March 17, 2023 | OPINION | By Beatrice Roussell
I was sitting at my kitchen table, drinking my cup of overly sweet hazelnut coffee, and eating a bowl of yogurt for breakfast, as I mindlessly scrolled through Instagram. I like to believe that I maintain a healthy relationship with social media, striking a balance between being active but not obsessive. Yet, there is one aspect of social media that I cannot seem to escape: the ads. More specifically, the weight loss ads.
Despite my vigilant reporting of them to Instagram as “misleading” and “inappropriate,” I have not been able to avoid the abundance of programs/products that permeate my feed (pun intended) and can supposedly help make me a “better” and “healthier” me.
Most of the time, I report them and keep scrolling. But, this specific morning, as I was drinking my coffee and eating my yogurt, I stumbled upon an outrageous claim for a product that individuals can add to their drinks to aid in the weight loss process.
“I LOST 80 POUNDS IN 30 DAYS!”
I’m sorry, what? Is that even possible? I wanted to know, so I got out my calculator and did the math. Let me break down what I discovered: 1 lb. is equivalent to 3,500 kcal (calories). To lose 80 lbs., someone must have a deficit of 280,000 kcal in this one-month period. Our basic metabolic rate is only about 2,000 kcal per day (if not lower), so a person would naturally burn about 60,000 calories in those 30 days. That still leaves a 220,000-kcal deficit to account for. Therefore, someone would have to eat NOTHING, and then burn an extra 7,333 kcal per day for this to be possible.
1 lb = 3,500 kcal
(80 lbs)(3,500 kcal/lb) = 280,000 kcal
(30 days)(2,000 kcal/day) = 60,000 kcal
280,000 kcal – 60,000 kcal = 220,000 kcal
(220,000 kcal)/(30 days) = 7,333.333 kcal/day
To say I was appalled would be an understatement. At first, I chuckled. To be an effective ad, it must at least appear plausible. To claim something so unfeasible is simply a poor promotional choice.
But then I became angry.
I was angry that this rate of weight loss was not only being depicted as possible, but that it was being celebrated. I concede that I am not professionally educated in the realm of nutrition, but I know enough to know that this ain’t it.
In situations where weight loss is a recommended course of action, it should be: feasible, consistent, gradual, and following (at least some) scientific logic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says healthy weight loss should be achieved via a “lifestyle with healthy eating patterns, regular physical activity, and stress management.”
Contrary to the idea that weight loss has to be a fast and immediate process, the CDC states that, “people with gradual and steady weight loss (about one to two pounds per week) are more likely to keep the weight off.” Using this data, a healthy approach to weight loss would see results of about five to 10 pounds in 30 days – not 80.
My argument here is not that weight loss is bad. I am also not arguing against the actual products/programs being advertised. My problem here is with our society’s desperate need for instant gratification. What I am scared about is constant exposure to the idea that losing 80 pounds in 30 days is something that can actually happen. If we continue to scroll through social media and not fact check these ads, we will start to take fiction as fact. Our expectations for weight loss products – and products of all variety – will be unattainable.
And when these expectations are not met, when we do not lose 80 pounds in 30 days, who do we blame? Ourselves. We work harder and harder to achieve something that society told us was possible, but science says is not. I acknowledge that this claim of instant gratification is being supported by a single weight loss ad that I saw while drinking coffee and eating yogurt. But still, I urge you to take a closer look at what you would typically scroll past. Look at it, analyze it, and question it.
I urge you, in a world where technology has begun to blur the boundaries of fact and fiction to be skeptical.