The Diet Company Trifecta of Doom

By Jodee Rose

An industry whose product is legally required to state that it doesn’t work every time they try to sell it doesn’t make sixty-billion dollars a year without some pretty good marketing.  You might think losing every deceptive trade practice lawsuit that has been brought by the Federal Trade Commission would slow down sales a little bit.  But the diet industry has managed to slap a “results not typical” label on all of their stuff and just keep raking in the dough.

Part of it is because the diet industry knows that biology dictates that almost everyone can lose weight short term and almost everyone will gain it back long term, and they’ve done a tremendous job of taking credit for the first part and blaming their client for the second part –  though neither is accurate. This is what leads fat people to argue vehemently that Weight Watchers works because they did it six times and they lost weight at the beginning every time – of course they also gained it back but they don’t associate Weight Watchers with that. Part of it is because fat people are subject to a tremendous amount of shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression and so people are desperate to find a way out of that and if they can’t lose weight, at least they might get partial credit and a temporary pass if they are perceived as “trying to do something.”

One of the marketing ploys that the Diet Industry uses is the Dieting Trifecta of Doom.  They have set up three “seasons” a year to market around that allow them to constantly remind us that we will never look good enough.   The events are:

  1. The holidays are coming
  2. The new year is here
  3. Bikini season is coming

Right now we are in “The holidays are coming.”  I know that because I received an advertisement from a local diet company affiliate that suggested that I might want to lose weight so as not to embarrass my husband at his company Christmas party.   Looking past the fact that it’s not 1950, I have a girlfriend, and we’re both self-employed, this one seems like a particularly low blow – it sounds like they realize that more and more of us realize that beauty, health, and happiness come in sizes that include ours – so they  want to make us fear that we’ll be an embarrassment to our partners so that we’ll buckle and give them our money. I guess this is what you stoop to when your product doesn’t work.

Soon we’ll start hearing about weight loss New Year’s Resolutions and every diet company in the world will run some sort of special.  When that wears off we’ll start hearing about how we have to get ready for bikini season. When summer is over it will be “the holidays are coming”  all over again.

I think it’s important to notice that the diet industry has purposefully created a cycle of three artificial seasons to make us spend the whole year sure that we don’t look good enough now and terrified that we won’t look good enough for the next artificial season.  Happily, we can opt out of the cycle. For example, it’s November, I’m fat, and my body is already “bikini season ready” and the way I know is that I have both a body and bikini, so there you go. I will not be sucked into the vortex of the Diet Company Trifecta of Doom.

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15

During the holiday season I get a ton of e-mail from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police or their partner’s office party. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year. All calls will be recorded so registrants can listen  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

Published in: on November 2, 2012 at 6:56 am  Comments (19)  

19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I don’t believe I’ve ever considered my body ‘bikini ready’, but that’s just because I don’t like wearing bikinis. I’ve always found one-piece swimsuits more to my personal liking.

    That said, my body is absolutely swimsuit ready. I have a body, I have a swimsuit, and they happen to fit one another nicely.

    I also find it difficult to imagine a situation in which Mr. Twistie would be embarrassed to have me meet his co-workers. In fact, most of them already know and like me a lot, fat and all. And to his credit, if there was any sort of guff about how I looked or anything like that, Mr. Twistie would look for a new job looooooong before he’d be ashamed of me.

    After all, as you said, it’s not 1950 anymore.

    Oh, and I love how the holiday prep is all about reminding you not to enjoy all the delicious food that you’re cooking/baking for the holidays for everyone else to eat. How dare I want a slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving or a slice of gingerbread cake on Christmas day!

    I baked it, I’m damn well eating it. I don’t make food I won’t eat.

    Speaking of which, it’s definitely time to get cracking on the Thanksgiving menu. Here’s one hint: I will not be including a guilt course.

  2. Ok so this doesn’t exactly fit into the weight loss seasons, but it’s current news…

    You know what I found this morning that made me incredibly mad?? I found an article called the Sandy 15. I didn’t get the reference to weight gain (you know, the Freshman 15) until I opened and saw the *gasp* picture of oreos and other so-called junk food items. I didn’t read very far into the article, I will not include a link and do not remember the name of the author. I’m too disgusted to look it up.

    It’s bad enough the people in hard hit New Jersey and New York are dealing with the pressures of surviving the storm. People have lost their homes, the lives of loved ones and don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Some jerk is out there demeaning them for buying and subsisting on so-called junk food. Whether it’s because that is all that is available at the store or because they have no way of preparing food or they’re simply eating the candy they had planned on handing out for Halloween, what’s the big deal???

    I’ve spent a week without power due to a storm (down here in Md we were only without power for 36 hours this time) but I’ve yet to live through the destruction we are seeing on TV. I hope I never do. And although I’m quite the girl scout in that we have a gas grill, camp stove, propane, generator and lots of gas, would I be sitting pretty right now if my home was destroyed and all those items washed away? I primarily choose whole foods and such, but you’d better bet there are chips, nutty bars and other items in the house. I’m not ashamed of them. If they were all I ate normally, I should not be shamed for eating them. Let alone if they were all I had available to me!

    I wish we could live without fear of being shamed for our food choices. And shaming people for what they eat when there are no choices (people are dumpster diving for food!) is in poor taste. The writer should be ashamed of his/herself.

  3. When I was growing up, The Holiday Season was a time of great fun, not guilt. Maybe it’s because I was a kid and didn’t know better, but still…when did we equate self-deprivation with a higher moral standing, the same as getting on the fast track to Heaven because we’re better than?

    To me, the holidays are about singing…that’s what I look forward to the most. I sing my ass off, then I go and eat to get my energy back. I sure as hell am not going to bang my way through Bach’s “Magnificat” and Handel’s “Messiah”, then reward my body with a pile of carrot sticks. This Valkyrie needs battle food!

    • Damned straight, Yorkie. She has two Valkyries on board here. Ho-yo-to-ho! ;)

  4. FYI, if my husband were ever ashamed of me for my size, I’d be looking for a new husband before I’d look for a new body, I can tell you THAT. Humph! No one who loves me would ever put me through that.

    • I recently overheard a conversation that I’m pretty sure was a slam at my body shape. I won’t relay the entire conversation but the crux of it was that the guy was telling his wife, “Don’t ever look like that.” It is possible that I completely misconstrued what I heard but when I replayed the incident back to my husband he even agreed that what I thought was being said was what was being said. At first I was completely devastated. This man is looking at me as an example of what his wife should never be. Then I got real with myself and (thinking back to several posts here) realized I was giving this man power over my self-esteem. I man I did not know at all and who clearly has his own issues. Why let some stranger with a narrow focus on life dictate how I feel about myself? Who the hell is he? Nobody! So then I was left feeling really bad for the woman who is in such a terrible relationship she has a guy who has put conditions on her. He was basically saying “I’ll only love you if you look this way.” How sad is that? The way I look at it, he is basically saying “I don’t love you at all.” Because when you really love someone, conditions aren’t necessary. Anyway, your comment made me think of that and I wanted to share.

      • How sad for her – and how WONDERFUL for you!!

  5. I love the way you describe the nearly constant diet marketing! I hadn’t thought if it this way, but you’re spot on! And I also found the link back to the “but WW totally works!” entry to be very educational. I am so beyond tired of seeing the company I work for pay for WW as if it really does anything but encourage weight cycling. I try not to be the person who sees someone talking about how they eat all this fake food (fake sugar, fake fat, etc) that adds up to “ONLY so many points!!!11!” and think to myself, enjoy the rebound cycling weight once you figure out that stuff tastes like $h8t and your body stops cooperating with your extreme restrictions! But it’s difficult not to think that way!

  6. I like to focus on the positive, and by the sound of it september and october are total party months if we follow the schedule correctly.

  7. In response to “the Holidays are coming,” our “Wellness Committee” has launched a campaign called “Maintain, not gain!” which will include a support group to help people maintain their weight instead of packing it on over the Holidays. This one strikes me a little more insidious than your average weight loss messaging, since it’s not saying that you should necessarily lose weight, but it still pushes the oppressive message that weight gain = BAD. And of course the messaging of the “Maintain, not gain!” campaign equates body size and health as though they’re exactly the same.

    What gets me is that the head of said “Wellness” Committee is also the head of our nutrition department and she regularly labels food as good and bad and is even known to go out of her way to, say, throw out a box of donuts a coworker brought in to prevent other coworkers from making “bad” choices. What really gets me, though, is that she’ll come up with healthy recipes to hand out to our constituents… that regularly include very expensive ingredients. Which seems like a slap in the face since most of our constituents are below the poverty line and most likely living on food stamps. Just… head, meet desk.

    • Holy hell, that’s some serious boundary-crossing there. Who is she to throw away ANYTHING that doesn’t belong to her??? I’m just gobsmacked.

      • Our company is sponsoring a Keas challenge, which I joined before starting to really think about what I was doing, why I was doing it, etc. Most of the messaging around Keas puts the biggest earning values on behaviors that (as mentioned in ancedata and studies) lead to disordered eating–for example, food journaling and writing down your calorie/point values every day will reap an individual the most amount of points. Since it’s a team-driven competition (and since I won’t count calories/points, food journal, etc), our team is not getting as many points as it could if I did … or lied, as I suspect other top-scoring teams are doing.

        Some of the major “quests” and “activities” also include “Bypassing Office Treats” and “Lose 5 pounds” / “Lose 10 pounds”. It’s a real mixed bag of a message, as they also include positive messaging about eating fruits/vegetables, exercising, spending time with loved ones/pets, and working on a hobby. But it has encouraged many comments on the discussion board area that are highly shaming/triggering/ridiculously full of judgment, so that I try to avoid spending much time on the site, even though (to get the most points) you need to log in and update your quests and goals every day.

        While the overt message isn’t “Hate Those Fatties”, when you pair this effort with company sponsorship of Biggest Loser contests and Weight Watchers at Work, it really is disheartening and frustrating.

        I’ve considered dropping off the team, but I don’t want to deal with the explanations of why, especially not when 3 of the 6 people are doing Weight Watchers and one of those 3 is already BMI-wise (not that I’m promoting BMI as anything but crappy) considered to be “normal” weight. Ugh!!!

      • I had the same reaction. My goodness, I would be pissed if I had brought those donuts. And I would have to seriously restrain myself if she threw out something that I had baked myself…

  8. And yet people of size are blamed for our “contagious” fat. :/

  9. If the diet industry really wanted to cash in on bikini body shame, they’d also sell “cures” for the stretch marks that come from crash dieting.

    This aspect of the holiday season always makes me sad. Back in my ED days, I remember the pro-ana message boards becoming a panicky flurry of “Help! It’s Thanksgiving/Christmas and I can’t get out of eating this meal!” No thought of enjoying the gifts of having family and friends, no thought of refraining from making the meal all about their (well, at the time, mine too) issues. It struck me as ironic that the articles in the “fitness” magazines sounded exactly like the ED message boards, and yet they say they’re not promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.

  10. I especially hate how the message also includes being “allowed” to stuff yourself at Christmas and Easter and while on holiday, so it goes diet for Christmas party season, stuff yourself silly over Christmas, diet in the New Year, stuff yourself silly over Easter, diet for Beach season, stuff yourself silly on holiday, lather, rinse and repeat. The whole thing is just a horrible way to make people feel out of control around eating, and to believe that they would gain weight forever and eat forever if they didn’t diet, and to believe that us fatties must therefore also be constantly eating.

    • I never thought of that macro-sized binge-purge cycle before. My heavens.

  11. You forgot “skinny jeans” season in autumn. I noticed that in a few mags. Really, when do we get a break?


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