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 favourite 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.