Chewing the Fat

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-By Kristy Attard

Hands up – who made a sincere New Year’s resolution to lose weight? And who followed through… anyone? These days, it seems like just about everyone wants to lose weight, get in shape and beat the bulge for good. The market is swamped with miracle products promising to get people back into their too-tight jeans. Consumers will try just about anything to slim down, from going on reality TV to ingesting tapeworms. There are thousands of diets to chew through, from Atkins to Zen. Hollywood celebrities are always serving up the next round of exercise trends to work up a sweat. It’s all a bit of a belly laugh and for those who have had a gutful with the weight loss phenomenon, read on.

Business Heavyweights

With over 1 billion overweight adults globally, the weight loss industry is big business. It is right at home in America, the fattest country in the world. Australia is the second fattest nation with rising rates of childhood obesity alarming the medical profession. It is bizarre that in a world where we have enough food to feed everyone eight times over, people still starve and die everyday from lack of nutrition. On one side of the fence there are obesity epidemics and on the other, skin and bones. We flick on the television and watch a Jenny Craig ad followed by a KFC commercial and a World Vision plea for urgently needed sponsors.

The weight loss industry is no stranger to reality television. There has been a string of weight loss shows like ‘Excess Baggage’ and ‘The Biggest Loser’ with tears and tantrums aplenty. Viewers’ reactions to these programs range from downright disgust (“yuck, look how fat she is!”) to heartfelt compassion (“it must be really hard living like that!”). Viewers pick their favourite contestant to cheer on and on the flip side, what would reality TV be without the person you love to hate? There are tearful stories of abusive childhoods, being bullied in school and family problems. The formula works and gets great ratings. For most contestants, going on one of these reality shows is not about grabbing 15 minutes of fame – it is a last resort. The question is, what happens to the contestants when the show is over? Do they regain the weight or manage to keep it off?

There is always some new way to lose weight that filters down from celebrities to everyday consumers. Hollywood has a huge impact on what weight loss method becomes trendy next. Over the last few years, consumers have been signing up for pole dancing, yoga and Pilates classes, among others, to lose weight just like the celebrities do (or claim to). People flicking through a glossy magazine can have a read about what their favourite star eats and does to look so good. Or they can stare at cellulite shots, suspiciously rounded bellies (is she pregnant or just eating again?) and sneaky photos of celebrities “chowing down” takeaway to stop those eating disorder rumours. Is it all a bit crazy? Yes. Does it sell magazines and add fuel to the Hollywood fame machine? Absolutely.

It’s A Miracle

In the pursuit of the perfect size six – or size zero – figure, people are willing to give anything a go, the crazier the better. There is a smorgasbord of unusual ways people will try to lose weight. A quick search on the Internet will reveal thousands of too-good-to-be-true products promising to “melt off the fat instantly.” There are literally thousands of diets out there to eat your way through, from common sense eating plans to ridiculous crash diets. Crash diets are extremely restrictive and unrealistic (eating nothing but cabbage, cotton wool balls or grapefruit, please) and often do more harm than good. And speaking of harmful, have you heard of the tapeworm diet?

The tapeworm diet has been banned in America, but that has not stopped some people giving it a go. It’s hard to swallow, but this is how desperate people can get in their quest for weight loss. Followers begin by ingesting a tapeworm cyst in a clinic somewhere in Mexico. Once hatched, the parasite then lives inside the individual, causing weight loss as it consumes some of the food that he or she does. When the individual has reached their goal weight, they kill their long, creepy friend living and feasting inside their intestinal tract with a dose of antibiotics. The tapeworm diet, besides being disgusting, is extremely dangerous and may be lethal. Side effects include cramping, dementia, diarrhoea, lethargy and seizures. Lovely, isn’t it?

If you are not into crash dieting with creepy crawlies that can kill you, there are always home shopping networks. Tune into any morning chat show and it’s not long before the “fat ads” – to put it bluntly – start. It typically begins with two stylish slim people chatting about how hard it is to lose weight before they cram some new diet, appetite suppressant or exercise contraption down viewers’ throats. If they are promoting an exercise machine, then footage of incredibly fit models working out on the equipment is a given. It’s fat blasting, butt tightening and designed to strengthen your inner core, “giving you the body you’ve always dreamed of.” Cue amazing before and after shots, a few real life testimonials and today’s special two for one offer with bonus workout DVD included. Consumers have seen it all before from miracle cooking gadgets to figure firming undergarments promising suck it all in. Think of the Zumba commercials promising sweaty scores of followers fun and fitness combined? These infomercials sound so cheesy and too good to be true. Although the truth is, many of us have just such a gizmo or two quietly gathering dust in the garage.

Fries with That

The weight loss phenomenon has taken a few bites out of the fast food industry. Many takeaway foods are now grilled or oven-baked. Some claim to be low in fat, boasting freshly chopped greens, light sauces and wholemeal bread. Subway appeals to consumers who are looking for a roll on the run. They may not have the time to slice, chop, grate and wrap up a roll at home, so they pop in and out of Subway with a bottle of water and serviette to go. Who can forget Jared, “the Subway guy” who lost a stack of weight eating a Subway sandwich each day? Subway has built a healthy brand image for itself, and has proven to be convenient and very popular with today’s weight-conscious consumer.

Other major players in the fast food industry like McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza have likewise responded to the consumer on a diet with a range of healthier choices on offer. It alleviates the aftertaste of guilt associated with eating takeaway food. When you think of McDonald’s, what springs to mind? Burgers, fries, milkshakes, chicken nuggets… how about apple slices, salads and bottles of water? Hmmm, it’s food for thought. The lighter choices appeal to Mums and Dads who are watching their weight but still want to treat their kids to Maccas.

If you have a closer look at the menu at your local Domino’s store, you will see the company’s ‘Good Choice Range’. Healthier gourmet style pizzas are now available alongside the classics like the Hawaiian. Consumers can have their pizza, and eat it too; everyone’s happy. Or are they?

Over the past few years, there have been a number of lawsuits against major takeaway chains, with individuals suing for weight gain as a result of consuming their food products. It sparks an interesting debate. Are the fast food outlets largely to blame for the obesity epidemic? Should consumers themselves take more responsibility for the food choices they make?

There has been a peculiar trend among today’s teenagers regarding fast food. A number of teenagers, particularly girls, will eat sushi in a food court over the usual greasy offerings of the fast food giants. In the past, most teenage girls would likely choose a burger and fizzy drink or a box of fried chicken over sushi in a flash. Nowadays, some girls perceive eating lighter fare like sushi to be stylish. They don’t want to be seen eating potentially fattening junk food in front of their friends. Instead, they nibble delicately at sushi, maybe dipping it into some soy sauce and wasabi. Have they checked the sodium count of sushi? Probably not, or they just might go back to eating the burgers.

Unbelievably, the same behaviour is being observed in children. Some people applaud it, believing their child or teen is open-minded and mature. Others roll their eyes, muttering “spoilt brats” under their breath. Whichever way you look at the situation, in Australia at least, sushi has enjoyed a rise in popularity and sushi bars are being dotted throughout more and more food courts.

With modern day life growing increasingly busy and obesity levels escalating, the weight loss industry will continue expanding. Our society has an insatiable addiction for everything weight loss. We crave the next quick fix, miracle pill and exercise gizmo as we do chocolate. Who knows what we are going to see next on the weight loss market? Whatever it is, let us hope it works for real – with no reality TV meltdowns, tapeworms or lawsuits included.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:28 AM AEDT