Dealing with Diet Commercials

The diet industry perpetuates fatphobiA, then creates ads to prey on their victims. the decision to walk away diets forever is solid and sound.In response to a request that I put about for fatphobic things for which  people would like some comebacks (a blog post I’m currently working on) I received the following request:

“Suggestions for how to respond to the ENDLESS diet commercials from 12/26 – end of Feb. I used to be able to avoid them by just keeping off the TV and listening to my local public radio station. Since that company that starts with n became an underwriter it’s impossible.”

Diet commercials are THE WORST. Their product doesn’t work, so commercials do one of three things:

Show Short-Term Success

Almost everyone loses weight short-term, and almost everyone gains it back long-term with many gaining back more than they lost. So what you’ll see in most commercials is people who are still in the weight loss “honeymoon” period, before they start the almost inevitable weight regain.

Rebranding Outliers

There are a few people who manage to maintain long-term weight loss, so diet companies sometimes cherry-pick them for their commercials, and try to make us believe that we are likely to have the same results. Think of it this way, there are people who survive skydiving accidents when their parachute doesn’t open. Based on diet ads logic, I could use them to advertise Ragen’s School of Parachute-less Skydiving – but I’ll bet you wouldn’t (and you definitely shouldn’t!) sign up to jump with me.

Cheating Death

In the case of the super dangerous things, like stomach amputation surgery, they not only cherry-pick the successes, they completely gloss over the very serious failures. There are many people who experience such horrible lifelong side-effects that they would give anything to take back the surgery. You won’t hear from them in the commercials made by the people who profit from butchering the digestive systems of fat people. And of course the people who are killed by the surgery will never get to tell their stories.

You’ll notice that every single ad for diets has a disclaimer that basically explains that the diet doesn’t really work/ Those aren’t there by accident, or by the grace of the companies shilling this snake oil. They are there because they are legally required. It’s the only way they can get away with what is essentially false advertising.

So what do you do about them? Here are some strategies that I’ve found helpful:

Mantra

Find a phrase to say to yourself (or out loud!) whenever you see one. I use “Hey, That’s Bullshit!” Other people have told me that they use “Nope, Nope, Nope’ or “LIES IT’S ALL LIES!” I’ve found that after a little time, it became such a reflex that my brain would say it before I had even fully processed the diet ad.

Gratitude

When you see these ads, you can think to yourself “I’m so grateful that I know better now!” Consider using it as an impetus to message an activist whose work has helped you to tell them thanks!

Report

If the ad is on a forum where you can report it, that can be helpful. For example, every time Facebook feeds me a diet ad, I report as misleading. I’ve successfully gotten a few taken down, but regardless I find it quite cathartic.

Regardless, remember that the diet industry perpetuates fatphobia and then preys on the people who are its victims – that’s all diet ads are. The industry is without morals, ethics, or even common decency and the decision to walk away from it forever is solid and sound.

If you have other suggestions for dealing with diet ads, please leave them in the comments!

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8 thoughts on “Dealing with Diet Commercials

  1. I tend to just shout “bollocks” at the TV when a diet ad comes on. Actually I shout that at the tv a lot, politicians being the main group of others who get this reaction. I have a number of friends who have had stomach amputations, and they really don’t do good, or indeed look good. But some of them still recommend it to me; when I inherited money from parents, several came out with nonsense such as “now you will be able to afford WLS” To which I replied that whilst I could afford it, I wouldn’t be choosing that option.

  2. I mostly only listen to the radio in the car, so I just turn it off or change the station when the company that starts with n bits come up on NPR. Even though it’s not a long ad, I’m happier when I don’t hear it at all.

    When I’m watching TV that has ads, I mute commercials as a rule, but especially weightloss and a few other kinds that particularly bother me. Also I’m avoiding all commercial tv for the next month or so since the new year seems to be a particularly bad time for these.

  3. Thanks for the timely reminder. My bank’s online banking welcome page ad is currently a picture of a salad and a measuring tape, with the caption, ‘Resolutions can be hard,” so this is definitely the time of year for an antidote to diet-culture toxin.

  4. The one that makes me particularly stabby is the one featuring Oprah Goddamn Winfrey. She is one of the richest people in the world and she could do so much good. Instead, she chooses to scam desperate people out of their money, to further enrich herself. I have lost all respect for her as a human being.

  5. I have noticed there is an increase in the use of male (suckers) users of who-evers success for life weight loss scamercials. Yes, it’s “lifestylechange” not sexism parading as ‘health concern’.
    Agree about OW. If a billionaire can’t ‘lose the weight and keep it off’ with a world of helpers, private chefs, personal trainers, high income access to health and physique spas, and the gutless and vicious woman hunting world of celebrity to contend with, how exactly are we to believe she has “Found THE Way” with a frozen semi-food delivery, come in and be shamed weekly, blue collar diet service?
    Seriously? That would be almost forgivable. But she has joined the un-holy choir and is taking money, power and hope from millions of people who will NEVER have the options and opportunities she has.
    It is money. Madison Avenue, Hollywood, Social Media the three headed hydra of self hate for profit.

  6. I mostly don’t watch or read anything with ads. I do have a facebook acquaintance who does things like liposurgery and I get angry when I see her posts about it.

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