders. "310 calories?" "Eight grams of fat?"

ZOMG this shit has calories! And fat! Even light stuff isn't safe! Aieeeeeeee!

Fortunately, our starvation-obsessed -- and uniformly slender -- ladies have a choice. As they head down the aisle groaning with Campbell's Select Harvest Light, they cheer up, "Wow! 80 calories!" chirps one happy lady. "And no fat!" trills another. Oh boy, no cutting myself in the office ladies room for lunch again today!

In her righteous takedown of the campaign on her Deus Ex Machinatio blog this week, Andrea Phillips calls Campbell's "a pro-ana company," and she sure seems to have a point. Are the food choices for women – those pathetically unseeing supermarket cart pushers – really supposed to be limited to "light" and "lighter than thou"? Phillips asks, "Since when is 340 calories a completely unacceptable amount to eat for a meal?"

To be fair to the soup monger, the fine print on the ad does describe the wares "as part of a balanced meal." And OK, as an appetizer or light afternoon snack, a bowl of minestrone is generally preferable to a Double Whopper with cheese. But the image of two of those supermarket shoppers later tucking in to their Select Harvests, glasses of water at the ready and rolls completely untouched, says it all. A Campbell's balanced meal: Eighty calorie, fat-free soup, water and uneaten bread. That's mmm mmmm fucked up.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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