It's no secret that diet companies with, er, questionable claims lurk in every corner of the Internet. Dropping to a size two is as easy as consuming their product with every meal — or so they say. On Saturday, fashion student and Instagram influencer Charlotte Rollin called out a diet shake company on Twitter for contacting her one too many times about becoming their brand ambassador. Her problem with the Choco Diet went deeper than an influx of emails. Rollin, you see, has struggled with disordered eating for five years, and she believes that diet drinks are unhealthy, making the offer for a partnership especially tone-deaf. Bustle has reached out to the Choco Diet for comment and will update when we hear back.
Rollin, a 20-year-old student who works as a social and content intern at Birchbox, has amassed over 2,800 followers on Instagram — a number high enough that she receives emails from companies asking her to market their brand. Interspersed with photos of her friends and artful pictures of food, she posts about her experiences with eating and anxiety disorders, often offering advice to followers who struggle with similar issues.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rollin prefers not to use her influence to promote diet shakes online. "I disapprove of the promotion of these products on social media in general as I know that the means by which they cause weight loss is not healthy, even for someone with non-disordered weight loss intentions!" Rollin tells Bustle over email.
A quick scroll through her Instagram account makes this clear, but apparently, a new diet company missed the memo. Over the weekend, Rollin tweeted a screenshot of an email she sent to the Choco Diet after they emailed her three times about a partnership.
The Choco Diet is one of the many diet shake or tea companies that advertise rapid weight loss via natural means. You know the type: Claiming to make the pounds melt off easier and faster than ever, they tend to use before-and-after pictures and social media followers to sell their product. (In case you're wondering, the Choco Diet website says it combines ginseng, green tea extract, garcinia cambogia, and chocolate to suppress appetite and burn fat.)
In an response to yet another brand ambassador request, Rollin wrote back to say that she took issue with not just the product, but the aggressive way the company contacted her. "It is quite apparent to me that you have not taken the time to look at my previous social media posts or even have an idea of the content I create," she wrote. If they had, she reasoned, they would have realized she has dealt with an eating disorder since she was a teenager.
Rollin then proceeded to speak her mind, standing up for herself and her followers in one fell swoop.
"I therefore would, under no circumstance, even consider promoting a diet or detox drink on my social channels, which many follow as they also suffer from mental health issues and use as a reassure [sic] that they are not alone in these struggles. I find the nature of your product to be damaging, and I know for a fact that these shakes are not a healthy way to lose weight, even for those that have a genuine, non disordered [sic] desire to do so."
She added that the company has more than 10,000 followers but less than 20 likes on most posts, leading her to conclude that the "business and following is not a legitimate one."
Later, Rollin explained to Bustle why she chose to post her email publicly. "I felt it was important to raise awareness of the style of product and how damaging it can be to ones health, but also to the lack of thought that had gone into the email I received, in the hope that other brands can learn from this and be mindful in the future," she wrote. "As someone with anorexia, companies that promote these sort of products are hugely triggering and I felt that they should be aware of the impact they have before contacting bloggers."
When they caught wind of her tweet, one of Rollin's peers on Instagram chimed in to say she had heard from the same company.
Another applauded her decision, saying they also refused to work with weight loss supplement companies.
The FDA advises caution when using weight loss supplements, pointing out that companies don't require FDA approval to market their products. As a result, they may contain hidden active or unsafe ingredients. The agency warns consumers to look out for red flags like promises of a quick fix or products marketed as herbal alternatives to prescription drugs.
But while Rollin recognizes the dangers of using social media to promote unhealthy methods of weight loss, she also sees it as a way to build relationships with others. "Social media has allowed me to connect with others across the world who are going through the exact same thought processes and difficulties and so in that sense, I've found it hugely beneficial in creating more of a conversation surrounding mental health rather than it remaining a taboo," she tells Bustle.
However, she points out that eating disorders are "hugely competitive," and some accounts can be triggering for other users with the disorder. She concluded, "I think it really depends on how you use social media and the accounts you follow as to if your experience is a positive one or not!"
As for the Choco Diet, Rollin commented on Twitter that she never heard back from the company, so it may have moved on to another potential brand ambassador. Meanwhile, Rollin's Instagram page will stay diet-free.