Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Results not typical"

At the beginning of the year, the diet industry likes to bombard us with ads, preying on our guilt over holiday indulgence.

Have you ever scanned one and noticed the "Results not typical" disclaimer? What exactly do they mean?
That I would lose even more than Valerie Bertinelli's 60 lbs in four months while eating their packaged mouse droppings?

Could they be
warning me that her turquoise bikini would be even more alluring on me? Holy jalapeno!

Or is their legally-required disclaimer there to serve notice about the possibility of the other extreme– what? I'm not going to lose weight at warp speed? Why don't they just say, "This won't be you, cupcake?"

Though Valerie's lovely, I don't think rail-thin is a requisite for allure.

One of my favou
rite actresses these days is Ruth Jones, whom I loved when she played Magz in the BBC comedy series "Saxondale". Steve Coogan plays her metal band roadie-turned-pest-exterminator and self-described "bit of a dick" boyfriend Tommy Saxondale. He calls her "my big angel, winched down from heaven."

When I saw her in the first episode, I was heartened: a big, sexy woman not portrayed as the cutup sidekick who can't get dates, but as a funny, strong, quirky and desirable.

Here's a scene from the series; Tommy tries to win Magz back after her fling with a yoga teacher:




"Results not typical" was part of the "safe harbor provision" developed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that allows advertisers to use unusually successful testimonials as long as they are accompanied by this phrase.

In two recent studies, the FTC found that despite the disclaimer, consumers still interpret the testimonials as being representative of what they will achieve. (More info: "Legal Review: FTC Decides 'Results Not Typical' No Longer Good Enough" in Response Magazine.)

The FTC wants to change the law so that advertisers must report, in each ad,
what the average consumer can expect, and has been trying to change the legislation.

Fat chance! The multi-billion dollar diet industry continues to leverage shame and showcase superlosers to sell their programs.

15 comments:

Martin said...

Many fad diets are sold without even using the 'Results not Typical' disclaimer. I apologize in advance for alerting you to the time-suck that is the Kimkins controversy. I linked my name to the blog that tried to bring down a diet scammer and did not entirely succeed despite exposing the fraud

Deja Pseu said...

Most weight loss programs' actual success rates at the five-year mark are dismal (something like 95% of participants regain the weight, often more due to the deleterious metabolic effects of severe caloric restriction). Weight Watchers has argued against having to disclose "actual" results saying they "don't keep records." (Hah!) But most of these programs make a good portion of their money from repeat customers, all of whom swear that "this time will be different."

(And isn't the definition of insanity "doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results?")

Yes, some people are successful and will tell you that if they can do it, you can do it. Chances are, they're wrong.

I wish we were able to see "Saxondale" here. Wonder if it's available through Netflix?

Duchesse said...

Pseu: Netflix has Seasons 1 &2 are available. Very funny! IMO one gets only so many efficient decreases in weight through any program before metabolism slows further, making each successive effort more challenging. Daily reasonable eating is the way to go, for me.

Martin: Good for you for exposing scammers.

lagatta à montréal said...

And of course daily exercise ... by which I don't mean so much "hitting the gym" (and driving there) as the daily-life activities that have been swept away by an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and urbanism; favouring a walkable urban form for one thing.

metscan said...

I have always skipped diet adds; never been on a diet. And yes, eating in a healthy way and doing a reasonable amount of exercise is my way of trying to keep my weight in balance. My exercise is walking around doing stable chores and trying to use the car as little as possible. I do like chocolate, especially during the winter months, but then I skip a meal or two. I know, that this is not a very clever, but I must be forgiving to myself too.

Patricia said...

Have you seen Ruth Jones on 'Gavin and Stacey'? It's a BBC comedy which she co-wrote. She is hilarious in it - you might see some of it on Youtube.

Anonymous said...

Seconding the love for Ruth Jones in Gavin and Stacey, and for Ruth Jones in anything. She was superb as Flora Finching in the recent, lovely BBC production of Little Dorrit.

materfamilias said...

The phrase "Caveat emptor" comes to mind -- although I agree such ads prey on our susceptibility, our vulnerability about our bodies in comparison to cultural standards, nonetheless I think a certain common sense might prevail, no?

Duchesse said...

Patricia: If it's on DVD anywhere I can get it. No- must get it.

Anonymous at 1:09: I loved her in Little Dorrit! Isn't she a treasure.

lagatta: Though I like to walk in the city, I'm grateful to have a gym for days when it's too cold and icy (especially icy) to enjoy walking far.

metscan: I like that my doctor refers to "the medicinal application of chocolate"!

Duchesse said...

Robert Fulford's article in the current Walrus about his weight loss journey? He chose a diet doc who holds men-only meetings. (This fascinates me, I still am unconvinced men and women cannot be in a program together.) Lost 50 lbs. Think portion control was the big learning for him. But it also seems like this MD is a very compelling motivational speaker.

Duchesse said...

materfamilias: Oops, that comment I just posted lost its first line and was for you: "have you read..." I would have run from that ad but he, after years of recrimination, resonated to it.

lagatta à montréal said...

Yes, but when its icy I'm even afraid to go out to a gym or evening fitness class (most recently Tai Chi). I'll only go out if I happen to be working outside the house that day, if not I stay in - try to do some stretches but it isn't really enough.

We narrowly missed an ice storm yesterday, with 10c and pounding rain.

Frugal Scholar said...

Having watched my parents diet for as long as I can remember, I decided long ago that I would just accept my weight creeping up over the years. As far as I can tell, dieting just makes you gain weight.

Thanks for the dvd recommendation!

hollarback said...

Deja Pseu, since you are on the West side of LA, go to laser blazer on Pico (by Westside Pavilllion) and ask there. They have everything.

Saxondale was aired in the US a few years back either on PBS or BBC America, I forget which.

hollarback said...

I prefer Gavin & Stacy myself - recommend highly :)

She's one of the writers of the show as well.