Weight-Loss and the Weight of the Media
The media bombards us with advertisements and articles about weight-loss supplements. We cannot turn on the television or radio without seeing or hearing an advertisement for Dexatrim, and we cannot flip through a magazine without seeing an advertisement or article about Metabolife. The manner in which different media sources treat weight-loss supplements greatly influences the public's perception of these products. This essay will examine a Newsweek article entitled "Mad about Metabolife," an advertisement for Hydroxycut from Mademoiselle, and a radio advertisement for Carbolife Gold to illustrate the manner in which the media presents the use of dietary supplements to promote weight loss.
Would you rather exercise for an hour and a half five days a week and not see any signs of weight loss, or take a pill once a day and begin to see dramatic weight loss in the first week? If you are like most people who want to lose weight, you want to lose the weight as quickly and easily as possible, and therefore would choose the latter. Advertisers and columnists are aware of people's desires to lose weight quickly, and indeed, all three media sources examined begin their advertisement or article by describing how weight-loss supplements promote fast and easy weight loss. In large, bold letters at the top of the advertisement for Hydroxycut is a quotation that says, "Losing 31 pounds was so easy with Hydroxycut!" (MuscleTech, 2001, p. 175). Then, in slightly smaller letters, the testimonial continues with, "I never dreamed I'd be able to lose 31 pounds so easily, but Hydroxycut made it happen" (MuscleTech, 2001, p. 175). Similarly, the radio advertisement for Carbolife Gold begins, "Do you want to lose weight now with something that's quick and easy? You got it!" (Carbolife Gold, 2001). Given that advertisements are trying to sell a product, it is not surprising that advertisements attempt to attract people's attention by offering them the means to achieve their dreams of quick and easy weight loss.
However, it may be somewhat more surprising that an article, rather than an advertisement, about a weight-loss supplement also begins by describing the potential for quick and easy weight loss. The "Mad About Metabolife" article begins, "So you're feeling a little thick around the middle and you've heard enough about abstinence and exercise. Wouldn't it be nice if you could pop a pill, stretch out on the BarcaLounger and incinerate calories like a long-distance runner?" (Cowley, Reno, and Underwood, 1999, p. 52). The article, which is a critique of Metabolife 356, intentionally starts out with a description of the possible virtues of the product so that the article catches the public's attention in much the same way advertisements do. However, the similarities between the advertisements and the article cease here, and the article continues by describing the information about the...