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So, advertising is not just bad because it lures us into eating unhealthy diets, the diets to lose some of the weight we gain are just as bad. Why? Because they teach fast weight loss -- lose 10 pounds in two weeks. Is that possible? Yes, but it's usually "water" weight -- that weight that is most quickly put back on when we go back to a normal diet. But just as the ads and promos don't tell us about all the calories in those RTE cereals and fast foods, when they push the fad diets, they don't mention that "water" weight problem.
And, sure enough, that's why people on fad diets eventually get frustrated. They lose ten pounds in a couple or three weeks, go back to their regular diet, and gain it right back. Eventually, the frustration level reaches a point that they give up and go have a couple big Macs and a super-size bag of fries -- and a chocolate shake -- the junk food they saw on TV last night.
And where do we learn about all these fad diets and become so tempted to try one. Well, Valerie Bertinelli displaying her 50-pound weight loss in a bikini on TV, of course. Gosh, I
wonder why they use sexy Valerie instead of Ed down the street who just lost 100 pounds but no TV cameras came to his house? Of course it's intentional. Like all advertising, they are working on our emotions, and not our common sense.
There is no doubt that advertising, TV, and promotions greatly impact our diet choices -- mostly negatively. But part of all this is our own self-control. With young children, we really don't expect them to control their desires so they won't eat sugar-coated cereal. That's Mom's job. And, that's what the advertisers are planning on too. Why are their billions of dollars aimed at kids? They know the child is going to see what he wants and drive Mom nuts until she gives it to him.
With adults, however, there is a mechanism at work here that is known as "vicarious goal fulfillment." People who excel at self-control are very good at remaining mindful of a diet objective and keeping it in focus. When that goal is, say, finishing a term paper, they outperform other people at ignoring distracting options like going to a movie. When that goal is eating well, they're better at resisting distractions like ice cream and pizza. But when a healthy choice is actually made available, the goal may feel fulfilled even when it hasn't been. Once they have that illusion that they've satisfied their healthy-eating goal, they give themselves permission to indulge (Kluger, 2009).
And therein lies the American's downfall with diets. We justify things to ourselves. We see that advertisement or TV ad that looks mouth-watering and we tell ourselves that if we don't have the fries with the triple hamburger deluxe, we're saving ALL those calories, etc.
And now that you've saved those calories, why not use them up on that ice cream sundae?
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