An open letter to Michelle Bridges (who told us we were freaks)

Dear Michelle, Wow, what an unexpected week you’ve had. I understand you were just trying to have a little fun with
New Zealand

Dear Michelle,

Wow, what an unexpected week you’ve had. I understand you were just trying to have a little fun with your new advertisement, and that your comments were meant to make people feel better about being too time poor to cook, (with the hope they’d purchase your microwave TV dinners). I admit, I found your antics kinda cute and funny.

But you insulted a vast number of folks with your attempt at tongue in cheek humour. Calling them “freaks” for growing their own veggies was a step too far. Leading health industry peeps, busy mums, professional women, avid gardeners… you name it, they came out of the woodwork. And they’re not happy.

Here’s a couple of quotes I found online (just in case you missed them):

“Just so upset by the Michelle Bridges ad where she insults people who grow their own veggies and thinks ‘health food’ is something that you buy in the freezer aisle of your supermarket with goodness knows what additives and preservatives.

Wake up Michelle Bridges – I think you might be the ‘freaky’ one today….

Real food is not complicated and need not be time consuming. It can certainly be cheaper than frozen meals.

We are a strong and educated and inspired population and we do not need to outsource our health to people wanting to make a buck. 

– Lisa Corduff (Small Steps to Wholefoods)

“There are no short cuts in your exercise program what makes you think we can short cut healthy eating. Each of those meals have yeast extract, a flavour enhancer and disguise for glutamates which excite the taste buds and create a want for more food. Those meals will have little satiety.

Do the work, get back in the kitchen, make time for cooking, just as you expect people to make time for exercise. Because this is how I feel about food. No short cuts. No done-for-you convenience products. We don’t require a time-saving easy meal as the solution. Instead, we need a mindset shift. I assume you’re familiar with those, since you talk about mindset and change a lot on your blog.”

– Cyndi O’Meara (Changing Habits)

Sure Michelle, you’ve reposted some social media posts by a couple of health industry peeps (dieticians and such) who raved about your new products on Facebook. However, after digging a little deeper, I discovered that one of these women had been paid by Woolworths to review your range, and another had been invited to your product launch, was schmoozed and fed, and then got to meet you, her hero, before writing her review. Hmmmm… not exactly unbiased opinions. Not even close.

Meanwhile, I was unable to find a positive review from a qualified health professional who hadn’t attended one of your events or been paid.

But I withheld my opinion. After all, perhaps you really HAD brought out a healthy convenience food to bring change to the over-processed, nutrient-poor, additive filled frozen dinner market. One could only hope. So, I hightailed it to my local Woolies (you know – the “fresh food people” – ironic much?) and I found your product.

I was thoroughly disappointed to learn the following:

  1. There’s an unnecessary amount of sugar in there – waaaaay too much for someone trying to lose weight. One of your meals had a whopping 14.3 grams of sugars. What would you have said to one of your Biggest Loser contestants if they were eating 14.3 grams of sugar at each meal? Again, I know you’re not a nutritionist, but I thought even you would be able to realise this is excessive.
  2. Let’s talk about the packaging. ALL flexible plastics (even ones labelled “food grade”) contain endocrine disrupting chemicals. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a common one you may find, but there are a whole host of others, including Bisphenol-S, Bisphenol-F, and phthalates. Microwaving these containers with food inside can lead to these chemicals leaching into the food. These chemicals have been linked to weight gain (you know, that thing you’re trying to help us avoid?), hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders and even some cancers. Not cool, Michelle, not cool.
  3. Canola oil. Why, why, why, in this day and age, with ALL the research we have into its inflammatory effects on the body, would you resort to using canola oil in your products? There’s NOTHING healthy about this oil at all. It’s a cheap and nasty shortcut used by the food industry when they want to lower costs. So then I guess you needed to take this short cut to achieve your $7 price point, while maintaining a tidy profit for both yourself and Woolies? Disappointing. Some would say a sell out.

Weight loss and good health is about FOOD, first and foremost. Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.

In order for true change to occur in this increasingly overweight country, we need to make our meals ourselves. Please don’t teach busy women to outsource their cooking. Please don’t normalise convenience food. And please don’t refer to us as freaks just because we have made the time to create (and grow) our food from scratch. We simply made the time, because we realised it was important for our long term wellbeing, and the wellbeing of those we care for.

And having a veggie patch is a natural next step. We need to become more connected to our food, and growing our own is one of the ways to achieve this. Even if it’s just a few pots on a balcony, it’s a start.

If we teach our kids about veggie gardening, they won’t become freaks. Instead, it will give them an appreciation of where the food comes from. It may inspire them and educate them to make their own healthy meals from scratch, not from a plastic packet. Isn’t this worth fighting for?

As a celebrity and brand, you have a rare opportunity to achieve actual change in this country. People listen to you. They trust and believe you. Please don’t betray that trust for the sake of a product endorsement.

Do you think the idea of “healthy convenience food” is possible? What needs to change to overcome unhealthy eating habits?

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