The most innovation that has evolved diet culture over the years is simply a change in name—from ‘diet’ to ‘lifestyle.’ Not method, nor purpose. Because the investments that have been poured into each program has not been for better science. It’s been for better marketing.
Marketing that is so good. It convinces intelligent, successful women that they are not intelligent, nor successful, unless they actively try to lose weight.
Marketing that is so manipulative. It leaves us feeling self-inflicted guilt when we try and cancel the subscription.
Marketing that is so stealthy. That we ignore their brilliant business model that bases profit projections off the likely number of times we’ll fail and restart their diet/lifestyle program.
How diets transformed into lifestyle programs.
As people caught on that diets are dangerous and don’t work, savvy new companies emerged. They learned the marketing mistakes of their predecessors. So they drew a line in the sand and called themselves a “lifestyle; not a diet.” In some cases, they even pretended to be anti-diet. It didn’t matter their rules were the same tired diets. What they were calling it changed. This caused existing companies (who were losing profit to a new generation of diet companies) to simply REBRAND as lifestyles too.
A great example is how the mother of all diets, Weight Watchers, recognized the lifestyle trend and rebranded as WW. They made virtually no changes to the actual programming, but changed the way they spoke about it. In other words, the enhancements went into their marketing efforts and not the science behind what makes a person healthy.
The real difference between diets and lifestyle programs.
“Lifestyles” learned to use self-empowering messaging. They proclaim to be on a life-improving mission to save people from the dangers of obesity (despite the science that supports weight not being an indicator of health.) Lifestyle programs have a more aesthetically-pleasing color palette, trendy fonts and journalistic-style photography. They take better advantage of social media influencers who show off their “best life” while doing their program (which just increases company profits because that’s cheaper than paid ads!)
That’s the power of good copywriting and marketing strategy. It’s psychological trickery that strategically convinces intelligent, successful women that they’re not healthy—nor can they be confident—until they actively follow a particular diet/lifestyle (…or program, plan, approach, or any other meaningless stand-in word to avoid saying diet).
But diet = lifestyle. Lifestyle = diet. They are ALL one and the same. They both incorrectly equate good health to thinness. Confidence to weight/fat/inches lost. Success to restriction. Failure to off-plan.
Diet/lifestyle companies are a brilliant business model.
Diet/lifestyle companies are intentionally subscription-based. They’re there when you’re following plan. And they’re there still collecting your money when you’re “off-plan.”
The multiple streams of predictable income—when you ignore the lack of ethics—is a brilliant business model. Initial training, monthly “VIP” subscriptions, supplements, branded swag, and upgrades to your subscription. Just to name a few.
Many present-day lifestyle/diet programs are even structured as MLMs or influencer-marketing based. So not only are they making money off their subscription-based clients, but they’re making money off commission-based influencers and coaches selling their program. Many of these coaches lack any official nutrition or health education beyond the dogma they learned directly by the diet/lifestyle program. Because remember, nutrition education doesn’t matter. Marketing does.
Lifestyles will be rebranded again.
Just like how people caught on that diets don’t work, people are catching on that lifestyles don’t work either. They’re not sustainable. They’re diets in sheep’s clothing. We’re already seeing it in the number of new “mindful” lifestyles that are trying to co-op the term ‘intuitive eating’ and distort it into a weight-loss diet. It’s infuriating.
Someday in the near-future these same diet/lifestyle companies will realize everyone figured out lifestyles = diets. And a new synonym will be created.
Rebrand and repeat.
But here’s the good news about dieting.
There is hope! Once you realize that they care more about your money than health, you can put up a shield against their shady marketing. You CAN cancel your subscription to that diet/lifestyle. You CAN heal your relationship with food, fitness & body image. You CAN embrace your God-given intuition, trust your body and improve your (actual) health. No rules. No guilt or shame.