Please, for the love of god, don't take advice about your eating habits from a badly-designed plate.
Every now and then, you see a product on a department store shelf that makes you do a double-take and wonder, "Who conceptualized this? Who approved this? Who in their right minds would think this is a good idea?" That's exactly how the great Macy's plate debacle began, and thankfully, ended. The retail giant announced recently that it would pull a line of "playful" dinner plates that suggested smaller portion sizes, after being called out by science correspondent and podcaster Alie Ward, and subsequently, a LOT of people on Twitter. The $9.50 plates are made by a company imaginatively called Pourtions, and are designed with three concentric circles, each suggesting a portion size, labeled "skinny jeans," "favorite jeans" and "mom jeans." Ward tweeted a photo of the plates, resulting in outrage from many on Twitter who felt that the design body-shamed people and also related food portion sizes to general healthiness.
Ward's original tweet has almost 50,000 likes, and several replies from people who articulate exactly why the message is toxic and promotes unhealthy body and beauty standards.
This is a toxic message, promoting even greater women beauty standards and dangerous health habits. These expectations can actually kill someone, and I know someone it has. @Macys, remove this from all of your stores and denounce the manufacturer.— Anna L Puchkoff (@AnnaPuchkoff) July 21, 2019
All these people trying to defend the shitty design... lol imagine thinking a circle labelled "skinny jeans" big enough to hold like two chicken nuggets is demonstrating "healthy portion control".... The only thing it's teaching is body shaming, and nothing to do with health.— cheese steak (@totodialed) July 22, 2019
That’s what I don’t understand about products and commercials and such like this.— Katherine Hatcher is starting a podcast! (@superchiasmatic) July 22, 2019
Like how people THOUGHT THIS WAS OKAY prior to it coming to the public?!! pic.twitter.com/y8diLXvEio
Macy's caught wind of the outrage and immediately replied to Ward's tweet, promising to take down the product from all of its locations. “We apologize to our customers for missing the mark on this product. After reviewing the complaint, we quickly removed the plates, which were only in our STORY at Macy’s location in Herald Square," they said, according to The Washington Post.
Hi, Alie — we appreciate you sharing this with us and agree that we missed the mark on this product. It will be removed from all STORY at Macy's locations.— Macy's (@Macys) July 22, 2019
Ward told CNN that she hadn't intended for the tone-deaf plates to make national news. "I just saw it, rolled my eyes, got sad for the people it would impact and used my voice on a public platform," she explained, calling the plate's message "a pointless joke with a cheap punchline." She also explained that she was pleasantly surprised by Macy's' prompt response to the issue, telling The Washington Post, “Companies, people, everyone screws up. It’s not about being perfect or tiptoeing, but it’s just about listening when someone says, ‘yeah, no.’” However, the plates are still available for online purchase on Pourtions, and company president Mary Cassidy says she stands by the message spread by their collection. "We feel very strongly about the positive, light-hearted message conveyed by our glasses & plates," she told CNN. "As the creators of Pourtions, we feel badly if what was meant to be a lighthearted take on the important issue of portion control was hurtful to anyone. Pourtions is intended to support healthy eating and drinking. Everyone who has appreciated Pourtions knows that it can be tough sometimes to be as mindful and moderate in our eating and drinking as we'd like, but that a gentle reminder can make a difference." However, a little dig through the company's collection revealed that the "Mom Jeans" plate is merely the tip of the iceberg - some of their other plates, similarly designed, are not as euphemistic about the company's stance on portion control. For example:
We're saying "WTF?" too, just not for the same reasons. "Every day of the week, our collections will provide a hip, humorous, and healthy reminder to watch how much you eat and drink," says the company's website. "Whether feeding a family of four or concocting an “in” drink for your friends, POURTIONS will keep you smiling—and keep you from overindulging." Well, thanks, but no thanks. Do you particularly want to feel guilty each time you look at your meal, thanks to a design dictated by an arbitrary set of portion sizes? Yeah, me neither. As far as one can tell via Pourtions' website, neither of the co-founders of the company are licensed nutritionists or medical professionals of any sort, so I wouldn't trust their suggested serving sizes one bit.
I feel like the key here is that, even when done "playfully," joking about portion control and dieting is pretty reckless. But I guess a lot of the replies to this post are from hardcore Macy's supporters (???) Kinda weird but ok— Giaco Furino (@GiacoFurino) July 23, 2019
According to Eater, Pourtions is merely one in a crowd of other dinnerware companies that encourage diets and portion control as a metric to overall health. A recent piece talks about cafeteria trays that are made to prevent you from putting more than a single serving of protein or carbs on your plate, cutlery that is specifically designed to hold smaller bites of food, and even a horrifying-sounding "food-shaming fork" that vibrates if you eat too fast. While Pourtions calls their products a "funny way to remind yourself to keep from overindulging", a quick read through the company's website speaks volumes about their internalized criticism of bodies - most of it ostentatiously directed at women. Products like these can also exacerbate eating disorders such as anorexia, which involves attention to detail when it comes to calories and serving sizes.
In a 2018 piece in The Atlantic, Amanda Mull explains how the language used on products like these could tie into disordered eating. "Intermittent fasting, meal replacements, and ultra-detailed diet plans might not always be symptoms of disordered eating unto themselves," she writes. "But a veneer of safety from scientific language can obscure the tendency for those behaviors to become physically harmful, and it can make intervention more difficult for family and friends." Basically, the only people you should be taking advice from about your eating habits is your doctor. Not a random plate.