Demi Lovato had a difficult couple of years. I don’t know all of these details need to be repeated – like her decades-long struggles with eating disorders or her near-fatal drug overdose in 2018 – because she told and retold the story herself. Her most recent YouTube documentaries Dancing With the Devil and the album that go with it are vulnerable, unvarnished memories of what led Lovato to her rock bottom. (They’re both pretty good, if pretty upsetting.)

As part of Lovato’s recovery, she’s made it a point to publicly fight many social ills. One of these diseases is diet culture, an industry that often combines physical embarrassment with the rhetoric of a positive, healthy life. The dangers of diet culture are well known, but its insidious nature can make them difficult to crack. Enter Lovato, who speaks openly about her body image issues and the history of bing and restrictive eating, to draw attention to the real effects of weight loss under other names.

This is an honorable endeavor. However, there are also limitations, especially if you are a famous person with millions of dollars and millions of followers online. When Lovato aimed her body positivity lasers at a frozen yogurt shop in Los Angeles, the backlash was faster and sharper than expected.

CliffsNotes to you, if for some reason “Demi Lovato Froyo Drama” wasn’t on your radar : Lovato called LA-based frozen treat store The Bigg Chill for selling “sugar-free cookies / other diet foods” in addition to its more traditional options. Go to #DietCultureVultures. Tai, The Bigg Chill, reacted very harshly – as you can see, these items are intended as options for diabetics, people with celiac disease, vegans, and other people with dietary restrictions. Lovato was not affected and wrote in a direct message to the shop: “You can find a way to provide a welcoming environment for all people with different needs. Including eating disorders – one of the deadliest mental illnesses that only occurs after an overdose of [opioids]. Don’t make excuses, just do better. “She suggested that The Bigg Chill make it clear that its obvious diet-food options are specifically intended for people with different nutritional needs, both to trigger encounters and to differentiate nutritional culture from health needs.

And that came with Lovatos Not good to followers, followers of The Bigg Chill, or followers of celebrity gossip. Lovato was great, they said; is it so wrong to consider dietary restrictions without making reservations? Are grocery sellers obliged to get their customers to do so to disclose their own health problems by labeling food according to certain diseases? And is a small Froyo shop really the place to direct that anger in a public forum where you in turn wield excessive power?

To be fair to Lovato, it is true that diet culture is so ubiquitous that anyone de r dealing with its emotional or physical effects can be set in motion very easily. When you push yourself to eat a decadent snack and come face to face with warning signs suggesting that the snack is a bad decision that reflects you as a person, it can be very difficult > This seems to be Lovato’s argument – she said she felt “triggered” and defeated by their encounter. But their goal was really not the one. The power of celebrity is so great that you can actively harass yourself by naming and shaming a smaller, downright non-famous entity. And if the goal is to foster a positive relationship with your body – and therefore with yourself – this type of argument is not particularly productive.

Lovato’s behavior is reminiscent of her best-known defender in the incident, Jameela Jamil, the actress and model who became notorious for her highly powerful online demeanor. “If an eating disorder advocate says she sees products positioned as guilt-free and potentially triggers it, it doesn’t mean she’s too stupid to remember that there are diabetics,” Jamil wrote on an Instagram History. “It just means we need to change the way we market products that meet people’s medical needs.” And all of that is fair, except that the overall tenor here is increasingly aggressive and disproportionate between people with a large platform and people who don’t. This is the kind of fight that Jamil herself often wages and that she wins more critics than supporters if she continues to scapegoat people in the name of her advocacy.

When a celebrity pulls the trigger on someone they consider offensive feels, believable or not, and that person or entity has no real social influence, it works powerfully – without taking over the systems that perpetuate the harmful mindsets that we should break down. And that helps few of us beyond the person who feels personally offended: in this case, a Demi Lovato longing for Froyo. There are bigger frozen treats to thaw out.

During my career at Slate, I’ve worked on several Slate Plus podcasts on important historical topics: the history of American slavery, reconstruction, and the history of fascism. The thorough research I did in putting these projects together also serves me years later when I write historical pieces for Slate. Thank you for supporting this type of work! – Rebecca Onion, employee

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