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DIETING AND THE DIET INDUSTRY
The term "diet" within this policy refers exclusively to weight reduction diets. "Dieting" is defined as any attempt to achieve or maintain lower body weight by intentionally limiting or manipulating the amount or type of food intake. Weight reduction diets include medically supervised diets; self-administered diets; commercial diet organizations and centers; weight-loss support groups or behavior modification programs; "fad" diets; "sensible, well-balanced" diets; in-hospital fasts; very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs); prepackaged food plans; and diets supplemented by drugs or artificial food products or supplements.
"Dieting" does not refer to attempts to lower fat sugar, salt, or cholesterol intake, increase fiber intake, exercise or pursue a medically mandated nutritional regimen prescribed for specific medical conditions. Weight-loss diets have long been promoted as a permanent cure for "obesity," although they rarely produce long-lasting or permanent results. According to existing medical research, fewer than five percent of all dieters succeed in losing a significant amount of weight and maintaining that weight loss over a five-year period. Ninety percent of all dieters regain some or all of the weight originally lost and at least one-third gain more. In recent years, an increasing body of research has substantiated this diet failure rate and acknowledged genetic and physiological factors in the determination of body size.
Although these statistics apply to all types of diets, even those considered "sensible," physicians continue to prescribe weight-loss diets as a viable treatment for fat patients; and researchers, the media, and the diet industry continue to urge fat people to resist their body's natural predisposition and strle harder to lose weight. As diet failure rates become widely publicized, some "experts" pretend to abandon "dieting" and encourage their clients to "just eat less and exercise more."
Promoting diets and diet products is a major industry in the United States. According to Marketdata Enterprises, the annual revenue for the diet industry was over $30 billion dollars in 1990. This figure includes money spent on diet centers and programs, group and individual weight-loss, diet camps, prepackaged foods; over-the-counter and diet drugs; weight-loss books and magazines; and physicians, nurses, nutritionists, and other health professionals specializing in weight-loss (total 1990 revenue - $8 billion); commercial and residential exercise clubs with weight-loss programs (total 1990 revenue - $8 billion); and sugar-free, fat-free, and reduced calorie ("lite") food products, imitation fats and sugar substitutes (total 1990 revenue - $14 billion).
The diet industry's advertising and marketing strategy is based on the creation and perpetuation of fear, biases, and stereotypes. Fat people are portrayed as unhealthy, unattractive, asexual, weak-willed, lazy, and gluttonous. Weight loss or a thin figure are equated with virtue, health, and success. Failure to participate in dieting or lack of success in losing weight are blamed on a lack of willpower or determination and a lack or moral values. Fat people are taught to feel guilty and blame themselves for
the failures of weight-loss programs, and to expect and accept rejection, mistreatment, and discrimination regarding their weight. This negative media campaign has a devastating impact on millions of fat people. These messages lower fat people's self-esteem and foster discontent, self-doubt, and self-hatred, especially during the weight regain state of the dieting "yo-yo" cycle.
Diet promoters also emphasize dieting's supposed health benefits and minimize risks related to dieting. People of all sizes are misled about the extent and severity of the health risks associated with being fat and are told that being thin is the only way to good health, and that dieting makes people thin. Many health problems traditionally attributed to "obesity," such as high blood pressure, heart problems, high cholesterol, and gallbladder problems, are often caused by the dieting process itself. Recent studies indicate that repeated "yo-yo" dieting may actually reduce one's life span rather than increase longevity.
Currently there are very few controls or regulations to inform and protect the dieting consumer. Weight loss "success" is only vaguely defined using short-term results, and weight loss "failure is always blamed on the consumer, and health risks are not disclosed. The few regulations that do exist are rarely, or at most, loosely enforced.