The Truth about the Weight Watcher’s Hunger Monster Commercials

7th April 2009

The Truth about the Weight Watcher’s Hunger Monster Commercials

posted in Diets, Fat Bias |

Weight Watchers Hunger Monster

Have you seen the new Weight Watcher’s commercials in which an orange plush “hunger monster” with googly eyes tries to goad a female protagonist into eating something that will sabotage her diet lifestyle change? I usually change the channel when diet commercials come on but even I find the “hunger monster” and his antics ridiculously cute. I’m not the only one – crafters are making polyfil-stuffed replicas of him and he’s even got his own Facebook fan page. Brian at the blog Red. No. 3 even proposed adopting him as the Fatosphere’s mascot.

Guess who does the voiceovers on those commercials? It is with heavy, heavy heart that I reveal it to be none other than… Janeane Garafolo.

I found this out after Amy, a fellow grad student, assailed me in the student lounge last week asking if I knew what was up with Janeane Garofalo — “She’s lost so much weight she looks like a bobble head!” she exclaimed.   I googled her and found that Jezebel posted the big reveal back in February after Janeane confirmed it on Air America. If it’s any consolation, Janeane said, “I do it for the money. I don’t do it for the love of dieting.”

I love Janeane for her self-deprecating humor and caustic wit, but also for her unapologetic take on body image (she’s is a founding member of Mind on the Media, a site that seeks to “promote a healthy body image and expand the definition of what makes people beautiful.”) But this isn’t the first time she’s placed money before morals. In 2000, after she began to shrink, Janeane told Marie Claire:

For most of my career, my weight has vacillated between 115 and 140 pounds. But I’m not proud of losing weight — it’s been a sell out. I lost weight so I could be considered for a wider range of acting jobs. I don’t pretend that it’s a health kick or that it’s just to feel better about myself. I’m smoking a lot more — about a half a pack to two packs a day — and drinking more coffee and Diet Coke and more water, which I hate. I joined Crunch gym and went for three weeks, but then I stopped because I couldn’t handle the workouts. I continue to fantasize about what I really want to eat every fucking day. I don’t think I’m sexy, but I do get a lot more compliments now. I just don’t take them as compliments… I don’t think I’m going to stay thin, because I’m not genetically disposed to being thin.

I’m disappointed in Janeane’s choice to even passively endorse a product that promotes an image she’s railed against for years. In her defense, Janeane did tell Gothamist earlier this year, “I’m just sort of grateful anytime someone wants to hire me. And TV seems to be one of the only places where older women can seek employment.” I don’t begrudge Janeane some hard-earned dough. Work is work, especially in this economy and I’d rather see Janeane get a paycheck from Weight Watchers over one of the dozens of weight-loss supplement companies the FDA has issued serious health warnings for. And while I think the whole concept of denying one’s hunger to be seriously and fundamentally fucked up, I also reluctantly give props to WW for presenting hunger as a warm and cuddly ball of fur and not a menacing, many-headed behemoth with snarling fangs stalking its prey.

How about you? Are you bothered that Janeane is now shilling for Weight Watchers?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 at 12:09 am and is filed under Diets, Fat Bias. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 29 responses to “The Truth about the Weight Watcher’s Hunger Monster Commercials”

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  1. 1 On April 7th, 2009, Melissa said:

    Well it’s certainly a confusing message that Janeane is sending.
    I understand the need for money and it’s really hard to give her heck and then it’s hard to be happy about her choices.
    It seems that in the act of “selling herself out” in order to get roles she may have limited her appeal anyways. It might be too quick to conclude that weight loss = more roles. I mean in general that’s how it’s suppose to go, but I tend to believe that the things you see as the most negative about yourself can end up being your greatest strengths.
    So perhaps all Jeneane could see was what thin offered so many other women, but that’s not what she originally became known for- being thin that is.

    I think it’s a hard journey, but being true to yourself will always get you where you need to be.
    I can’t be mad at her because she’s just doing unconsciously what so many women do without realizing a bigger picture.

  2. 2 On April 7th, 2009, elizabeth said:

    I don’t really know about Janeane Garofalo but I actually really hate those comercials and the fuzzy guys. It makes me feel like they want children to join ww, which they probably do…

  3. 3 On April 7th, 2009, Big Fat Mama said:

    You know, I have found a way to keep any and all hungry monsters out of my life…by EATING! It boggles my mind to think that this society suggests that constant deprivation of a basic need is a GOOD thing. Let’s all try to breathe less oxygen while we’re at it. Sheesh.

  4. 4 On April 7th, 2009, Halle said:

    I appreciate that she is honest about why she has lost weight. I also appreciate that she sees that it is likely to be hard for her to maintain the loss. Sure, I am a little disappointed, but I’d rather she be honest in this way, than tell us all some more bull about how it’s all for her “health” or some poppycock like that.

  5. 5 On April 7th, 2009, Alice said:

    Good point, Halle, about giving her props for being honest about it. It’s been a while since I held JG up in my mind to be a role model – she slipped out of that mode when she embraced the mainstream aesthetic the first time. So, the WW thing is sad, but much less so than if she’d been the voice 10 years ago.

  6. 6 On April 7th, 2009, Fiona said:

    You know, Janeane Garofalo has been honest about the reasons behind her weight loss, the effect that it has on her, and the fact that her age and her weight have both affected her career. For that alone, I would adore her, even if I didn’t already enjoy her biting wit.

    I don’t mind her shilling for Weight Watchers. A paycheck is a paycheck, and at least she isn’t doing a fake-perky smile and falsely wide-eyed look while telling people how much better about herself she feels.

  7. 7 On April 7th, 2009, Jessica said:

    I guess it bugs me a bit, but not as much as the whole “abolish a natural body function in order to be thin!” angle that WW is taking with these ads. Yes, there is a difference between feeling bored, angry, tired and hungry, but if you’re genuinely hungry, it’s because your body is telling you it needs FUEL! Jerks. I friggin’ hate WW!

  8. 8 On April 7th, 2009, Diane said:

    Sorry, I’m just not a fan of all of the Weight Watchers ads lately (like the one where a woman is attacking a huge donut with a chair?). Why do we have to “personify” hunger into an orange monster, why do we have to personify it at all? I don’t mean to be a downer (it is a cute little guy), but I think we get into trouble when we get so preoccupied with hunger. When I had an eating disorder hunger was my savior. If my stomach was empty and I felt hungry I was victorious and was the thinnest and the greatest. Hunger and I were best buds!
    Now, I see that hunger is not an orange monster or your best friend or whatever, or a separate entity, it is YOUR body. It’s your body telling you that you need to be fed/nourished.
    So I think the WW ad’s focuses too much on what are bad foods and what are good foods. Can’t we be a little less obsessed?
    Oh and I think Janeane Garofalo should eat again.

  9. 9 On April 7th, 2009, Viv said:

    I dunno. When I first saw the “Hunger Monster” commercials I thought they were targeting children. You know, like Camel’s Joe Camel, etc.

  10. 10 On April 7th, 2009, Shinobi said:

    When I win the lottery I will pay celebrities to be their natural weight. Maybe we’ll even make a TV show out of it.

  11. 11 On April 7th, 2009, Alyssa (The 39 year-old) said:

    It bothers me a little, but I also understand that she needs to work.
    I also must say that I, too, LOVE that little hungry monster guy! I think the women in the ads are mean to him. After all, hunger is an essential function of our bodies, and beating it into submission doesn’t really work.
    If that’s what MY hunger looked like, I’d bring him with me everywhere, and feed him, and take him out for walks, and get him a nice soft comfy bed to sleep in.

    (Anyone here watch “Doctor Who?” This reminds of the cute little adipose creatures from the past season.)

  12. 12 On April 7th, 2009, Godless Heathen said:

    I understand JG’s need to work, but I’m glad she’s not doing a celebrity “testimonial” and lying to us about how she lost weight. I don’t get why she’s not working more, besides being whip smart, funny, and a great actress, she’s the kind of “alterna-hot” that Hollywood likes to push. Maybe it’s the intelligence, mainstream media does like women to be/play dumb.

    I like the little orange guy, but he always makes me want to say “Why thank you hunger, yeah, I think I will have a snack.” My ads would be women finding hunger, hugging him, and letting him take them out to lunch. A learn to recognize your hunger and respond to it sort of deal.

    I’ve said it elsewhere, when I ignore my little furry orange hunger-friend, he gets bigger and meaner really quick. Like the Hulk really. Hunger smash! Personifying hunger as something friendly to which you can respond is a good idea in my book. He doesn’t need you to be mean to him or banish him with diet “food”, he just wants you to take care of yourself.

  13. 13 On April 7th, 2009, Tarbo said:

    I think this whole thing is less a comment on Janeane than it is comment on the whole system, what do we say about Hollywood/television when a gifted artist like Janeane feels abliged to do these commercials to survive and it only makes her more selth loathing and feeling inadequate. Let the girl alone, I still think she’s great no matter what.

  14. 14 On April 7th, 2009, Bree said:

    She’s being honest, and that’s refreshing. OTOH, it is sad to see someone who has made a career out of shattering Hollywood stereotypes be reduced to losing weight for money and doing WW voiceovers, but Hollywood and its obsession with super-tanned, super-skinny blondes should take most of the blame.

    And with WW’s hungry monster apparently doing the opposite of what it was intended for, their new campaign to make people, especially women, not eat seems to be backfiring. Hunger is not this evil little gremlin trying to make us or keep us fat, it’s there to make sure we fuel our body, regardless of whether it’s in the form of a chicken sandwich or a fruit salad. When I ignore my hunger cues, I get nauseated. I’m not going to be suffering stomach pains in the name of being “good” and “virtuous” by not eating!

  15. 15 On April 7th, 2009, Entangled said:

    I actually really love that she’s not only avoiding the “for my health” line that so many people pull but admitting that she’s not being healthier and that unhealthy things, like smoking or copious amounts of diet soda in lieu of food, can and do make people lose weight too.

    There’s other issues going on I’m less excited about (though I like seeing my fuzzy hungry monster – he’s so much nicer than the mean one and it means it’s food time), but admitting losing weight has nothing to do with her health or feeling better is very refreshing to see.

  16. 16 On April 7th, 2009, Big Fat Deal » Sicky Linky Roundup said:

    [...] Weight Watchers Hunger Monster is voiced by Jeaneane Garafalo, according to The F Word, where Rachel quotes Garafalo as once saying: For most of my career, my weight has vacillated [...]

  17. 17 On April 7th, 2009, SJL said:

    If I were recasting this ad, I would have a woman confronted by a hunger monster luring the woman to eat what she really wants (regardless of whether its a sandwich or a milkshake) and smarmy evil advertisers trying to lure her away from her true hunger response with over-marketed “food items”, “diet foods” or simple starvation dieting…Voila, an ad for HAES and a warning against all the ridiculous advertising that tries to get move us away from hunger, eating, and food as part of our existence, and toward eating as product consumption (whether that product is about what you ingest or about denying ingestion).

  18. 18 On April 7th, 2009, Janey said:

    “I guess it bugs me a bit, but not as much as the whole “abolish a natural body function in order to be thin!” angle that WW is taking with these ads.”

    But she’s a part of those ads, so she’s every bit as culpable.

  19. 19 On April 7th, 2009, JeanC said:

    I find it sad that someone as talented as Jeanne has to do voice overs for diet companies because Hollywierd can’t get over their hatred of bodies that don’t conform to their narrow view of what normal is.

    As for the Hunger Monster, I adore him and yes, those women are being mean to him by ignoring him. i just want to swoop down and grab him up and cuddle him and then we go out for a nice buffet meal somewhere.

  20. 20 On April 7th, 2009, SP said:

    Eh. If she were personally endorsing Weight Watchers in a “Hi, I’m Janeane Garafalo, and I’m here to tell you how to ignore hunger!” kind of way, that would bother me. This is acting work; she’s reading a script, and they’re paying her for it because they like her voice. To me, it’s the same as if she were playing a character in a movie; here, her character is “Weight Watchers voice.”

  21. 21 On April 7th, 2009, kc said:

    Ack! The creature has no head! I saw the commercial once and thought,STUPID! Now we’re not allowed to be hungry, AT ALL—And we get to blame it on an out-of-body headless yeti
    with a bad spray tan or a serious carrot addiction. My Sheepdogs jump up to greet me and look like lovable Sasquatches, but, by God, they do have heads!
    Janeann makes me sad, and it’s because of the smoking. We are told to lose weight for our health, and then so often we do dangerous things to get thin. Then we get tons of approval! And Jobs! Lifestyle my ass.

  22. 22 On April 8th, 2009, Jen said:

    I just went to my LAST weight watchers meeting yesterday, after crying hysterically throughout the whole meeting and realize that attending these meetings was making me hate myself more and more. (Yes, I realize this thread is about Janeane G, but I have to rant about WW to someone, please! Delete my post if need be.) I have to rant about myself for being stupid and gullable enough to pay money for people to tell me not to eat, which is essentially what ww does (though they try to tell you it’s about learning how to eat properly, that no food is “bad”- B.S.!!). My WW leader would share her “terrific” strategy of dealing with people who offer her food: feel your collarbones (as a reminder of how much weight you’ve lost?) so that you are proud enough of your slimness to say “No thank you” to the food. And if people push food on you, accept it and say “I’ll save this for later” and throw it out. Yes, this is what I learned… on the proana websites? No, on this wonderful internationally-popular diet program called Weight Watchers. Thanks, but I’ll just go stick my head (rather, lunch) in the toilet instead.

    FYI, regarding those cute orange hunger monsters, Weight Watchers now sells plush versions in various sizes at the meeting sites.

    Also, WTF, hunger is a natural part of life! Physical hunger I mean- emotional hunger is something else entirely. WW seems to think people get fat by quenching their physical hunger, when I really believe that a lot of us overeaters are eating to fill some sort of emotional hunger. Which makes the Hunger Monster ad campaign kind of dumb…

  23. 23 On April 9th, 2009, Janey said:

    Eh. If she were personally endorsing Weight Watchers in a “Hi, I’m Janeane Garafalo, and I’m here to tell you how to ignore hunger!” kind of way, that would bother me. This is acting work; she’s reading a script, and they’re paying her for it because they like her voice. To me, it’s the same as if she were playing a character in a movie; here, her character is “Weight Watchers voice.”

    That’s the worst kind of hypocrisy. It’s not a movie, it’s an advertisment. By her involvement she, and everyone else involved, is trying to persuade consumers to buy the product. I would respect her MORE if her name were prominently displayed in the ad. As it is, she’s taking all the money and accepting none of the responsibility.

  24. 24 On April 14th, 2009, chaz said:

    the “hunger” character is a blatant rip off of the character “Gossamer” – the big orange monster in the old bugs bunny cartoons. take a look here

  25. 25 On April 14th, 2009, FatNSassy said:

    Personally I just can’t stand Weight Watchers and will never be able to look at her the same way. It is a deal breaker for me. To each his own, but that is my opinion.

  26. 26 On April 16th, 2009, Elle said:

    If you pay attention to the ad, we’re not attacking hunger we’re attacking ‘hungry’. The reason I say “we” is because I work for the company. There is nothing wrong with hunger. If you’re hungry, you should eat. What ‘hungry’ represents is the false hunger that creeps up when you’re bored, busy at work, upset or stressed. That is why we call it hugry and not hunger.

    Jen: I’m sorry your leader gave you that kind of info. I am a leader that loves fries and donuts and I share that with my members. I have learned to eat it in moderation though and encourage my members to do the same. Sometimes you have to try a few leaders until you find the right one.

  27. 27 On May 3rd, 2009, Matt said:

    Screw her,

    She calls the tea-party goers tea-baggers and racists when they want to keep their money. Yet, she cries about not being able to get work because of being an “older woman”. The bottom line… she wants money like we all do and wants to make as much as she can, like we all do. So to jump on people that are fighting to keep theirs from the gov’t is rediculous.

    I’d like to know how much she claims in tax write-offs and see her true belief on taxes.

  28. 28 On May 7th, 2009, Feed Me I’m Cranky » Blog Archive » Vegan Cookies & The Cookie Monster said:

    [...] him to baseball games and to family picnics (no? that’s just me?).  See an interesting blog post here on blog site – The F-Word – the comments are what I found most interesting as the debate about our [...]

  29. 29 On May 26th, 2009, What’s the Fattest thing you’ve done today? | Queer Fat Femme said:

    [...] also really like the F-Word write-up about the Hunger campaign and Janeane Garafalo’s schilling [...]

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