Dieting industry and capitalism

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A person has given up on their workout to lay on the ground while someone lifts their leg up Annie Spratt

New Year, new me, same sales pitch

Sales pitches normally go one of two ways in the new year: someone is trying to get you to invest in cryptocurrency, or someone is trying to get you on a diet plan with a gym membership.

Every year, as soon as the ball drops in time square, television stations and social media apps are flooded with ads promoting weight loss and diet culture. The “New Year New Me” mentality has adapted to non-contact methods to compensate for COVID-19.

We are 18 months into the pandemic and now entering the fifth wave of COVID-19 with even more uncertainty as Omicron variant cases continue to rise. Stuck between closures of fitness facilities, fear of gaining “the quarantine 15” emerged, encouraging people to get into shape with their pre-coronavirus bodies. Many of these ads have been targeted to lose the weight that people have put on during quarantine. For many individuals, it has not been feasible or safe to become physically active because facilities were closed.

For most of the pandemic, isolation left us with minimal options for any physical activity. It has become incredibly easy to turn to fad diets and other supplements that dieting industries offer because there is little alternative. There was opportunity to head outdoors in the summer months, but heading into colder winter months it is not safe to attempt outdoor activities in -40-degree weather.

According to CNBC, the dieting industry has become a $71 billion dollar industry. Not to mention these specific diet plans have a 95 per cent failure rate. These plans are designed for rapid weight loss that cause more damage than good. In the National Eating Disorder Association, only five per cent of individuals keep the weight off from these fad diets, and the rest gain it back within one-five years.

Diet culture as an industry is labelled as “toxic” for sacrificing physical and emotional wellness in the pursuit of thinness, youth, and beauty. You can always be losing the extra weight which is exactly what the diet industry wants you to think, which means buying yourself a lifetime subscription to products that enforce your own insecurities.

The harsh truth is that people benefit off of you hating yourself – and it’s not your fault.

It is easy to compare yourself to fitness influencers whose job is to look as fit as possible. Matching gym sets, glute bands, and protein powders are expensive. Not to mention influencers who are obligated to market these items to their following because they are being sponsored by big corporations. Social media apps like Instagram have become another way to promote products with its new “Instagram Shop” section that takes you straight to the website, and then the checkout. Convenience of plugged-in credit card numbers and free shipping can suck customers in to making a purchase they might otherwise not make. 

Influencers’ monetary gain does not justify the long-term damage that comes with endorsing unsafe or unethical dieting products. When Kim Kardashian endorsed appetite suppressing lollipops, it sent out promotion for disordered eating. With such a broad and young audience, it sets an example that eating less and working out more should be prioritized over your wellness.

Fear of weight gain throughout the pandemic has been used to guilt consumers into buying products from the diet industry. Relationships with food and exercise should not be dictated by the way the dieting industry sees fit – they should represent tradition, culture, and memories.

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