Demi Lovato was very frank about her ongoing struggle with body image and eating disorders in her recent four-part tell-all documentary series Dancing With the Devil. So it wasn’t surprising that she had something to say in an Instagram Story April 17 after feeling triggered by a selection of treats she saw at a Los Angeles frozen yogurt shop.
“Finding it extremely hard to order froyo from @thebigchillofficial when you have to walk past tons of sugar free cookies/other diet foods before you get to the counter,” the singer wrote according to a TMZ report. The comment sparked a back-and-forth about what Lovato’s statement regarding diet culture and the impact the store’s menu had on her, which led the singer to launch the #DietCultureVultures hashtag seeking to call out companies that promote “diet” menus.
Lovato — whose NBC comedy Hungry about a group of people with eating disorders was recently green lit — reportedly engaged in a back-and-forth with The Bigg Chill, during which other celebs and the internet weighed in to the discussion about the promotion of diet culture.
Here’s a timeline of the incident:
Demi Calls Out The Bigg Chill
After Lovato posted in her Stories about the shop and wrote “do better please,” she followed up with another frame in which she wrote, “so I think I’m gonna have to make that hashtag a thing. I will be calling harmful messaging from brands or companies that prepetuate [sic] a society that not only enables but praises disordered eating.”
The Bigg Chill Responds
According to multiple outlets, the store responded to Lovato in her messages, explaining that the items she was talking about were alternatives for vegans and people with Celiac disease. “We are not diet vultures,” read a screengrab of their response. “We cater to all our customers needs for the past 36 years. We are sorry you found this offensive.”
Lovato then added that the service she received at the store was “terrible” and that the “whole experience was triggering and awful. You can carry things for other people while also caring for another percentage of your customers who struggle DAILY just to even step foot in your store.” The singer said the store could provide an environment that is welcoming to all, including people with eating disorders, “one of the deadliest mental illnesses only second to opios [sic] overdoses. Don’t make excuses,” she added, “just do better.”
In another set of screen grabs of what were reportedly private messages between Demi and the store, Lovato suggested that the froyo purveyors could make it “more clear” that the sugar-free and vegan options are specifically for people who require them, and to label them accordingly. “When it’s not super clear, the messaging gets confusing and being in L.A. it’s really hard to distinguish diet culture vs. health needs,” she wrote. “You aren’t wrong for catering to many different needs but it’s about not excluding one demographic to cater to others,” she noted, along with the all-caps message, “KEEPING THIS TRANSPARENT EVEN THO I’M DONE.”
Demi Alleges Gaslighting
The back-and-forth continued, with Lovato posting a picture from The Bigg Chill’s Instagram — seemingly since deleted — that included a sign above a basket of sweet treats that read “22 grams of protein eat me guilt free” along with the message “*NEW* eat me GUILT FREE cookies and cakes! So yummy!”
Lovato reposted the image April 19 and wrote, “this screams diet culture and I won’t be gaslit by the media or anyone else that says otherwise. I don’t need to feel guilt free about eating anything. This was what I was talking about and this is directly from their own page.”
Jameela Jamil Defends Demi
Good Place actress/writer Jamil backed up Lovato in two Story posts on Monday (April 19). “Ok, I want to try to avoid making the story bigger than it already is. But if an eating disorder advocate says she sees products that are positioned as guilt free, and it is potentially triggering, that doesn’t mean she’s too stupid to remember that diabetics exist,” she wrote in a lengthy message. “It just means that we need to change the marketing of products that are for people’s medical needs.”
“That’s all @ddlovato was asking for. It doesn’t make her a monster,” she added. “It doesn’t mean she disregards people’s illnesses. She’s just one of few celebrities reminding us to look out for mental illness. Guilt free is diet culture terminology. We need to stop using that f—ing term. We are so lucky to even have food. What in the name of s— and hell is there to feel guilty about. That’s a term of shame. Orthorexia is easy to slip into and is a F—ing nightmare to crawl out of. I think it’s good to keep raising awareness on this matter until eating disorder rhetoric is OUT of our normalized mainstream culture. We say words like this all the time. Electing foods for virtue or sin. Cheat, guilty, naughty, bad, unhealthy… etc. all problematic terminology.”
In another slide, Jamil said she was most interested in seeing how people rushed to “deliberately misunderstand her intention and stance and frame her as ignorant and careless, and inherently bad.” The actress also derided pile-ons and mockery of people trying to help, which she said could discourage others from doing so in the future.
“We contribute to the silence and silencing of all women when we go THIS hard (people mocking her was the number 1 trending topic on Twitter all day…rather than lawmakers taking away trans rights, healthcare…rather than talking about gun laws…) Just please think about the bigger picture,” she continued. “It’s absolutely important to push for accountability from those in power who make mistakes, but what I’m seeing online is mostly not that. It’s just mockery and cruelty, and maligning of a woman’s character who is navigating unchartered territory of being super famous, super young, super outspoken, super honest and vulnerable and super fragile and strong at the same time.”
Lovato then reposted Jamil’s comments on her Story and added, “THANK YOU QUEEN. LITERALLY SO GRATEFUL YOU GET ME AND THAT I CAN CALL YOU A CLOSE FRIEND. I LOVE YOU.”
In an eight-minute Insta video on Monday (April 19), Lovato apologized for what she said may have been an unclear message. “I am very outspoken about the things that I believe in,” Lovato said in the video. “I understand that sometimes my messaging can lose its meaning when I get emotional. I am human … I’m sorry that I got the messaging wrong. I’m sorry that I may have disappointed some people … I walked into a situation that didn’t sit right with me, my intuition said speak up about this, so I did.”
Stories about eating disorders can be triggering for some readers. If you or someone you know need support for an eating disorder, you can contact the confidential National Eating Disorder Association’s Helpline for support at 1-800-931-2237 or chat with an expert here.