Chapter 6: 21st-century media and issues

6.9.1 Fatphobia, marketing, and eating disorders, oh my! (prospectus)

Anonymous English 102 Writer

March 2021

Topic: Does exposure to weight loss advertisements/diet culture have an impact on how young people view and talk about their bodies?

This relates to the idea of literacy through communication both as an internal monologue young women have and on how bodies are talked about online (specifically advertisements).

Research Questions

  1. What literacy practices do advertisements use when talking about weight loss products? How does this make people feel? What is the purpose of the language used?
  2. How early in their life does diet culture affect children? What does this look like? Is it behavior shifts, verbal shifts, or a combination of both? How is diet culture linked to eating disorders? Do we teach children to hate their bodies through the language used in advertisements?
  3. Is there nonverbal communication in advertisements that influence viewers? What would these look like?

Paragraph Breakdown

Paragraph one: Hook, introduction to the topic, and pose the main question. “Does exposure to weight loss advertisements/diet culture have an impact on how young people view and talk about their bodies?”

Paragraph two: Provide extra information, define (or specify) words like: eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are the three main disorders being discussed in the paper), mid-sized, plus sized, and disordered eating (which is different from an eating disorder). From here I will explain the kind advertisements I will be analyzing and provide a smooth transition to the next paragraph by talking about the literacy aspect of weight loss advertisements.

Paragraph three: Pose the first set of research questions. “What literacy practices do advertisements use when talking about weight loss products? How does this make people feel? What is the purpose of the language used?” To answer the first question, I will break down the media elements that evoke some emotional response. Some of these include lighting, color palate, facial expressions of the actors, music in the background, and language used before and after using the product. Literacy encompasses all these modes because communication can happen all these ways. The following two questions will be an analysis of the media elements. Sources will be used to reinforce all the information used.

Paragraph four: Add in a few screen shots of a commercial and then provide the YouTube link to the exact commercial. Break down all the media elements listen in paragraph 2 and explain how eating disorders are cultivated. Define trauma and learned behaviors and how they apply to being constantly exposed to media explaining why their bodies are bad. Cite a few sources that explain why eating disorders happen and how external factors have a hand in this mental illness.

Paragraph five: Pose the next set of questions “How early in their life does diet culture affect children? What does this look like? Is it behavior shifts, verbal shifts, or a combination of both? How is diet culture linked to eating disorders? Do we teach children to hate their bodies through the language used in advertisements?” The multi-part questions will be analyzed and then answered through the sources and in future examples. Some of the future examples will include screen shots from actual weight loss advertisements.

Paragraph six: Collect a series (three or four) of weight loss advertisements and cite them all. Analyze the script used in each of them and then compare the language used. Copy and paste the scripts and highlight the commonly used words or phrases. They do not have to be verbatim, but they need to be very similar. What words are repeated? Why? Are they positive or negative? Does it talk about how good you look and feel or about how unsatisfied you are with your body? After listening to these repeated words, how do I feel? Cite more sources about negative reinforcement, usage of negative language and how it affects us, and about eating disorder language. The next method of analysis I will use is looking specifically at the colors used. I know from previous exposure to these advertisements that the “before” picture or skit, usually where a mid-sized woman is unsuccessful in trying to button her jeans, that is shown in black and white and then the use of bright, vibrant colors when she fits into those same jeans. I can either cite a source about color psychology or dive into my own analysis as to why cinematically it is shown this way.

Paragraph seven: Focus on the outcomes of the advertisements. Do the weight loss companies care if the viewers are psychologically damaged from their commercials? Explain eating disorder statistics and why they matter. I will also review the terminology from the beginning that I defined to give the reader a better idea now that they have read the paper. Talk about societal expectations for women and include stereotypes. The societal expectations will date back as far as the 1990s simply to keep it relevant. The stereotypes can include anything misogynistic, fatphobic, or blatantly sexist as long as it has to do with weight. Go into depth with the stigma associated with being fat and why western culture has this “thin idealism” way of thinking. Relate all this back to the advertisements with the use of sources. This paragraph should broaden the argument into many different things to encapsulate just how ingrained it iswithin our society to deem fat as “unacceptable” and then drive the point home by narrowing it down again into this one specific issue.

Paragraph seven: conclusion, reiterate findings, restate thesis. Killer closing sentence that I have yet to come up with.

I will be including my own experiences in this paper. While it does increase my ethos and pathos (credibility and emotional response), it does not necessarily improve my argument. My own disordered eating habit was due to trauma from a severe injury and a lot of bullying. When I was 13, I broke my neck and almost died. I was an athlete and while even at that time I had an unhealthy relationship with food, because I was working out so much it “didn’t really matter”. I am incredibly lucky to not only be alive but to also not have any paralysis. My injury happened when I was in 7th grade and my bullying was atrocious. Even now, middle school brings back terrible memories. Because of this prolonged trauma of not only almost dying but lots of bullying, I developed a binge eating disorder. I used food as a coping mechanism which created another problem for me. This disordered eating lasted through most of high school. It was not until my senior year when I finally reached out for help and received proper treatment. While it is not directly applicable, while I was struggling, weight loss advertisements were incredibly triggering and detrimental when I was already so unstable. I am still sensitive to weight loss advertisements and comments on my appearance in general, but I am learning to distinguish opinions that are important to me and ones that are not.

I am pleased to say that over quarantine, after my recovery, I decided to reclaim my body and treat it the way I should have been all along. I have lost 30 pounds now and am aiming for another 30 to get back to where I should be had it not been for my disorder. It has been a long, hard journey but I am doing it with the help of a fitness coach and nutritionist so I am being as healthy and safe as I can be. I am also becoming a certified yoga teacher in an effort to live a happier, healthier life. I think my own story will be a nice contribution to the final paper.

Annotated Bibliography

Amos, Clinton, and Nancy Spears. “GENERATING A VISCERAL RESPONSE: The Effects of Visceral Cues in Weight Loss Advertising.” Journal of Advertising, vol. 39, no. 3, 2010, pp. 25–38., Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

This source reviews visceral responses to weight loss advertisements. Visceral is defined as the techniques used to shift the attractiveness of a product or lifestyle. This source reviews the techniques used in diet culture and weight loss advertisements and how that affects the viewers. The three main factors of behavior discussed in this source are impulsivity, attitude changes, and purchase intentions.

Patton, G. C., et al. “Onset of Adolescent Eating Disorders: Population Based Cohort Study over 3 Years.” BMJ: British Medical Journal, vol. 318, no. 7186, 1999, pp. 765–768. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

This source explains how likely adolescents are to develop an eating disorder (specifically anorexia or bulimia) based on how they diet. This three-year study began with students aged 14-15 and monitored their dieting habits. At the beginning of the study, 3.3% of female adolescent subjects already had an eating disorder in some capacity; by the end of the three years, 21.8% of female subjects had developed an eating disorder. Adolescent female subjects that strictly dieted were 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder. In “Onset of Adolescent Eating Disorders”

Thompson, J. Kevin, and Eric Stice. “Thin-Ideal Internalization: Mounting Evidence for a New Risk Factor for Body-Image Disturbance and Eating Pathology.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 10, no. 5, 2001, pp. 181–183. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

This source talks about the correlation of the family, peers, dieting, and weight loss media have with body image and eating behaviors. “Thin-ideal internalization” is defined as how people embrace the social construct that is western beauty standards and how they negatively impact self-worth. This source discusses body dissatisfaction purely based on diet culture and how these feelings contribute to eating disorders and disordered eating.

Boschi, V., et al. “Body Composition, Eating Behavior, Food-Body Concerns and Eating Disorders in Adolescent Girls.” Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, vol. 47, no. 6, 2003, pp. 284–293. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

This source covers the prevalence of eating disorders in adolescent female subjects. 156 young women had their meals, height, weight, and BMI recorded and took a psychological questionnaire to assess their mental state regarding food. This study shows that 12.81 percent of the 156 subjects had an eating disorder of some kind.

Granberg, Ellen M. “‘Now My ‘Old Self’ Is Thin’: Stigma Exits after Weight Loss.” Social Psychology Quarterly, vol. 74, no. 1, 2011, pp. 29–52. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

This source shows a unique perspective on weight loss and how there is an identity shift. This journal discussed the stigma that is associated with the word “fat” and how when removing yourself from that label through weight loss still does not remove the stigma. This source defines stigma and explains the gravity of being pigeonholed into something that society deems as “disgusting”. The source also explains the societal expectations of women’s bodies and how even after losing weight, the stigma remains.


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Understanding Literacy in Our Lives by Anonymous English 102 Writer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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