“I’d like to teach the world to diet”

Barry Bethel

Barry Bethel, the face of Slimfast in the 90s

I’ve been looking at the connection between obesity and the spread of diet advertising across the world. There is a connection.

In countries such as Japan, Fiji, Africa, China, the Phillipines, India and Pakistan, eating disorders were virtually non-existent before their cultures were flooded with the dieting message. Now anorexia and bulimia are growing in an exact parallel to their exposure to Western media, the skinny ideal and adverts for Slimfart.

Also, we all know that obesity is also on the rise in these countries.

This is not news. What’s really strange, though, is the lack of connection between the reports about the rise of eating disorders in non-western countries and the reports about the rise of obesity. If you look at the media coverage on these two problems: eating disorders and obesity, it’s like they are two entirely different things. It’s like this connection is being deliberately severed.

But if you read medical papers, studies and trials about weight problems, you can see that there is a connection, that obesity and overweight are exactly the same as eating disorders. Obesity IS an eating disorder – or rather the physical side effect of an eating disorder.

Here’s the thing, according to ‘experts’ like the World Health Orgainisation and the Obesity Task Force and all of the health media:

  • eating disorders are caused by dieting and disturbed body image.
  • obesity is caused by greed and lack of self care.

The former is to be treated by getting the anorexic or bulimic to stop dieting and the latter is treated by getting the fat person to go on a diet. And:

  • eating disorders are seen as the fault of our culture and the pressure to conform to a thin ideal by dieting and not the fault of the victim.
  • obesity is considered the fault of the sufferer.

If I ask myself how this can be, I get pulled towards the massive pile of research papers in my loft that give evidence of diet and pharmaceuticals industry control over the media and governments and their pouring in of billions in sponsorship money for university run medical trials into obesity cause and treatment. Treatment which, surprise surprise, always weighs very heavily in favour of dieting and drugs.

Here’s just one example, from Paul Campos, journalist and law professor at the University of Colorado, who was present at one of the pharmaceutical industry’s lavishly laid on attempts at bribing scientists into spreading the ‘obesity’ message. Read it here.

For those of you who are too lazy to click the link, here’s an extract:

‘I listen to the guest on my right explain what’s really going on here. A well-known scientist, she has been to many a gala luncheon in her time, and her cynicism could startle even a lawyer.

“The point of all this is to buy us off,” she tells me. By “us” she means the scientific community, and the item she believes is being purchased is the community’s consensus opinion on various matters of economic interest to transnational corporations.

Specifically, she believes the pharmaceutical industry is conducting a highly successful campaign to transform so-called “overweight” and “obesity” into diseases that require treatment. She describes how last month the drug companies bought a bunch of first-class airline tickets to Australia, and put up a gaggle of doctors and scientists in a luxury hotel in Sydney, where they were paid handsome speaking fees to speculate on what could be done about the “global pandemic of obesity,” as one of them put it.

“They gave talks about getting kids to watch less TV, getting soda out of the schools, making office workers take the steps instead of the elevator, and convincing people to not drive as much,” she tells me.

“The drug companies just laugh. They know perfectly well none of that stuff is going to work.”
What the pharmaceutical industry is doing, she explains, is subtly and not-so-subtly manipulating expert opinion, for the purpose of softening up the regulatory process that even now is beginning to evaluate the next generation of weight- loss drugs.

It is, when you think about it, an extraordinarily good investment. When it comes to the world of legal bribery, academics are notoriously cheap dates. Fly us to a scenic location, feed us a few fancy meals, and throw in a flamenco dance or two, and the next thing you know the “experts” are all getting with the program.

In this case, the program is to keep repeating the word “obesity” over and over again, like some sort of pseudo-scientific mantra, even though, as my dinner companion points out, there’s hardly any evidence that the increasing weight of the population is actually a health problem, and no evidence that the public health establishment’s current definition of what makes a person “overweight” makes any sense whatsoever.

I know this is the pharmaceuticals industry but the diet industry is doing the exact same thing and the more we’re convinced to diet, the more problems we’ll have with eating and the more we will be made miserable about our weight. Sitting ducks for more pressure from the diet industry or inventors of weight loss drugs. So next time you see a diet advert or any kind of pressure to look thinner, look closely at what effect it really has on you. If you do have problems with food, it will make you feel bad about yourself and drive you towards food and not away from it.

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About antidieter

My mission is to enlighten people - in more ways than one!
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One Response to “I’d like to teach the world to diet”

  1. Sarah says:

    Blaaaagh to the Slim Fart advert. I’m with you missus.

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