It’s about time someone cracked down on the masses of weight-loss orgs trying to take advantage of everyone who’s down on themselves. If you didn’t already have an eating disorder because of the onslaught of fashion ads that greet you everyday in magazines, on TV, and on the billboards in your local town center, the weight-loss gurus will make sure you get one. If you weren’t already worried about being overweight, internet advertising for weight-loss programs will get you every time. Seductive headlines and before/after pics reel in the unsuspecting reader: Biggest Loser Diet Plan; Lose weight forever; #1 Trick to lose weight; Great frozen meals help you lose weight… dare I go on (ok, one more – Using the Bible to lose weight). You’re just one click away from a whole new you, no?
Everyone is talking about the Canadian Medical Association Journal‘s editorial, published today, that says consumers need to be protected against these companies who prey on the insecurities of teenagers (I distinctly remember the first weight-loss ad I saw in a magazine around age 10 – and the photo of a bronzed, bikini-clad babe about my age), postpartum mums (please, your baby fat is lovely!) and worried parents (i’m afraid little tommy is eating too much fudge). The CMA journal reports that the North American weight-loss industry grosses $50 billion in annual revenue. Despite this, obesity is still on the rise. What the author, Yoni Freedhoff, is really worried about is the lack of substantive evidence to support claims made by weight loss companies. Only a few days ago, Freedhoff published another paper entitled “From plunger to punkt-roller: a century of weight-loss quackery in which he explored the rolling-pins, a “relax-o-cisor” (electrifies away your weight), and “knead-away” machines that are the 1800s equivalent to expensive herbal supplements and vibrating fitness machines (“you can still have a good workout even if you aren’t moving!”) and claim to do away with “undue fleshiness.”
Freedhoff suggests that governments need to make legislation that will protect citizens against this kind of quackery which ultimately keeps people who struggle with obesity further away from their goals as healthy individuals. He writes,
We call on governments to require formal accreditation of weight-loss providers to ensure quality and to provide consumers with an easily recognizable means of identifying evidence-based services. Simultaneously, governments must pass legislation to subject weight-loss products to regulatory approval before they can be marketed, as has recently been proposed for other therapeutic products not presently covered by current drug-approval regulations.
Hopefully this is just the beginning and instead of busting flab we can begin busting companies that only make matters worse by messing with folks’ expectations, self-image, and feelings of self-worth.
PHOTO COURTESY OFvieilles annonces’ flickr stream. Jet magazine, March 26, 1953