Thanks SO much for that 90-calorie brownie, Fiber One.

Oh, Fiber One. Like other popular snack manufacturers, you decided to take the low road in selling your [not-so-]tasty treats, and have tried to convince women that they can — horror of all horrors — break their diets and satisfy their sweet tooth with your desserts!

Fiber One’s approach to selling their 90-calorie brownies isn’t anything terribly creative or new — they try to tap into the stereotypical emotional response of women. In this first commercial, they show a couple in love enjoying a brownie, while the woman who sits alone pokes discouragingly at her plate of lettuce. But there’s hope for this single dieter, as she scrambles over to grab the crumbs off the plate of the departing duo. They certainly do a good job of making her look desperate:


They also (and I do think they get this right) show that dieting can be lonely, isolating, and exhausting. Of course, they think this state of being is still totally normal for women, and they assume that all ladies will totally relate because all ladies totally diet. Right? And since all of us are dieting all the time, thank goodness that Fiber One and that weird angel came along to save us.

(By the way, check out this too-perfect brownie-related eating manifesto from Rookie, wherein the writer begs a woman to “Just eat the f—ing brownie”. —Ed.)

I was, admittedly, reminded me of how terrible I thought Fiber One’s commercials were a few months ago, when they began running one of the first in this series. Take a look:


Their attitude in this second commercial, of course, is that eating dessert is “bad” and you can be “bad” with their products because they lack the most deadly of all things in the world — calories. (And density. And taste.) 

They also, and I found this particularly obnoxious, co-opt the image of an empowered woman taking control of her food decisions. The woman in this commercial is seen blasting past a fake guard who is supposedly keeping watch over the party that is mass consumption of Fiber One brownies (puh-leeze), to take a stand against her diet! She isn’t going to be held back anymore by these crazy food restrictions! Fiber One is freeing her! Of course, that’s the exact opposite of what’s happening here — she is completely controlled by the calorie count and is “freeing” herself into a corralled situation that allows her to retain a tight grip over her calorie intake.

It also didn’t go unnoticed by this viewer that the person standing guard over the all-women’s brownie celebration was a man, adding a gendered component to the whole thing — reinforcing the notion that the women are adhering to such strict diets because of their perceived attraction and appeal to men. Underscored by the fact that I didn’t see any boys throwing up their hands and joining the low-cal dance party — they were just watching through the thinly parted curtains.

Frankly, I’d rather have a normal brownie, then go to a dance party with my friends and engage in some fun exercise. Seems a lot less lonely, a lot less creepy, and a lot tastier.

Larkin Callaghan is currently a doctoral candidate at Columbia University in Health Behavior and Education. She also blogs about media representation of girls and women at her personal site, I’m Not Tired Yet.

6 thoughts on “Thanks SO much for that 90-calorie brownie, Fiber One.

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  1. My bf bought those brownies one time, but not for diet purposes. He thought they might taste good but he just now described the taste as “dry, burnt, chocolate.” He even dipped them in milk and “they still tasted like ass,” he said. I think American culture thinks we can eat tasty treats and skip the calories, but it’s never going to be that simple. We need to stop trying to cheat and relearn how to eat healthy with health being our top priority, not a number on the scale.

  2. I agree!! This seems to support moralizing foods as good or bad and impliciting encourages diet culture. I agree, Ashley, we need to stop thinking about good vs. bad foods and “getting well” and “cheating”. It needs to be about health, balance and moderation on all fronts.

  3. I remember seeing a similar commercial (maybe the same as the second one) that said “women everywhere” are excited because they get to eat brownies again! I may be getting it wrong but I got really pissed….why can’t women have brownies?

  4. Good question. I had some regular brownies a week or two ago–rich, chocolate, vegan brownies with extra chocolate chips. Last time I checked I was still a woman, so I have to assume the body police will be writing me a ticket or something,

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