This post was published to my other blog, Canadianfoodiegirl.com, on January 1, 2014. It's slightly updated in the middle. I still believe what I said about resolution marketing BS.
Waking the weight loss juggernaut
Ah, January 1st. The new year. When the new year’s resolution juggernaut is awakened and the rabid weight loss industry looks hungrily at its prey. In this food chain: Weight loss industry (companies, marketers, advertisers), media (writers, buyers), regular people.
A few days ago my boyfriend and I started seeing an increase in Goodlife Fitness commercials (they got his attention because they showed scenes of Toronto) and we saw our first fitness apparatus commercial, a chair with a resistance band permanently attached.
New Year's Resolutions
Within two clicks of Googling “new years resolution statistics” I found a good infographic at MediaBistro, of which this is a slice:
Update: Here's another infographic, this one from December 2014.
I also found this article from 2013. Highlights:
The top 10 new year's resolutions include lose weight (#1), Stay Fit and Healthy (#5), Quit Smoking (#7). It has the percentage of Americans making new year's resolutions at 40-45%.
The idea of resolutions is a common punchline because of the low rate of follow through. Sometimes resolutions are made half-heartedly assuming failure. Some people don’t try out of fear of failure or manifest their own failure because they figure that resolutions are meant to fail. And the whole thing makes them feel like shit emotionally.
The weight loss industry benefits from that failure (high gym sign ups, high attrition rate) and the emotional fallout. So does the self-help industry. And you don’t actually need a lot of what they’re selling, they’re getting you at a time when you’re vulnerable.
Advertisers are brainwashers (this isn’t new)
Marketing is manipulation that begins months before the new year.
(No, you’re not fat.)
I believe that good ol’ marketing is behind people believing that they’ve gained weight over the holidays. Headlines in magazines and blogs such as “How to avoid gaining weight over the holidays”, “10 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain”, “How to Beat the Holiday Weight Gain Odds” and “Weight-Loss Solutions for the New Year”. You’re being told you’re fat so that weight loss solutions can be sold. And maybe you are fat, but if that’s the case, most of those products won’t help anyway because they want to address the weight and not overall health in a holistic (whole body) way. I’m not a professional but I’m willing to bet that you didn’t go from skinny to obese in matter of weeks.
There’s some cross-border pollination here in a bad way.
An (updated) aside: I've also heard that stores inflate prices on items leading up to the holidays so that on Boxing Day they can sell them at a “discount”, which is actually the original price. I think this is a good analogy.
Clarifying “The holidays”
Simply put, if you live in the U.S. “the holidays” are 6 weeks. If you live in Canada, they’re a few days.
I know that for Americans “the holidays” begin at Thanksgiving in November. For this blog post I researched that idea further: An article on the Forbes website published on November 25, 2013, called 7 Ways To Curb Weight Gain Over The Holidays refers to a statistic that the average weight gain over the holidays – the American holidays – is 7-10 pounds. It also links to a study that dismissed holiday weight gain as a myth and that specifically refers to the holidays as the 6 week period between the two holidays.
Here in Canada, people see U.S. advertising and it gets to them too. But Canadian advertisers also want their audience to believe in holiday weight gain.
I don’t believe that people gain the weight they claim to over the holidays – whether 6 weeks or 1. I'm not calling people liars, but I believe that people falsely perceive that weight gain because they’re told that they gain weight and they’re advised on how to avoid it. And geez, if everyone’s talking about it, it must be a thing. I don’t believe that it’s possible for anyone to gain a ton of weight a matter of days. You might gain a few pounds or a pants size, but your body isn't transforming radically. Holiday weight gain is not an epidemic.
I believe that some people stress eat in the weeks leading up to Christmas, which can contribute to real weight gain. Holiday parties increase calorie intake, no doubt. Real weight gain. There’s less time for exercise and people are generally less active when the weather gets colder anyway. Given the 6-week holiday season the U.S., I believe that over those weeks, yes, it’s possible to gain weight. But, a significant amount?
Weight vs. bloat
Here's another thought: When you're bloated it might feel like you've gained weight and it might look like it. It's the holiday-centric version of what some people call the “food baby”. You're eating lots of salt. You might be eating foods that you only eat one time of year, so your body's not used to it. You're eating foods together that you don't usually combine and eating quickly. However, bloat doesn't always come with extra weight. They're two different things. So, if you think that you've gained weight around your mid-section, consider that it might not be weight at all. Those pants that felt tight last night might fit fine today.
I believe that people carry extra water from what they eat and drink, from stress, from travel, and more.
Fabricating the problem to sell the solution
All that said, please, marketers, STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT THE HOLIDAYS ARE MAKING THEM FAT, JUST SO YOU CAN SELL THEM “SOLUTIONS”! Creating problems in order to create solutions is what marketing is about. Some ailments are “discovered” to sell drugs, gadgets are invented to fill needs you didn’t know you had, and you’re being told that you’ve gained weight just so you can be sold on weight loss. Your pants might feel a little snugger when you’ve been brainwashed like that. Or maybe you're bloated.
I understand having something to sell and wanting to capitalize on the best time of year but the whole January thing is out of hand. Health and wellness should be a year-round endeavour. Don’t try to sell me your bullshit e-book. “10 top weight loss tips to survive your new year’s resolution”? Give me a freakin’ break.
Take back the winter
Talking resolutions, I feel that the fall is a better time for renewal. It feels fresh with that perpetual “back to school” feeling. I partly feel that because of the marketing, hype, expectation, etc., January is a horrible time to make changes in your life. Feeling like a failure can only contribute to more of it. And who wants to start a new habit in the dead of winter? Motivation is low in winter! The cold and snow aren’t helping you attain your goals, people. A little bit of extra fat in the winter can’t be a bad thing either. Look at other species.
My follow up to this post in 2013 was called Resolutions – intentions – goals – feelings, about setting intentions and goals and picking one “word” to represent me in the new year. I've got a similar post written in my head for this year but first, a post about some of the health coaching, detox and other programs starting in January.