Pinterest expands its anti-body shaming policy, bans weight loss ads

Pinterest announced on Thursday it would no longer accept any advertising featuring weight loss language and imagery, and called on other social platforms to do the same.

In a post to its newsroom, Pinterest said the decision is an expansion of policies prohibiting body shaming and dangerous weight loss products or claims.

It’s making the change as much of the world responds to the transformative effects of the Covid crisis, which has included a steep rise in unhealthy eating habits among young people, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). “Many are now feeling added pressure as they look to rejoin their social circles in person for the first time in 15 months,” said Pinterest.

Pinterest said that it is the only major platform to ban all weight loss ads. “We encourage others in the industry to do the same and acknowledge, once and for all, that there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all,” it said.

The new policy, developed with help from NEDA, permits ads promoting healthy lifestyles and habits, as well as fitness services and products, but they can’t focus on weight loss. The new policy prohibits:

  • Any weight loss language or imagery;
  • Testimonials regarding weight loss or weight loss products;
  • Language or imagery that idealizes or denigrates certain body types;
  • Referencing Body Mass Index or similar indexes; and
  • Products that claim weight loss through something worn or applied to the skin.

“The National Eating Disorders Association applauds Pinterest for taking a leadership position as the first platform to prohibit all ads with weight-loss language and imagery,” said NEDA’s interim CEO, Elizabeth Thompson. “We are hopeful this global policy will encourage other organizations and companies to reflect on potentially harmful ad messages and to establish their own working policies that will create meaningful change.”

Pinterest also said its users are showing a growing interest in “body neutrality” as an “emerging search trend from the wellness movement.” Searches for “body neutrality” and “stop body shaming quotes” were up five times since last year, and Pinterest said it would include more positive body neutrality content on its Today Tab for a week.

“The body neutrality conversations that are happening now online are a great way to promote acceptance, but we still continue to see unsolicited messaging about our bodies,” said Tabria Majors, a model and Pinterest creator, in the release. “From magic weight pills, to extreme diet plans and imagery that body shames, it’s difficult to escape these damaging messages I challenge daily.”

Concerns about potentially wide-ranging toxic effects of social media have increased significantly in recent years, and the move by Pinterest made headlines on a number of major news outlets.

“Bye bye BMI: Pinterest bans weight loss ads in first for major social networks,” was the headline in The Guardian. “Pinterest’s new policy can make a tangible difference, especially if it sets a precedent for other major platforms to follow suit,” said TechCrunch.

David Brown