The Dieting Industry- The Lies and Pathos that Damage Our Health and Wallets

In America, lifestyle habits are the subject that ignites fire under everyone’s seats. There is not one person to be found who does not harbor a rigid philosophy on which exercise routines and diets are superior at building muscle, losing weight, and most of all, bringing us to the hallowed ideal of health. The more dedicated (meaning better) people will live by their sanctified daily habits, meticulously planned to form their body into god-like perfection, and die with them. That is, if they don’t die because of them.

     As of right now, more than 30 million people in America have an eating disorder (“Eating Disorder Statistics”). They starve, binge, purge, and, among those with Type 1 diabetes, restrict insulin doses for the sake of losing weight. If dieting is supposed to make your healthier, then why have so many people been convinced to risk death in its name? 

     Because dieting was never about health. It was about putting more money into the pockets of greedy corporate billionaires.

     Not that they want you to know that. Just like every other industry, diet companies want the masses to buy their products, which is very difficult to have happen if they are widely considered to be soulless forces of destruction. One of the first waves of their psychological warfare is convincing the customer that they care about their individual interests and well-being.

     Go onto the “Our Approach” section of Weight Watchers website, and you will find images of people living joyously due to this weight loss program, along with success stories of people just like you in order to motivate you on your own “weight loss journey” (“Our Approach”). Weight Watchers also wastes no opportunity in touting its humble beginnings in the living room of Jean Nidetch, an average woman with an honorable goal of weight loss, in the 1960s (“About Us- History and Philosophy”).

     So, Weight Watchers isn’t a company; it’s Jean Nidetch, and it’s you, and it’s a whole community of friends that are united by a single goal. And a community of friends, unlike a company, would never do anything that would hurt you.

     Except that Weight Watchers actually is a company, and doing what’s best for the customer and reaping a profit very rarely coexist. If they sold a product that actually led to safe, long-term health benefits, then people would no longer need to buy from them. So instead, they’ve sold us promises of impossible beauty standards and called it “health” so many times that we eventually believed it.

     When going to any sort of convenience store, odds are that there’s a rack of magazines by the checkout lanes. Many of the magazines focus largely, if not exclusively, on physical fitness, and their front covers are plastered with pictures of muscular men and women practically in their underwear. The female models always toute these three traits: a flat stomach, six-pack, and thigh gap. Women are told that this is the “healthy” body type, when actually, only a combination of restrictive eating, grueling exercise regiments, and a large dose of Photoshop actually makes such a body type exist. Females are biologically designed to put on more fat than their male counterparts (“Charts of Body Fat Percentages”), so having a flat stomach and the like is more often a sign of being underweight than healthy.

The same societal pressures of beauty are put onto males, as well. The male models are equally as unhealthy as the female ones. The rippling muscles that are so often shown as physical perfection are actually a culmination of the same restrictive eating and exercise regimes as the female models, combined with severe dehydration to make the muscles stand out even more prominently. 

As well, there’s a large genetic component that affects people’s body types. Some people have a genetic makeup which makes it easy for them to put on weight and nearly impossible to lose weight, while others are predisposed to be thin (“Why People Become Overweight”). Weight loss companies often use the existence of thin people as a moral argument against being overweight, incidentally ignoring the biological and social components that contribute to body size.  After all, if they can be thin, why can’t you? It’s just becuase you’re lazy or have no impulse control.

These are just some of the examples of manipulation that these businesses use to hold onto customers. With this onslaught of hateful rhetoric against people who aren’t thin, its often difficult to believe in your own self-worth, especially when these corporations claim that they care about their customers’ health. But it must be remembered that what they’re selling isn’t health; it’s warped, aesthetic illness.

     

 

Sources

“About Us- History and Philosophy.” WeightWatchers.com: History of Helping People Lose Weight, WW International, www.weightwatchers.com/about/his/history.aspx

 

“Charts of Body Fat Percentage by Gender and Age.” New Health Advisor, 14 Sept. 2019, www.newhealthadvisor.org/Body-Fat-Percentage-Chart.html.

 

“Eating Disorder Statistics.” Anad.org, National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

 

“Our Approach.” How Freestyle, Weight Watchers #1 Weight-Loss Program, Works | WW USA, WW International, www.weightwatchers.com/us/our-approach

“Why People Become Overweight.” Harvard Health, Harvard University, 24 June 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-people-become-overweight.

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