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Giant Times Square Billboard Tells Women To Replace Food With Lollipops For A 'Flat Tummy'

This week actress Jameela Jamil (of The Good Place) tweeted a photo of a new billboard in Times Square, put up by Flat Tummy Co., which appears to promote replacing food with lollipops and teas. That is, if you're a woman. The pink ads feature words like "Girl" and "Babe" and, of course, "Flat Tummy," and instruct women to ignore their cravings for real food and instead "suck" on a lollipop.

The main focus of the Times Square ad campaign (first called out by New Yorker Sophie Vershbow) is on those lollipops, which promise to "suppress your appetite"—on the product page, they declare: "Just have one whenever you start to feel hungry!"

I reached out to the company but have not heard back yet, so I chatted with a rep through their website. Here is a transcript:

Katie: Hey babe, got any questions?

Me: I do! Why are you telling women to eat less?

Katie: We are definitely not telling anyone to eat less. Just helping any girls that have trouble with snacking on the junkier treats in between meals!

Me: Why aren't men included in this campaign to snack less? I know a lot of men who snack.

Katie: Flat Tummy Co. is a company designed by and for women which is why we don't include any men, though our programs are completely safe and natural, so def okay for them to get started too!

Me: Why is a "flat tummy" the goal?

Katie: We definitely want our girls feeling good from the inside, out. And want them to feel healthy, it's all about each girls personal goal and we're here to help them feel amazing!

Me: Why do you call them "girls" and not "women"?

Katie: [no answer]

Me: Do you think with all of the pressure girls and women already feel regarding body image, and the damage messages like this can do, that it is a good idea to put up a giant billboard in Times Square promoting not eating?

Katie: We definitely don't endorse looking a specific way and are all about each woman feeling her personal best.

Me: You don't endorse looking a specific way but you are called "Flat Tummy," which suggests that you endorse looking a certain way, no?

Although Katie, if that even is her real name, maintains that Flat Tummy Co. is a company "designed by and for women," the company's co-founder is the apparently male entrepreneur from Australia Tim Polmear. To be fair, Tim co-founded the company with his wife, Bec, but he was also the company's director until some time it was sold for $10 million to Synergy CHC Corp., a "consumer health care company" whose leadership team is almost entirely male dominated.

Katie ended the chat without answering my last question. Probably because Katie is fully aware that Flat Tummy Co. does promote a specific look. It is literally in their name, and all over their social media, with messages like: "we’re on a freakin’ mission to get flat" intermingling with images of flat stomachs.

As Teen Vogue notes, these things have not been reviewed by the FDA, "so technically it’s unknown if they’re actually safe to use or if they could cause health issues." Here are the real facts behind these bullshit lollipops, if you're into that sorta thing, babe:

This podcast notes that Kim Kardashian promoted the product earlier this year on her Instagram page—Jamil called that out, too:

Will Times Square take these toxic pink billboards down? We'll update when we find out more from the company who owns this prime real estate.