Jameela Jamil: Celebrities Who Flog Diet Products Don't Care About Their Fans | Opinion

The holiday season is upon us. Food gets increasingly greasier and saltier, there is a reason to eat cake almost every day, and winter layers give us the cover and comfort to just take a break from thinking about our bodies for a minute. Well, they would, if the diet industry and almost all women’s publications didn’t take this prime opportunity to double down on the guilt parade of women daring to eat “unhealthy,” “dirty” food.

It’s obscene how blatant the rhetoric is. By winter we have only just escaped the six month onslaught of “Are you beach body ready?” God forbid we could just focus on something else for a minute and enjoy ourselves during this festive time with friends and family. Every public holiday is treated like a Last Supper for women. You best have enjoyed that meal hun, because it’s the last one you will eat until you finally meet society’s narrow standards of beauty, then maybe you’ll be deemed an acceptable human being, you worthless, greedy little pig.

At least in the days before social media, it was just some stranger being used in a pathetic and patronizing diet ad, easy to spot and vaguely possible to avoid. Now? The wolf has found its way into the sheep's clothing—celebrities and online “influencers” who have absolutely no integrity, nor any care for their young impressionable fans whatsoever.

These adverts are so manipulative and devoid of any sense of responsibility. Your favorite celebrity stands in front of the camera sucking in her stomach, standing next to (not drinking, they are never drinking) the product, in an artistically lit, heavily made up, sexy shot, boldly claiming, but in such a relatable way, that they too struggle with their weight, and their new, incredibly slim, toned bodies are in no small part owed to the power of the powdered drink they are flogging. There is absolutely no mention at all of their personal chefs, dieticians, personal trainers, cosmetic surgeons, laser specialists, and in many cases… Photoshop savvy staff… (cue the sound of me banging my head against the table…).

The product always has a fun, breezy name that has the word “slim,” or “fit,” or sometimes “model” in it. Weirdly they never have the words, “laxative,” “diarrhea” or “burning anus” in the title, even though that’s often the main effect of said slimming detox drink. That’s right reader, if you didn’t know, now you do—most of these nonsense products that prey on insecure and vulnerable women, are selling glorified, sexy laxatives. A new and exciting way to introduce their customers to an irregular bowel, increased bloating for days after, and potentially a joyous new way to indulge in disordered eating with a splash of bulimic tendency. Not to mention all of the absolute horror stories we read about online from people who have actually taken the products, unlike the posing celebrities and influencers who merely pose with theirs like a new must have purse.

GettyImages-481571240 (1) I was one of those naive teenagers who starved herself for years and spent all her pocket money on celebrity endorsed nonsense “diet-tox” products. iStock

I can’t bear it. I can’t. I loathe the irresponsibility of cashing in on the routine abuse of women’s ever diminishing self-esteem, and to join in on the constant patriarchal bullying that we subject women to regarding their looks, all while pretending to be a friend. To peddle products that are non FDA approved and so un-medically sound that they are literally SWORN off by despairing healthcare professionals, is truly the saddest state of affairs. Who needs the money that badly? How little do the lives of their young fans mean to them, that they could flog laxatives at their unsuspecting followers?

Twenty years ago, we could perhaps excuse models and actresses for their depressing quotes on diet and the importance of being thin, because everybody was ignorant, we had no social media or mainstream conversations about body positivity, mental health, and self-harm back then. Nowadays however, there is far too much information available in our everyday news-sphere to plead any innocence. Now it’s a choice to take the inner pain and body issues that you were probably dealt by irresponsible media outlets and celebrities when you were younger, and churn that pain back out to infect others with it—for profit.

I was one of those naive teenagers who starved herself for years and spent all her pocket money on celebrity endorsed nonsense “diet-tox” products, foolishly thinking they would make me as slim and beautiful as the women I so admired. The women society told me I had to look like or else I was worth nothing. I was left with lifelong complications with my digestive system and my metabolism, and the knowledge that I wasted so much of my time, money and youth on these lies.

I am damned if I am now going to stand here in the middle of this industry and watch other women do to others what was once done to me. We have to do better for the next generation of girls. Teenage eating disorders, self-harm and cosmetic surgery are at an all-time high. Celebrity, thanks to the power of the internet, has more influence and reach than ever before, and it has to be used more responsibly than this. We have to be better allies.

Jameela Jamil is an actress, writer and television host. She launched a movement and social media platform @i_Weigh in 2018, which encourages women to feel valuable and look beyond the flesh on their bones.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​​​​

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