Weight loss and Fitness Products: Are they really ethical?

by CC0220 on April 7, 2015 - 2:18pm

Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by advertisement. In fact, research show that the average American is exposed to about 3,000 ads every day (Media Relations, Inc. 1). Nowadays, a great amount of those ads are related to fitness and weight loss. Everyone has heard or seen an ad claiming that a certain product will make you lose 10 pounds in a week or make your muscles grow without you having to exercise. Since these types of advertisements are so present in our everyday lives, it is a good idea to ask oneself whether the representations of weight loss and fitness products in the media are ethical. The way companies try to sell those products are subject to that question, as well as the image and the ideal of beauty that these products reinforce.


First, the selling techniques of companies trying to sell people weight loss products or fitness related machines are not always ethical, and their ads can be quite persistent and aggressive. Those ads most often come in either one of those three forms: television ad, radio ad or poster ad.  Television ads are often trying to sell costumers fitness products (for example, the “Ab-Doer Twist), while radio ads and poster ads are usually more inclined towards advertising weight loss products (Garcinia Cambogia for example). However, one thing that all those ads have in common is the lack of information they provide. Companies try to sell those products, weight loss or fitness related, by telling the consumers all about the benefits their products can offer, but they never inform the costumers about the potential negative effects of those products, or really tell the consumers how to use those products in order to get maximal results. Most of the time, the only thing these companies recommend is to use the products they are advertising while on a “low-caloric diet and high exercise plan”. However, they do not provide any information as to what a low-caloric diet should be like and do not give any examples of exercise plan. This type of advertisement of these products does not follow the 5-point test for ethical advertisement because not only do they not provide enough information for the costumers to understand what the products do, and therefore do not help the costumers make appropriate decisions, but they also often do not allow the costumers any time to reflect. A lot of times, mainly on television ads but also on radio ads, those companies will tell you that you have a certain amount of time, rarely more than 10 minutes, to call if you want to buy their products and that after this short period of time, the product will not be available to you anymore. This tactic is not ethical because it pushes the costumers to make a decision without according him or her the time necessary to weigh the pro and cons of buying the said product, and instead rushes people into buying products they might not truly have wanted or needed.


Second, the women and men portrayed in those ads reinforce the idea that in order to be beautiful, a woman needs to be thin and a man needs to be big and muscular. Those companies therefore reinforce ideals of beauty, which are not attainable for the average person, but try to convince costumers that with their products, they can get closer to this ideal. Not only is this false advertising, since as mentioned earlier those companies do not provide all necessary information, but it can also be detrimental to the mental health and self-esteem of many who see those advertisements every day. For may women and men, seeing or hearing ads everyday telling them that they need to burn fat and have toned bodies in order to look good can feel like they are not good enough and pretty enough, and being repeatedly exposed to this kind of advertisement reinforces this idea. The representations of those products in the media, especially the weight loss products, reinforce the misrepresentation of women in the media, and tell women that in order to be beautiful, they have to be thin.  The same goes for the men. The aggressive advertisement campaigns for fitness products reinforce the image of men in the media, and make men in society that they need to be bulky and muscular to be considered real men.


To conclude, the representations of weight loss products in the media are not ethical for a few reasons. The advertisement themselves are not ethical because they do not respect the 5-point test for ethical advertising given that they do not provide necessary information nor time for the costumers to make the right decision. Also, the image that these products give to society are not ethical in that they simply reinforce the impossible ideals of beauty set by Hollywood.




Author Unknown. The Average American is Exposed to…web. April 5th 2015. http://www.publicity.com/advicetips/the-average-american-is-exposed-to/


While I believe that advertisers do lack some ethical restraint in the way their products are marketed, especially with the rise of Photoshop, maybe these ideals that are toted by companies focusing on the superficial are "good" in a sense?

For my final project this semester, I plan to tackle the topic of obesity and its economic impact. You can look at my final project plan down below:

I'm not saying that those ideals are not attainable, because many aren't, but to give society a certain ideal of fitness to strive for can be good to some extent in my opinon. There's undeniable financial impacts caused by obesity and clearly the problem is becoming a toll on the public system of countries, especially those with publicized healthcare (like Canada and the U.K). With the influence advertisers and Hollywood have on our everyday lives, couldn't they be leading the general population to a somewhat "healthier path"?

There's obviously psychological insinuations, you would think that individuals, on their own, would have enough common sense to realize that the ideals are just that: ideals.

Ideal: exactly right or perfect for a particular purpose, situation, or person

Nothing is perfect in this world, but we all have our perfect ideals that we strive towards. Does that mean they're inherently wrong? No. But the ideals of popular media aren’t absolutes that we need to be, but more of goals that are advertised; they need to be taken with a grain of salt, and if the general population has trouble figuring such a thing out, then I don’t really feel bad for those emotionally wounded by such advertisements.

I support some of the points you mentioned such as the potential of advertising leading to false conclusions especially regarding the ideal body type. However, I believe that seeing these people on television can encourage and motivate people to become healthier and strive for a healthier body by adopting a healthier lifestyle. For my final project I am writing about the various ways that obesity can be tackled. According to some of the research the optimal method is through diet and exercise but psychological health has an impact.http://newsactivist.com/en/news-summary/flacks-newsactivist-winter-2015-... People need to find ways in order to motivate themselves and stay disciplined. Advertisements promoting healthier bodies can help some people achieve the desired outcome.

I believe that you have pointed out some good arguments concerning advertisement in the fitness world. I also agree with you with the fact that those advertisements set sometimes unattainable goals for everyday people. At the same time, I believe that it all depends on one’s mentality because those ads can either make someone feel ashamed of their body or it can either motivate them to get in shape and to be healthier.
What I believe is unacceptable is the fact that, instead of losing weight the old-fashioned way by working out and doing physical activity, people are starting to use products that make them lose weight unhealthily. For example, the invention of the “skinny pill” is something that should not exist in the first place. I found this news article that is extremely interesting, because it takes a look at the diet pill ads that are investigated by “20/20” on ABCnews.
Link to news article: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=124290

About the author