Ghosts of Diet Culture Present
In part one we talked about the Ghosts of Diet Culture Past, today we’re going to talk about, well, today.
Diet culture is working overtime right now because this time of year contains two of its triumvirate of evil marketing seasons (the holidays are coming, News Years Resolution season, and swimsuit season).
The diet industry made $72.6 Billion in 2021, and they use a lot of that money to hire some of the best marketers in the world to convince as many people as possible to take one more ride on the diet roller coaster.
If you’re considering hopping on, I am here to tell you that there is almost no chance that it ends with significant long-term weight loss. And it’s not just me saying that. It’s about a century of data showing us that the most common outcome of intentional weight loss attempts is short-term weight loss (up to about one year), followed by long-term weight gain (in years 2-5,) with up to a 66% chance of regaining more than you lost. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being fat or getting fatter, but there is something seriously wrong with a so-called healthcare intervention that has the opposite of the intended effect up to 66% of the time.
The tricky thing here is that weight stigma is real, it’s not in our heads, and no matter how much we like/love/appreciate our bodies, we are still impacted by it (with those at the highest weights and/or with multiple marginalized identities experiencing the greatest impact.) Also many people, including healthcare practitioners sincerely believe (despite significant evidence to the contrary) that weight loss is a path to greater health. Neither of those things makes intentional weight loss any more likely to work. For me, I chose a long time ago to stop fighting my body on behalf of weight stigma and, instead, to fight weight stigma on behalf of my body. I have never regretted that decision.
If you’re still thinking about giving weight loss one last try, remember that the diet industry made $72.6 Billion in 2021. That’s up from $60 billion in 2012. To put this into perspective, if you made $100 per day and never spent any of it, it would take you 27,397.26 years to have 1 billion. The diet industry increased its bottom line by 12.6 billion in just 9 years.
They could not possibly have had that kind of growth if their product worked (they would run out of clients!) The industry is based on a repeat business model, in which they take credit for the first part of the biological response to attempted weight loss (where people lose a little weight short-term) and then they get us to blame ourselves (and get everyone else to blame us) for the second part of the biological response (where we gain the weight back, often plus more.) This isn’t an accident, it’s how they’ve created a $72.6 Billion dollar industry with a product that almost never works.
And let’s remember that when weight loss fails us, that is not benign. We are not healthier for every attempt, regardless of how it ends. In fact, weight cycling is independently linked to many negative health impacts, including increased overall mortality, and it is, by far, the most likely outcome of any intentional weight loss attempt.
Bottom line: every day the diet industry rakes in about $198,904,109.58. Almost 200 million dollars…every single day, and today not a dime of that has to be ours.
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*Note on language: I use “fat” as a neutral descriptor as used by the fat activist community, I use “ob*se” and “overw*ight” to acknowledge that these are terms that were created to medicalize and pathologize fat bodies, with roots in racism and specifically anti-Blackness. Please read Sabrina Strings Fearing the Black Body – the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia and Da’Shaun Harrison Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness for more on this.
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