Are You a Real Person?

So I’m just sitting on the couch, innocently watching some telly, and what to my wondering eye should appear? A commercial for the South Beach Diet. Hooray! I haven’t been reminded that I should be trying to shrink my body in, oh, fifteen minutes! Let’s check it out:

Oh, okay. So South Beach offers “real” food for “real” people. As opposed to, I guess, all those diets made of fake food (okay, I might have to give them that one!) for… fake people? Let me tell ya, this whole notion of certain people or body types being “real” is really irksome. You’ve probably seen stuff about “real women have curves,” right? Um, sorry, women come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and we’re all real. Just like all people are real, not just those the South Beach Diet is courting.

Now, check out this new Weight Watchers ad:

I saw this and thought: What a nice butt! But this woman is clearly very unhappy with the state of her derrière.

So, who do you think these ads are targeted to? It would make sense if they were meant for the morbidly obese, the people (like me) whose BMIs are destroying the economy, health care, and the planet, right? They have to be meant for all those people who laze around day in and day out, eating lard straight from the can, dooming our world to death by diabetes!

Except, nope. These ads, like almost all commercial weight-loss programs, are actually targeted at people who have 5, 10, maybe 20 pounds to lose. People who, for the most part, already wear straight-sized clothing, who want to drop from a size 8 or 10 to the more socially acceptable 4 or 6. Check out these screencaps from the South Beach Diet ad I’d like you to see.



It’s funny when you see it, right? I mean, here we have someone like me, whose BMI is high enough that I qualify as “about to drop dead any second,” who could totally have their photo snapped for one of those headless fatty montages they love to show on the nightly news, and yet the South Beach Diet and Weight Watchers ads are not meant to attract me. They are meant to attract people who are already thin, to help them get even thinner.

It makes me sad that the diet industry wants people like Lisa and Tony and the Weight Watchers woman who has such a problem with her butt to feel like their bodies are unacceptable. They all look fine! And yet the message of the ads is: Nope, not good enough. Not good enough at all, until you are even smaller. That makes me sad for everyone out there who believes this. Of course, it’s so much easier to tout your huge success rates when your customers have goals of losing 5-10 pounds, as opposed to 50-100, right?

And then, there’s the point of view of someone like me, who is so, so much bigger. If Lisa and Tony and Butt Lady dislike their bodies, how could I ever hope to like mine? If these people are “overweight,” then those of us who are actually fat should drive immediately to the bariatric surgeon, I guess? Do the South Beach Diet people think that only already-thin people are real? Am I not real?!

Remember: The diet industry preys on your insecurities. It wants you to hate yourself. It wants you to compare yourself. It wants you to never feel good enough. It wants you to give it lots of money, and then, if (when) you have failed to keep off whatever weight you have lost, it wants to you know it’s your fault, you are the one who is not good enough, and the only way you can feel better is if you try again, and give it more money.

To all the real people out there (that means you): Don’t believe the hype.