Forever 21's online customers have begun opening the packages that land on their doorstep to find the clothing they ordered—and a diet bar that they most certainly did not. The fast-fashion retailer has started sending sample Atkins lemon bars, which proudly advertise three grams of carbs, along with online orders. It isn’t clear just which orders receive this unsolicited weight loss nudge, but judging from a growing number of complaints on social media, most of the impacted customers appear to have ordered from the company’s plus-size collections.
This browser does not support the video element.
Of course, Atkins-branded products are an offshoot of the low-carb diet craze that took off in the early 2000s. The company advertises its bars as a way to “stick with your low carb diet.” Its new line of lemon bars, which are included in Forever 21 packages, are part of Atkins’ snack collection, which is specifically marketed as a way to “treat yourself without worrying about your carb count.” So, to be utterly clear, while they are labeled as a “snack,” they are diet bars.
As of this writing, Forever 21 did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment. We will update this post if they do.
To receive an unsolicited diet bar isn’t just an insult; it’s a potentially dangerous invitation to question and critique oneself. That is especially true while buying clothes, and especially while buying clothes from the plus-size line of a mainstream retailer like Forever 21. One Twitter user wrote after receiving the unwanted Atkins bar: “bought a swimsuit online from forever 21 and they sent me an atkins bar along with it lmaoo thank u for reminding me that i don’t have a beach ready bod.” Another wrote, “Thanks Forever21 I have received my order of 5 items from the plus section.....oh and this
#atkins bar that slipped in there. I don’t take kindly to people telling me how to live my life.” One woman used the hashtag #triggered.
Research has linked thinness-promoting advertising—which is essentially what an unsolicited sample diet bar is—to body dissatisfaction. What’s more—WHAT’S MORE—researchers have suggested that low-carb diets increase risks for cancer, stroke, and heart disease (specifically among women).
Outrage over this marketing decision has started gaining traction on Instagram, with a user by the name @mermaidqueenjude posting an image with scripted text reading: “Forever 21 is fatphobic.” The caption explains:
I’m tired of diet culture and fatphobia, I’m tired of people thinking this is okay. I’m tired. It is so dangerous to body shame and suggest that someone eat less or go on a diet, you don’t know their history with food. As someone recovering from an [eating disorder], this would’ve set me back so far.
She added, finally: “Fuck you @forever21. How dare you endanger your customers like that?”
Update, 2:16 p.m.: A Forever 21 spokesperson sent Jezebel the following statement:
From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.