Twitter users are criticizing ads for the app, DoFasting, for seemingly promoting eating disorders.

By Renee Cherry
January 07, 2020

Targeted ads are really a lose-lose. Either they succeed and you impulse-buy another pair of gold hoops, or you see a bad ad and feel all, what are you trying to say, Twitter? Right now, a lot of people who are getting hit with ads for an app called DoFasting are falling in the "WTF?" camp. (Related: Jennifer Aniston Says Intermittent Fasting Works Best for Her Body)

DoFasting is an intermittent fasting app that offers workouts, a fasting timer, and a weight progress tracker for an annual subscription of $100 a year. ICYDK, intermittent fasting is the practice of cycling between periods of eating and fasting. Those eating and fasting time windows can vary, but one common approach is 16:8, which involves eating within an eight-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day.

There are plenty of IF apps available, but DoFasting's ads are getting a lot of heat because, well, they're cringey. Here's a sampling of the outcomes that DoFasting is tying to using its app:

Your wedding ring will feel loose!

You'll be able to buckle your belt tighter!

It'll rid you of demons!

Many Twitter users are calling out the app for these ads, writing that they seem to be promoting eating disorders. "As somebody who once had [an] eating disorder, this is an eating disorder training program," one person posted. "Ah good, my anorexia needed encouraging, thanks," another person wrote. One ad comparing "alcohol", "hormonal", "stress-put", and "mommy" bellies with a "DoFasting belly" (a person with a flat stomach) didn't go over well with Twitter users, either. DoFasting was not readily available for comment about the backlash by the time of publication.

As many Twitter users pointed out, ads like this can be especially harmful to people with disordered eating habits and body image issues, says Amy Kaplan, LCSW, a psychotherapist with virtual health platform, PlushCare. "Ads regarding weight loss or a new diet technique, such as intermittent fasting, can be very triggering for people, especially those already struggling with low self-esteem or body issues," she explains. (Related: Why the Potential Intermittent Fasting Benefits Might Not Be Worth the Risks)

Looking at you, "DoFasting belly" ad. "Any ads that promote 'ideal' body shapes and sizes could be dangerous as they promote a certain ideal that may be difficult or even impossible for some to achieve and in turn, could lead to disordered thinking, low self-esteem, and even eating disorders," says Heather Senior Monroe, LCSW, director of program development at Newport Academy, a therapy program for young people with mental health or addiction issues.

Not all weight-loss or diet technique ads have the potential to promote eating disorders, though, adds Kaplan. "Many companies do it well when creating ads for their product or service by focusing less on weight-loss numbers, fear techniques, and/or 'ideal' appearance images." They instead use "messages and images of overall health, well-being, and positivity," explains Kaplan.

ICYMI, Google crowned intermittent fasting the top trending diet of 2019. But, like a lot of popular diets, it's controversial. Those in favor of intermittent fasting point out its potential to aid weight loss and promote longevity, and many people argue that IF doesn't intrinsically mean cutting calories, but rather eating them within a certain timeframe. In fact, a recent review of existing studies on the health effects of intermittent fasting, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), has attracted a lot of buzz on the subject. The study's authors wrote that intermittent fasting might actually have a place in treating health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. (Related: Why This RD Is a Fan of Intermittent Fasting)

When done right, intermittent fasting can indeed be healthy, says Monroe. "There can be a healthy way to approach intermittent fasting if you are able to work with a nutritionist, very closely listen to your body's needs, and immediately stop any program that is having negative outcomes on your psychological and physical well-being," she explains.

IF has its drawbacks, though. Many critics of intermittent fasting believe it's a way to normalize starvation. As Twitter users have been pointing out about DoFasting's ads, that normalization can be especially damaging for people with a history of eating disorders. Plus, the research on intermittent fasting's effects is still somewhat limited. It's currently up in the air as to whether humans who incorporate intermittent fasting long-term will reap the benefits shown in animal studies, explained the NEJM study authors.

No matter how you feel about intermittent fasting, there's no denying that people feel DoFasting failed in its execution. Nobody should be shamed (for their belly shape, inner demons, or anything in between) into purchasing an app, period.

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