As a marketing tool, the promise of weight loss has proven to be effective. When consumers see food or drinks labelled as “fat-free” or “0 calories,” they often mistake it as a healthy option.
The problem is that as a society, we tend to value quantity over quality, and size over physical well-being. This flawed system marks beauty the most important factor for self-worth and sets beauty standards around what size of jeans you can fit into or how easily you can squeeze into a bikini.
To make matters worse, many industries make trillions of dollars every year by exploiting people’s insecurities and marketing impossible beauty standards. Some gyms even base their personal training around weight loss, either as a method to hook you into paying for the sessions or as a way to track your progress. Unfortunately, many consumers don’t recognize the scheme and remain loyal customers, buying into the weight loss fantasy for years and sometimes even a lifetime.
HEALTH FOR LIFE: Stop Selling Skinny
Weight Loss Mentality
A core issue of this weight loss mentality is that many people associate their waistline with their health and fitness goals. Oftentimes, people start working out in hopes of losing a certain number of pounds. Of course, there is a strong connection between weight and a long list of physical health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic lower respiratory diseases, but there is much more to health than the number on the scale.
There are many components of physical fitness, and everyone has a different starting point. Working out at the gym should feel like walking into a judgment-free, health-focused environment, but there can be a lot of barriers to that. Even before walking into the gym, beginners need to overcome the stigma that they need to meet a certain standard of fitness. This can be a barrier for those struggling to maintain a healthy weight as they can feel intimidated, embarrassed or judged. A study on perceived weight discrimination and obesity from the Public Library of Science (PLOS) found that “weight discrimination increases risk for obesity.”
Another danger associated with working out is exercising without the proper nourishment. For some, that can mean binge exercising and not taking in enough sustenance to support the workouts. While this can be an issue for those who are dangerously thin, eating disorders among those with obesity is a prevalent issue, especially among teens. For others, it can mean over-training or taking unhealthy supplements for their workouts, like too much protein or dangerous stimulants.
Weight loss mentality also creates a huge problem in the food industry as well. The Huffington Post warns against the mislabeling of foods that make products seem healthy when they are not; labels such as “local,” “natural,” and “pasture-raised” are unregulated and have little to no meaning for the products. The University of Arizona also warns against advertisements that associate eating unhealthy foods with a fun lifestyle. Television commercials often do this with fast food and soda, showing people enjoying these products at parties, surrounded by many friends, or enjoying life in other ways. These ads greatly influence viewers, especially children, and encourage the development of unhealthy eating habits.
What Does Healthy Look Like?
Another issue with weight loss mentality is associating looks with health, especially when it comes to thinness. Contrary to the belief that having a lower weight means a low risk for some of the problems that come with being overweight, skinny people are not only susceptible to the same health issues but also have a harder time getting diagnosed with health issues traditionally associated with weight due to their thin appearance.
The New York Times published an article on the dangers of “skinny fat,” a term for people who are thin due to high metabolisms or “magic” genes, but due to poor diets or genes have the same medical issues typically associated with being overweight. This can include risk factors for heart disease, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and uncontrolled blood sugar. The article highlights the effects of hyperfocusing on weight instead of overall health, stating that its effects are common, and even deadly.
Furthermore, people who are overweight can also have eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) reports that “overemphasizing weight can encourage disordered eating and have counterproductive effects.” The NEDA states that 25 percent of people living with obesity also have Binge Eating Disorder, and less than half ever receive treatment for it.
As a complicated and multivariable issue that varies from person to person, health should never be generalized. Even basic needs, like drinking water can be difficult to manage. You might be unaware of your excessive sugar intake until you realize just how much sugar is in your “healthy” cup of yogurt. You might think professional athletes live an epitomized active and wholesome lifestyle until you realize the dramatic rate of traumatic brain injuries in sports.
Though it’s easy to put the blame on the individual for not eating healthier, not exercising, or not being more aware, it’s necessary to hold the producers of goods accountable. As most big corporations clearly don’t have consumer’s best interest at their core, it’s time to stop buying into the fantasized idea of weight loss. More importantly, it’s time for companies to consider the damage they are doing to millions of people, and it’s time for companies to make consumer’s interests a priority — it’s time for companies to stop selling “skinny.”
Sassy Peeps, What are your thoughts on selling skinny (health for life)? Inquiring minds would like to know!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Geo Sique is a contributor from Idaho and graduate from Boise State University. With a passion for health, she often writes articles on mental and physical health, as well as outdoor activities that inspire her to stay active. Twitter handle: Geo Sique