Pushy promotion of weight loss pills, products and programmes on the internet is nothing new.
But, the marketing of such products has, over recent years, become more than just the odd pop-up ad or email going straight into spam.
Now, it’s often the role of influencers and celebrities to convince us to buy or sign up to so-called ‘weight loss miracle’ products and programmes.
But should we really trust these seemingly ‘too good to be true’ ads?
“New Year, New Me”
Earlier this year, Twitter users took to the platform to criticise Love Island’s Amber Gill for promoting her new weight loss plan which saw her lose over a stone in just 6 weeks.
She claimed that the plan had allowed her to become the “best version of [herself]” as she lost her “lockdown weight”. Amber also launched her own fitness platform.
One Unsaid reader, Lauren, pointed out the timing of the post, being the beginning of January, and said she believes such promotions can target impressionable followers.
Amber Gill is among several influencers and celebrities to have promoted ‘quick fix’ weight loss methods via their social media pages.
Reality star Lauren Goodger posted a picture on Instagram at the beginning of January promoting Boombod, a weight loss drink, with the caption “My 2022 goals!”.
A little incongruous, perhaps, with her Instagram post the following day which announced her pregnancy.
Weight Loss Promotion: Maintaining Credibility
It is true that influencers do not always research the ingredients or test the products which they promote themselves, according to a BBC investigation in 2019.
Three well-known influencers, Lauren Goodger, Mike Hassini and Zara Holland, were caught agreeing to promote a made-up drink, called Cyanora.
The diet product included the ingredient hydrogen cyanide which was used in Nazi Germany’s gas chambers in the second world war.
The influencers filmed clips promoting the drink, referring to the toxic ingredient hydrogen cyanide.
During the filming process, Lauren Goodger also admitted that she had “not tried Skinny Coffee”, despite previously claiming on Instagram that it had helped her lose two stone.
Lauren Goodger’s former agent replied: “Our client would not endorse the promotion of products that contained harmful or suspect ingredients, or without knowing the contents. Our client was told the product was in production”.
Zara Holland also said she would never “deliberately mislead” her followers and she would not promote a product without trying it first.
Weight Loss: Positive Promotion
Robin Hahn, a YouTuber, explained to Unsaid her divided opinion towards influencers promoting weight loss products and programmes.
“Almost all weight loss products are red flags to me. The science on most of these fads is clear and concise: if it’s effective at all, it may be a laxative, which given my (and many peoples’) history with disordered eating can be really triggering or damaging at worst.
“But I feel differently about programmes. Some of the online fitness space does include some really mindful and thoughtful influencers, often with their own history of disordered eating, who create paid, small, supportive spaces for people to deal with food anxiety while still meeting fitness goals.
“Sure, most programmes are definitely not like that, but they exist. I’d unfollow an influencer for promoting a tea or trying to tell people that drinking lemon water will magically help them lose weight or “detox” their bodies. But to me, programmes require careful examination before I stop watching that influencer’s content.”
Perhaps then, it’s most fair to judge each promotional post on an individual basis, weighing up the endorser’s expertise, personal experience and whether or not it is likely they have tried the product or programme themself.
But, maybe an old adage can be applied – ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’.