Macy’s Removes Dinnerware Line After Backlash Over Its Fat-Shaming Portion Control Sizes

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

As if women don’t face enough constant pressure to be “fit,” now there’s even dinnerware designed to shame you into eating less.

Podcast host Alie Ward discovered a set of fat-shaming plates during a Sunday stroll at a Macy’s store.

The plates are designed for portion control, so they feature various circles of different sizes. Every circle has a pithy phrase attached to it. On one plate, for example, there’s a “skinny jeans” portion, a “favorite jeans” portion, and a “mom jeans” portion. (Guess which portion is the biggest?)

Alie was dismayed to see the plates on display at such a major retailer, like this body-shaming rhetoric is normal.

Maybe it is, for a lot of folks. But that doesn’t make it healthy. To shame someone for using a full plate to eat their meal is to promote disordered eating, full stop.

Thankfully, a lot of other people agreed with Alie.

Podcast host Alie Ward was in Macy’s, browsing and minding her own business, when she spotted these aggressively fat-shamey plates. As you can see, the plates feature concentric circles of different colors and sizes.

Zooming in on what might be the worst plate of them all, you can see that the smallest circle says “skinny jeans,” the middle circle says “favorite jeans,” and the biggest circle says “mom jeans.”

Never mind that these labels don’t even quite hold up to scrutiny. My mom jeans ARE my favorite jeans, hello? Also, why would I use a full-sized dinner plate only to put an appetizer portion of food on it?

They’re clearly meant to shame women into eating less food.

The plates are the work of the company Pourtions. Its mission, as per its website, is to humorously encourage portion control through tableware and glassware.

“Keep your eye on the middle circle and you’ll always be in fashion,” says the product description for the Mom Jeans plate.

There are not just fat-shamey plates but also wine glasses and tumblers. They encourage you to drink less alcohol, lest you gain weight in your hips or, uh, accidentally sleep with the party host(?). Very interesting.

The founders of Pourtions, Dan and Mary Cassidy, say that they were inspired to start the company after reading about the “obesity epidemic.”

“From the corner donut cart to Big Gulps to ‘all you can eat and drink’ buffets, portions have gone through the roof,” the website says.

Apparently, nobody told the Cassidys about the eating disorder epidemic.

Alie’s tweet about the plates went viral. While the photo she posted is depressing and definitely triggering to those with eating disorders, the tweet is also a case study on why it is so important to be vocal about things like this.

As her tweet gained traction, more and more people began patiently and humorously explaining why this company’s products are so harmful. (Many trolls also chimed in to harass and body-shame Alie, proving her point.)

As a result, the folks at Macy’s actually listened and took action.

Alie was probably joking when she wrote that she wanted to get the plates banned in all 50 states. But Macy’s did indeed announce that it will be removing Pourtions products from all locations.

Some trolls complained that Macy’s decision was an affront to free speech. To that, I say: This company can write whatever it wants to on a plate, and it can sell those plates elsewhere. Clearly, there’s a market for them. But no brand is owed a spot in a Macy’s store.

Illustrator Liz Climo replied to Alie’s tweet with her own edited version of the plates, which are so much nicer. Instead of the circles being labeled with levels of shame, they just say “you are great!” and “still great!” and again “still great!”

These plates definitely deserve a spot in a Macy’s store!

Sadly, the Pourtions brand is just one drop in the bucket. Portion control dinnerware is a booming trend right now, because as much as body positivity has become “cool” on the internet, most women still experience an extreme amount of pressure to be skinny in real life.

Eater reports that, in addition to portion control plates, there are forks and spoons that are designed to hold only smaller bites of food. There’s a “food-shaming fork” that vibrates if you eat too quickly. Even some nutritionists advise using smaller plates to eat!

Of course, these products and advice are usually touted as ways to promote health. And yet they’re undeniably targeted toward women rather than men, with the “mom jeans” and “on the hips” language. Clearly, it’s not a simple health matter.

Removing the Pourtions plate from Macy’s is a great mark of progress. Tackling the society that creates these products in the first place? That’s a whole other kettle of fish, and we’re just getting started.