There are now a few times of year when diet marketers want our body-conscious attention: January 1st when it’s time to conduct our new year resolutions, early June for the start of beach season and what now appears to be early September for new resolve in post-summer.
After decades of formal programs that took the country by storm, diet companies now have to contend with Americans and their DIY methods. Books. Diet foods available at the supermarket. Supplements. Shakes. Work and home obligations create limited time to go to meetings and weigh-ins and that not only played havoc with some weight-loss firms’ sales, it increased the coffers of the companies that provided the actual food for the weight-loss process – for a little more cost.
Through the bites however, advertisements and promotions continue to remind us of the instant gratification and the totality and the permanence of the healthy diet experience. Healthy – not starved.
To that end, last Spring I screened and subsequently showed my marketing classes, “Killing Us Softly 3” which focuses on Jean Kilbourne’s study of women and stereotyping in advertising. (Google’s got it in their video section.)
It’s an older film that my daughter recommended from her women’s studies class: a documentary with messages such as leggy skinny models with no breasts, hips or waists are the product of gene pools and we, as a population, can’t (and shouldn’t) physically emulate them.
As a result, though financially supported by the ad industry that promotes this impossible thinness, I have spent a lot of time talking with family about eating right, building strength, feeling well for a lifetime. It only took a few years for these young children to substitute "healthy" with "skinny" -- but parents can keep the outside impressions away for just so long.
So when our family embarked on a new diet course two years ago, emotionally and intellectually it was meant to create less focus on food. An marketer’s worst nightmare as we decreased emphasis on eating, dining out, snacks, events that had to have food, buying food, having enough food and consuming the food before it spoiled. Physically, it was meant to shed pounds and eat well without the stigma and disappointments.
The success began to, pardon the expression, pile up. We are reading labels, determining serving sizes, looking for things that are better and tastier to eat at home and away.
And like our household, as our country reads more about the obesity epidemic, the increase in adult onset diabetes and the explanation that it is cheaper to buy fast food on the $1 menu or sugary products in the convenience store – there is a new backlash in town. Consumers are learning that taking the time to prepare a meal will not only insure better, nutritious eating, but can actually save money in the process.
It’s not as easy to do as picking up a “value meal” but if food marketers continue to pick up on this "return home to the kitchen and the dinner/dining table routine" it will put us consumers on route to feeling more in control of our health and our future than we have in a very long time.