Over the weekend, singer Demi Lovato attacked a small business — a beloved frozen yogurt shop — for displaying sugar-free options.
Just a reminder, Demi Lovato has 102 million followers at the time of writing. Meanwhile, the shop in question, The Bigg Chill, had only in the thousands.
Demi Lovato called out The Bigg Chill over an Instagram story. She said she found it “extremely hard to order Froyo [from them] when you have to walk past tons of sugar-free cookies/other diet foods before you get to the counter.” She tagged the business in the story, effectively punching down at them. There’s no way a celebrity of her stature can tag a small business in a public, negative post, and not expect some fanatics to take that as a sign to go and harass the business.
Demi Lovato outed herself as someone unable to think of anybody’s needs other than her own.
The thing is, she outed herself as someone who is unable to think about anybody’s interests and needs other than her own. In making this post, she conveniently leaves out anyone who may benefit from sugar-free options, such as diabetics.
The Post in Question, and the Interactions That Followed
Below are screenshots of Instagram stories that Lovato posted. She even posted a screenshot of private DMs between her and The Bigg Chill. The third panel displays a screenshot of The Bigg Chill’s story, which contains their public response.
Image Credit: Express.co.uk
In the first story, Lovato calls the business “diet culture vultures.” As a reminder, “diet culture” refers to the idea that our culture values and perpetuates diets that are intended to keep people skinny, and that is the kind of diet that we value most, rather than diets that keep you happy and healthy. Activists in favor of this claim that our culture highlighting thin, conventionally beautiful women as beauty and fashion icons is proof of this.
For Lovato to call The Bigg Chill “diet culture vultures” could lead someone to believe that they are perpetuating the idea that people need to eat sugar-free, being vultures about it. This paints an image of the employees calling out people, forcing them to buy the sugar-free options. Something like that is implied further when Lovato claims their service was bad, too. In the second story, the interaction reads:
The Bigg Chill: We are not diet vultures, we cater to all our customers needs for the past 36 years. We are sorry you found this offensive.
Demi Lovato: Not just that. Your service was terrible. So rude. The whole experience was triggering and awful. You can carry things for other people while also caring for another percentage of your customers who struggle DAILY just to even step foot in your store. You can find a way to provide an inviting environment for all people with different needs. Including eating disorders - one of the deadliest mental illnesses second to opios overdoses. Don’t make excuses, just do better. [sic]
Lovato claims the experience was triggering. In a rational world, where people don’t say small interactions and innocent mistakes push someone into psychological distress, we would take this seriously and assume The Bigg Chill did something horrible, such as actually make fun of Lovato, specifically her history of eating disorders.
However, we don’t live in a rational world.
The Reality of the Situation
While Lovato may have felt psychological distress, that isn’t the fault of The Bigg Chill (which is owned by a mother and daughter, by the way). If nothing else, this hints at the possibility that Lovato is seeking ways to project her insecurities and fears onto others and ascribing negative intentions to interactions like these.
It’s not “diet culture” that makes these options attractive to many people.
The reality is many people are diabetic and would love to see sugar-free options available when they go with their friends or family to get frozen yogurt (and they probably aren't going to want to see labels like "For Diabetics" on things). Others may voluntarily choose these for themselves in order to go along with a health plan recommended to them by their doctor. The fact of the matter is it’s not “diet culture” that makes these options attractive to many people. In fact, the diet culture prominent in the ‘90s, which gave rise to bulimia and anorexia as something trendy and attractive (see, heroin chic), would have people avoiding frozen yogurt shops like the plague.
Additionally, it’s possible that “diet culture” hardly drives people anymore, especially with obesity being celebrated by the mainstream. Many people want to experiment with different diets: for weight loss, to show solidarity for a family member or loved one, or to accommodate allergies. There are plenty of reasons, beyond looks or beauty, that someone would want a sugar-free option. For Lovato to call a small business a “diet culture vulture” says more about her than the business itself.
If she truly wanted to avoid "triggering and awful" experiences, she could have used a delivery service or sent her assistant to pick up her froyo. (Like how does she shop in a grocery store with so many potentially triggering options?)
In all fairness, Lovato did post an apology video to Instagram, but, unfortunately for her, it wasn't well received.
Some people may be healing from eating disorders, and it’s terrible that they’re in that situation at all. But just because they’re in that situation doesn’t grant them permission to call other people “vultures” for offering options for diabetics, those with celiac disease, or anyone who wants them.
Dear “diet culture” abolitionists, if you want to eat what you want and refuse to conform to ideas of health, that’s on you. But the world doesn’t revolve around you, your needs, or your preferences. Not even if you’re a celebrity with millions of followers, punching down at a small business.
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