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Should the advertising of fad diets and dieting products be banned?

Introduction:

In today’s society, dieting plays a huge role in the lives of many. Everywhere we turn we see billboards, newspapers, posters, signs and social media posts advertising different diets and dieting products. The problem is who and what are we supposed to believe? Are all of these advertisements true? The answer is no. marketers will do absolutely anything to sell their products even if it means slapping a “sugar free” sticker onto a product containing more sugar than a coke. Sadly the reality is that they don’t actually care about what’s in the product or even the effects that dieting can cause, for them, it’s all about the money. Every year new diets are created, and weight loss products are put onto the market, but we simply cannot keep up, which of these diets are true and which are we to stay away from? Society is confused, dieting will always be a sticky subject as different dieticians have different views but that is why it is up to us as consumers to do the relevant research. In this research project I will be looking at both the positive and the negative sides to diet advertising and the effects they may have on society as a whole. To gather my information, I will be conducting surveys and gathering people’s individual opinions on the matter. I will also be doing research online and collecting adverts that are good examples of false advertising and also positive advertising that promotes a healthy life style and I will then compare the two. The aim of my research task is to determine whether the advertising of diets should be banned or not.

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Content:

We see advertisements online and we fall for them just about every time, this is because we are addicted to our usual diets and we are reluctant to change a thing about them so instead we go for the FAD diet that promises quick results. A FAD diet is a diet that is highly popular for a certain period of time and can also be considered a “craze.” Fad diets are usually promoted by celebrities with a large social platform and often promote unrealistic results. The major issue when it comes to these types of diets is that you are not getting a balanced diet and with this, comes many side effects. Having a balanced diet is of high importance as it supply’s your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals needed in order to operate and function efficiently. FAD diets often take away from balanced diets as they usually promote cutting out a certain food group or eating excessive amounts of a food group in the balanced diet, this in turn make your diet “unbalanced” and as previously stated, you require a certain amount of vitamins and nutrients from each food group to remain healthy and fit to function and therefore a FAD diet probably is not the healthiest option.

The marketing of FAD diets has recently been taken to a whole another level. Marketers can advertise their dietry products in such a way that we feel that we must try them even if they seem incredibly unrealistic, they light a spark in us that makes the product seem irresistible and before you know it, they have you wrapped around their finger and looking for more. Marketers use convincing statements that catch your eye and make you feel excited, such as “quick-fix” and “effortless weight loss.” These words sound so appealing to just about anyone and everyone, making the product even more irresistible.

In todays society, just about everyone has social media. Of the 10 students I surveyed, each and every one of them ticked the box confirming that they are on some form of social media. Of these 10 students, 9 of them informed me that they were indeed following a celebrity’s social media account and whether they are interested or not, by being on social media you are guaranteed being exposed to celebrities’ posts. Celebrities are a dangerous form of marketing as many people follow them as they would like to be like them. Celebrities are paid hundreds of thousands to use their social media platforms to advertise FAD diet products. Due to the fact that they are paid to, celebrities rave about how “amazing’ the product is and how it has ‘changed’ them and helped make them look as “skinny and toned” as they are. We see this, and immediately, we believe this because they are our role models and we want to do as they do and look as they do. Reality is, that most of the time they have not even tried the product they are promoting, and they have absolutely no clue what it contains and the damage they are causing physically and mentally.

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As you can see on the graph I have constructed above with the results from my survey, six of the 10 students who follow the celebrities feel motivated and would therefore want to try the theory that the celebrity is promoting. The other 3 are not motivated but worse, their self-confidence is lowered. This may be because they would love to look like this celebrity, but they don’t and therefore they feel like they are not good enough, skinny enough, fit enough or pretty enough.

Lowering one’s self-esteem levels towards their body may result in many eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. These are life threatening diseases that can be picked up very easily especially by teenagers who are at a vulnerable age. When young, you are often not aware of your weight but as you grow up you are influenced by all the different advertisements that you are exposed to and you start to become highly self-conscious. Although anybody can pick up eating disorders, Girls are more often diagnosed with them.

Instead of celebrities promoting quick fixes to weight loss, they could rather be promoting healthy and safe ways to be a healthier version of yourself. Celebrities need to start being more honest and true to their followings and show them their real workouts and how they actually lose their weight and tone their bodies, because they only way you truly lose weight healthily is by doing some form of exercise.

We may not always realize it, but we are daily targeted by advertisements that degrade us. Advertisements put so much pressure on you to look a certain way and to weigh a certain value. They have put this idea into our minds that if your value is a little bit higher than others, you’re not as good. People often disregard their health and follow FAD diets as they are so desperate to lose weight and to look a certain way when in fact, we should always put our health in front of our weight. Society needs to lose the mindset that being skinny means that you are healthy or that being overweight means that you are unhealthy.

In FAD diet advertisements, false and misleading information is often given to make the diet seem more wonderous. Marketers often put the benefits of FAD diet products in larger letters and the negative effects are hardly visible as they are hidden in a very clever manner.

A great example of misleading advertisements is the advertising of vitamin water. When we as consumers hear the word “vitamin” we immediately link it with healthy, positive connotations without even thinking twice about it. We do this as it is common knowledge that vitamins are vital, and they play a large role in keeping our bodies healthy.

Lately the new trend has been to replace normal products with the sugar free version of the same thing. We see “sugar free” and immediately we link it with healthy and in turn, weight loss. The scary truth about this is although they claim to be sugar fee, they are often not carbohydrate free. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar so yes, although you feel healthy as you are eating “sugar free” products you are still actually eating sugars. Another major issue linked to sugar free foods is that we have this perception that if its healthy we can consume more of it. As we commonly classify “sugar free” products as healthy, we believe that we can eat more of them. Although a product is sugar free it may still be very high in kilojoules. Therefore, we believe the advertisements of sugar free products and feel proud of ourselves for choosing the sugar free option, little do we know, we are quickly heading towards obesity.

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Vitamin water is marketed as a healthy drink. Although vitamin waters do indeed contain a few vitamins, they contain far more sugars and unhealthy additives than vitamins. To give you a rough estimate, in approximately one 500ml bottle, there is +- 8 teaspoons of sugar. This is very misleading to someone trying to live a healthy lifestyle and wanting to drink a “healthy” drink. People feel they are being healthy by drinking the “Fruity Vitamin waters” when in fact they are gulping down sugar. Due to the fact that there is actually so much sugar in the drink, it cancels out all the benefits of the vitamins that are also present.

I surveyed the same 10 students as before, asking whether they rather drink a vitamin water or a coke. As you can see in the graph below, the majority of them chose Vitamin water. What they did not know is that Coca-Cola actually manufactures vitamin water. I told them this fact after they had completed the survey as I did not want it to influence their choices and they were all shocked and unaware of this. One of the students mentioned that she had never even tried a vitamin water, but she was aware of how much sugar a coke contained so she would rather take the “healthier” option. This proves that she was misled.

Although all of the above are negative affects of diet advertising, there is also a positive. As proven in my survey, all 10 students are exposed to the advertising of celebrities and 60% of them were motivated by their posts. This shows that people are wanting to live a healthy life style. If they knew they were harming their bodies instead of being healthy hopefully a few of them would stop immediately. If celebrities chose to advertise true ways of keeping healthy and having a balanced diet instead of “quick fix weight loss programs” their followings would believe and follow them as they do, and this could eliminate many negative effects of diet advertising. The initial goal needs to be health and not weight loss. This will also teach people that their weight does not define them.

Another product that has been highly advertised and marketed as a safe weight loss alternative is weight loss pills. People see skinny celebrities on dieting adverts and will do just about anything to look like them. This could mean popping a weight loss pill that not only eats away at your fat, but at your organs too. The reality is that they are unaware of the fact that they’re destroying their bodies as they do not have access to the necessary information as marketers have hidden it away from them. Many of the dieting pills sold and advertised today in our local shops are illegal but due to lack of regulation, it is still an easy task for one to go out and buy them.

Children in todays generation often spend a lot more time sitting in front of a TV instead of exploring in the sunlight outside. Marketers noticed this and used it to their advantage. The target market of children is probably the biggest sector. Children of a young age are so vulnerable and accepting of any bit of information they are given. On their animated movies, food is often advertised to them without them or their parents even realizing it. whether it be their favorite character eating a product or a product advertised in between the movies played, these children then believe it is considered “cool” to eat the same foods as their favorite characters. At this stage of their lives, they are unaware of the health content of the product being advertised and therefore they put pressure on the household shopper to purchase this product. There is no longer a way to avoid dietary advertisement exposure, no matter how old or young you may be, you will always be targeted. In 2017, Mac Donald’s spent approximately 532.9 million dollars on advertising. If a company pays that much on advertising alone, we know that advertising has a huge impact on their sales.

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Recently a new way of hiding information from the consumers is to use “lingo” or abbreviations for certain ingredients that they will not understand. They will market a product as “healthy” and you will believe it as you look at the ingredients and it does in fact look rather nutritious. What you may not notice is all the “E numbers” that are used to keep you from knowing a few ingredients. You should attempt to avoid products containing “E numbers” as this tells you that it is not as healthy as the adverts may have led on, although doing this would be an extremely difficult task as just about every food product contains them.

Conclusion:

To conclude, if diet adverts were to tell the truth, it would not be such a negative ordeal. This issue with diet advertising is that most of the time consumers are being misled and instead of becoming healthier, they are destroying their bodies without even realizing it. In my opinion consumers should have the right to be informed of all the good and the bad that they are putting into their body and they should be informed of all possible side effects. Due to the fact that this information is not always available to us, it is up to us to not believe everything we hear and see but to also do the relevant research before purchasing a dieting product or starting a diet plan. We need to always keep the balanced diet in mind and make sure not to drift too far away from it due to its high importance. I believe that all dieting advertisements promoting quick fix results should be banned as before stated they have many negative side effects. Diet advertising should rather promote self-love and a healthy balanced diet. As for celebrities, they have such a large social platform and they’re able to influence the lives of so many. Instead of promoting products that are too good to be true, they too could be sharing encouraging and motivating messages getting people more motivated to live a healthy, balanced life style. They could also be promoting the fact that you weight does not define you or your health, instead of encouraging unhealthy practices of weight loss sending the message out that “you are not skinny enough, good enough, or pretty enough.” Many of the negative side effects as mentioned above are avoidable and we need to educate those around us that they are good enough and that “if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” I faced a few limitations when writing my research task as I could not find many recently written documents within the past year that were relevant, therefore many of my references are from previous years of conducted research.

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