How the Diet Industry Profits From Your New Year’s Resolutions

Sequoia Marriott looking at a diet supplement

By: Jessica Marvin/Co-editor in Chief

If you’ve lived through any New Year’s celebrations, chances are you’ve noticed the fitness frenzy that comes with the event.  All around, people vow to lose x amount of weight, eat healthy, or take vitamins, and this becomes a field day for the diet industry.

Just think of the detox teas, diet supplements, and protein powders clouding our Instagram feeds.  Of course, these products are heavily advertised year-round, but the companies undoubtedly have a huge opportunity for profit during January.  With everyone striving to better themselves in the new year, running “New Year, New You” ad campaigns seems like a no-brainer.

Last year, the Raider Reader published an article detailing why people’s New Year’s resolutions fail, which explained the psychological reasons we may be abandoning our goals.  But another reason we aren’t meeting their fitness goals is because companies don’t want us to.  Andrew Johnson, a consumer education specialist for the US Federal Trade Commission states in a blog post: “The truth is, those ads are promoting products that won’t deliver on their promises.”

And it makes sense: if the products they sell you actually worked, then you’d only have to buy it once.  Where’s the mass profit in that?  Instead, they produce short-term solutions to generally made up, cosmetic “problems”.

Apart from the fact that these products don’t work to make you any healthier, the normalization of body-altering products undoubtedly has negative effects on those exposed to it.

According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), roughly 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder.  Companies, though possibly indirectly, capitalize off of this, exploiting the insecurities of the public for profit.

In recent years, we’ve (thankfully) seen a dip in support for crash dieting, and an increase in “lifestyle programs”.  As consumers have become more educated, there’s been a shift from “stop eating these foods to be skinny” to more health-focused approaches.  Even Weight Watchers, one of the most illustrious dieting programs, has had to change their approach.

Gary Foster, the chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers, told TIME Magazine, “We used to have a very narrow focus on weight, and now weight is one of things we focus on, but it’s not the only thing.”

Regardless of the shiny new paint job the industry has received in the form of health-over-vanity campaigning, these companies ultimately fall back on one thing: shame.  The idea that your natural body needs to be changed and that achieving thinness is ultimately the only way to be healthy, happy, or beautiful still permeates every corner of our society, including the dieting industry.

At the end of the day, these companies aren’t in it to help you better yourself. They profit off the same insecurities that they create and perpetuate, allowing them to cash in on New Year’s resolutions specifically.  No matter how the diet industry packages their products, the underlying idea that our bodies are inherently flawed and that we need whatever they’re selling to fix ourselves still persists, and it can have fatal consequences.

Jessica Marvin is a stressed senior who lives for participating in dance and theatre. When she’s not dancing or at rehearsal, she enjoys writing poetry (usually in Spanglish) and hopes to one day have the confidence of a telenovela villain.