37 thoughts on “Why Weight-Loss & Diet Commercials Are Dangerous

  • January 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    wtf are you talking about? weight loss is hard work.

    • January 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      @ HHH, yes, weight loss is hard work. It usually takes a lot of resources, time and effort. And for many people it can also mean engaging in unhealthy habits.

  • January 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks for this article. The more I paid attention to being healthy and stopped allowing myself to be discouraged by the ads on TV or in magazines, the happier and healthier I found myself. I also read an article on the airbrushing and crash diets the women in those ads undergo, how is that not false advertising?!

    • January 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      @ PFPC, you make a great point: These ads and commercials are discouraging among other things.

      Photoshop is definitely false advertising, especially because these airbrushed images are used to sell everything from beauty products to diet pills.

  • January 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks for the article. I think I am going to talk about this on my blog tonight.

  • January 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    As a slight “aside” it makes me crazy that these women’s magazines always have diet, exercise, fashion stuff. Shouldn’t we have learned that as teenagers for heaven’s sake!!

    What these magazines (and the media are saying) …we aren’t good enough…not thin enough, teeth not white enough, remove those wrinkles and any and all signs of ageing, look 10 pounds thinner in this muu-muu (lol)…..change everything about you that we (media) say is wrong….and we will always come up with more stuff…….wrong mouthwash, deoderant, soap, laundry detergent, parenting skills….the list is/will be endless.

    The thing I can’t stand the most? ANYthing about “celebrities”—–I have no interested in their lives……

    People Audrey Hepburn….classy…..today’s “stars?” Trashy, crude, rude….my “rant’ for today, LOL

    Oh,and tv? sex shows disguised as humor….who would have betty white would have ever used those words?! She needs a time-out.

    • January 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      @ Alicia, magazines definitely perpetuate the idea that we’re not good enough as we are, which of course can be so detrimental. Unless I’m writing a post for Weightless, I avoid women’s magazines because they just make me feel like crap.

  • January 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    They show unrealistic results that do not show long term failure rates. If they actually showed how you have a 95% chance of regaining all of the weight you have lost on their plan, and possibly more than you lost, then I’m pretty sure no one would diet. They would be out of business. Though my biggest issue with them is that they exist in the first place..

    • January 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      @ Amanda, great point! My favorite is their “results not typical” at the bottom. It’s so misleading!

  • January 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I think this is a fantastic post! I’m in recovery from an eating disorder and this time of year is particularly difficult with the inundation of weight loss ads, commercials, and even general attitude. As someone who used to be an over-exerciser, my weight loss was not something to be proud of because I became very sick. I went to the gym for the first time yesterday since way before my recent inpatient admission and it was an entirely different experience to say, “I’m going to go at the pace my body feels is right for the time my body feels it can handle”. I was so scared of pushing myself past safe/healthy limits and losing control. Of course, the results of my brief workout were not even close to what I used to be able to “accomplish” (in terms of speed and distance) but I was proud of myself for doing what was best for me. It’s hard work to recreate a gym experience and make it a positive place to feel good about my body, and not attach it to a place that “fixes” my body.

    I did want to say that if an individual has weight problems and it would be medically advisable and beneficial for the person to lose weight, then weight loss would be an accomplishment. However, the mistake I believe is when we equate self-worth with self-weight/shape. I know this is a continuation of what you were saying Margarita but whenever someone tells me “Oh you look so good, you’ve lost so much weight” I have to respond, “I almost lost my life to an eating disorder, so weight loss isn’t always a good thing.” Weight loss admissions should not immediately be responded to with a “congratulations” because for some people it isn’t. That’s just my view.

    • January 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      @ Alex, congrats for being in recovery for your ED! And thank you so much for your positive feedback. It means a lot! I hate that our media and culture make recovery more difficult than it has to be.

      It’s interesting that people automatically equate weight loss with health and attractiveness and will always congratulate you for it. My boyfriend and I were just talking about how ridiculous this is last night. It’s common for people to compliment others for losing weight, especially after they’ve been sick! That just goes to show that you really can’t tell a person’s health by their appearance. I remember spending a week sick and throwing up and miserable and still getting compliments! Or I remember having the worst yo-yo dieting habits and getting compliments.

  • January 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks for breaking it down in such a clear and helpful way! I think it’s so important for us to receive these reminders, especially when it’s hard to hear about anything else if you flip on the radio, TV, internet, etc.

    • January 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      @ Anna, you’re welcome! 🙂 You’re absolutely right — we’re totally bombarded with this stuff on a regular basis with no reprieve. I just had to write this post because honestly it was making me sick.

  • January 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    I’ve worked with thousands of obese patients, and only a small percentage were suffering from emotional disorders that caused weight gain. Most simply had very poor eating habits developed over a long period, from portion size issues to poor food choices — eating the typical, chemical/sugar/salt/fat-laden american diet. Even if they “knew better”, they had eaten to the point that their bodies had been nutritionally desssimated with hormonal systems out of control, especially related to insulin.

    I am quite sure that, much more than wanting overweight individuals to feel bad about themselves (many overweight people have this covered already), diet companies want to inspire people to take action that makes them healthier and feel BETTER about themselves. The fact that most diet programs are ineffective is a function of poor design and lack of science –well engineered lifestyle programs (that include calorie restriction) can work very well. And news flash — losing substantial weight DOES dramatically change someone’s life in many, many positive ways (in addition to extending it).

    I’m afraid that the author is projecting her own bias and values onto weight loss ads — I’ve never seen an ad suggesting in any way that obesity is immoral. Further, are we supposed to coddle the millions of fat, self-immolating americans because we’re afraid to hurt their feelings and make them feel bad about themselves? Sorry, but talk therapy won’t cure obesity for most americans — they don’t eat out of deep insecurity; they eat because they’re immersed in an industrial food system that has captured and trained them to eat in unhealthy ways.

    If you want to get mad at advertisers, get mad at the industrial food conglomerates, fast food outlets, and other purveyors of dietary slow poison who engineer food that is hard to resist but sure to kill us. Fix this and you won’t need diet companies.

  • January 12, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    This was a very interesting read. I am struggling with weight loss myself and it is extremely hard. When I get to my ideal weight, it will not be based on what the media has told me to be the real meaning of beauty. It will be based on my idea of health. Most people who have struggled with their weight should be praised and feel great about their accomplishment regardless of their status in society.

  • January 13, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Great article! Thank you for featuring one of my Perfect scales!

  • January 13, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Very succinct and well put – as an RD specializing in the treatment of eating disorders and disordered eating/exercise issues, it’s such a breath of fresh air to see more articles like this! Thank you for sharing this important message & keep up the great work!

    • January 13, 2012 at 11:56 am

      @ Kate, thank you so much! It means a lot to me to hear that you like the post!

  • January 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

    This was not a very good article at all. Yes the diet companies commercials and women’s publications make true weight loss and being healthy an unrealistic thing for the average working woman. And yes the celebrities are paid huge money and probably don’t even do the diets they are paid to talk about.


    If you are overweight or obese, lose that weight is a HUGE accomplisment. Yes it does transform your life and it can make you feel like the world is your oyster. You get more confidence, you speak up more, you dress better, and it’s scientifically proven over and over again that is makes you happier.

    Plus exericse and eating better is also the best for of controling anxiety and stress.

    You’re telling overweight people to feel comfortable with the fact they are overweigh. But deep down nobody is comfortable with that fact.

    The best thing you can do for yourself if you really want to lose weight is learn how to cook natural foods… ditch the processed carbs, sugary drinks, and exercise three times a week.

    • January 13, 2012 at 11:48 am

      @ Dan & Paul, No one is arguing the beneficial effects of physical activities and eating nutritious foods. Research has shown that being active is critical for minimizing stress and anxiety and living a healthy life. My point is that diet and weight-loss companies don’t offer effective solutions. Why do we have to buy what their selling in order to be healthy? I don’t think we need to be on NutriSystem (whose foods I’ve heard are highly processed) in order to lead a healthy life. We don’t need to count calories or points in order to be healthy. Today’s foods are very processed, unfortunately, and in many communities, fruits and veggies are either too expensive or not readily available. What we put into our bodies is very important. But I don’t think these companies offer a good solution for truly nourishing ourselves.

      Research consistently shows that diets don’t work. Also, many people have to engage in unhealthy habits to maintain their weight loss. They have to restrict what they eat and exercise excessively. I don’t think a number on the scale should be our barometer. Instead, it’s more helpful to engage in healthy habits, and whether you lose weight or not is negligible. It’s not the weight loss that makes people healthier, it’s the habits they engage in.

      Plus, unless we’re talking about extremes, it’s very rare that you can tell someone’s health by their appearance. There are plenty of thin people in this world who smoke, aren’t active and eat fast foods on a regular basis, but because of their genetic makeup, are not “overweight.” Again, why do we have to focus on weight? Why can’t we focus on everyone practicing healthy habits such as engaging in physical activities that they enjoy and nourishing their bodies with vitamins and minerals and wholesome ingredients? Research has shown that yo-yo dieting is highly unhealthy. That’s what these companies promote because their plans are not sustainable. We also know that restricting and dieting leads to overeating — not some weak willpower.

      Also, about the immoral comment, I was referring to Truvia’s lyrics, which stated that after having Truvia, your conscience is cleansed.

  • January 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Health at Every Size is an emerging,cutting edge paradigm that is proven to have lasting results in improving the health of heavier participants. Anyone who practices regardless of weight will improve their health overall.

    Focusing on weight loss is proven to fail over and over again. Overeating for emotional reason, or making food choices that lead to ill health is a psychological, emotional and for some spiritual problem that will never be soloved by trying to control it with diets. Diet companies and even medical professionals may be well meaning, but the 95% failure rate of diets should tell us something.

    Until we deal with the underlying causes which take the mind and emotions into consideration, you will always fight against poor health overall.

    Do we really care about overall health for everyone? Are we so stuck on making food and fat the bad guys that we miss what drives us to make choices regarding our overall health?

  • January 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    margarita—you are so right about all this dieting stuff that is interested in making money and not interested in our well-being…but i must say that there is a very serious problem with unhealthy weight and the metabolic syndrome leading to diabetesT2..i have pre-diabetes and am
    eating differently… and losing weight is a part of preventing some very serious health problems..
    thanks from harry2

    • January 13, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      I also want to add that research has yet to show that any of these weight-loss or diet programs can produce long-term weight loss.

      And even more so, we don’t know what leads to long-term weight loss in general. But we do know what leads to a healthy life, and that’s being active and feeding your body nutrients. It’s troubling that these companies make people think that anyone can lose lots of weight and keep it off, and that’s just not true at all. And for many people, it’s an unhealthy options to begin with.

      Here are several fantastic links for more info on focusing on healthy habits and truly nourishing yourself:


  • January 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I just hate all of the weight loss and diet commercials. They get on my nerves with the whispering voices or yelling or “singing”. They are all just annoying. They don’t make me want to use any of their products. They make me feel like shooting my tv. Thank goodness there is a mute button. Most commercials for anything nowadays are just annoying and obnoxious. I refuse to purchase anything that has a commercial that gets on my nerves. It would be nice if they said, 90% of the money from the purchase of this product goes to helping hungry people. That I could get on board with.

  • January 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    I loved this article because it’s exactly how I feel. It is sad how the media portrays weight loss as this magical ticket to happiness and how they neglect to mention that no matter how much weight a person loses, they will still have the same thoughts as before. There is always some underlying issue that needs to be resolved. It is never only about weight.

  • January 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Thank you so much for writing an article like this. People need to understand that societal pressures and these commercial diets can not only lead to unhealthy self-image and feelings of guilt and shame…they really are downright dangerous! I happen to know firsthand just how dangerous they can be.

    I’ve struggled with my weight all my life and had parents that constantly made me feel bad about it. After my daughter was born I decided that maybe it was a good time to try yet another diet. I chose one that I had marginal success with in the past and at first it looked like it was really going to work. But the more weight I lost the more obsessed I became with the way I looked and wanted to lose more. I essentially started to starve myself. In the end I lost 90 lbs in 5 months. Which, if you know anything about weight loss, is way too much way too quick.

    Turns out that it came with some steep consequences. And ones that put me in the hospital. I ended up having to have surgery to have my gallbladder removed. Gallstones had blocked the duct to my pancreas (a potentially life-threatening problem). The stones formed as a result of my rapid weight-loss and low calorie diet (and was made worse in combination with doing so just after pregnancy). Luckily the stone passed and they got my gallbladder out in time. I was told by the surgeon that another stone was found on it’s way toward my pancreas again and I was probably only a day, if not hours from another attack. And who knows if I could have survived a second one. (For those who don’t know, when the duct to your pancreas becomes blocked, the enzymes, which help to break down the food you eat, can’t be released to do their job, they begin to eat at your pancreas…not a pleasant experience and of course is why it can be fatal).

    So again, I thank you for spreading the message about how dangerous these commercials are. If the world doesn’t like the way I look, then forget them. At least I’m alive. I’d rather be fat and perfectly happy and content, than skinny and dead.

    • January 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      @ Nicole, wow, thank you so much for sharing your story! It’s important that readers know the dangers of these kinds of diets and rapid weight-loss. Because all we see are supposedly happy and healthy spokespeople extolling the benefits of losing weight and focusing on your food intake. Plus, a person’s physical appearance says very little about their health. I wouldn’t be surprised if you got compliments for losing weight, even though it’s clear you were unhealthy at that time. I’m happy to hear that you’re doing much better and that you have such a healthy attitude!

  • January 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    What really gets to me about some of the weightloss program commercials—especially the Janet Jackson one—is how much these people *care* about you. They CARE that you’re unhealthy and unattractive and unsuccessful, that’s why they’re here to tell you how to fix it all. Nutrisystem CARES. Weight watchers CARES. *These* are the people that believe in you, and if you don’t believe in yourself then they’re there for you. You don’t have to do it all alone, because Jennifer Hudson and Janet Jackson will be there to root for you all the way…..right?
    Makes me sick how chummy they act.

    And it’s like…..I’m this celebrity or that celebrity, but I was never famous and successful before I lost x amount of pounds and turned my life around. I wasn’t filthy rich and accomplished, but now I am because of Jenny Craig (etc…). Right. We’re reallying buying into that.

    Hey, if I join any of those weight loss programs/diets (heck, join ALL of them), when I lose weight will I become rich and famous and get to be a spokesperson??

    • January 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm

      @ AprilK, I know what you mean! That’s another funny thing about these ads and commercials. They seem like they have the secret to some magical and wonderful life, and they so badly want you to have it, too. It’s totally chummy. And I also hate that stars get more attention for losing weight and looking a certain way than they do for their work. Which is further reinforced by comments like Jennifer Hudson’s about her weight loss being a greater accomplishment than her Oscar. So sad. Plus, the added media attention from losing weight only feeds celebrities’ insecurities and makes them want to become spokespeople even more. Thanks for your comment!

  • January 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I really like this post. The one thing I would add is that these advertisements often don’t acknowledge what a challenge it can be:

    I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago visiting my family, and I was amazed that on the way home from the airport, I passed by no fewer than FIVE lap-band ads.

    What bothers me most is not that people would get these procedures (because I recognize that some people may genuinely need them), but that the billboards make it seem like it’s no big deal. They impression I get is, “your insurance will even pay for it! Grab a Starbucks, and stop in while you are doing your errands!” – when, in fact, it requires an operation, etc.

    • January 16, 2012 at 8:34 pm

      @ Katie, thank you! And you’re absolutely right. Those ads make it seem like a routine procedure, like having a cavity filled or something. Lap-band surgery, or gastric bypass surgery, is actually quite dangerous, and the ads are ridiculously deceiving. Also, from what I know about these surgeries, I’m not even sure that they’re good for anyone. They come with a lot of potentially dangerous side effects.

  • January 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Wonderful post that’s 100 percent spot-on. It’s commercials like these that make me ever so grateful for the invention of the DVR. Now I just fast-forward through the commercials and don’t allow their toxicity to influence me.

    • January 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      @ Rachel, thanks so much! It’s so cool to have you visit and comment on my post. I was a HUGE fan of your blog. 🙂

  • February 20, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Unfortunately, money makes the world go around, and the game is to take yours away from you. If they have to make you feel badly to give it up, so be it. IMHO, it’s best to stay away TV and magazines. I avoid the hype whenever possible, and I try to do my best to spread the message intuitive eating. Blessings to all of you.

  • July 13, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you for your very informative blog!


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