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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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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