How Weight Loss programs Can Damage Body Image

By Klaire Olson

Weight loss companies like Flat Tummy Co emotionally appeal to consumers and exploit body image standards. While the current generation is making great improvements turning away from an “ideal” body image and more towards “ body positivity” there continues to be a socially ingrained association with skinniness and beauty. Meaning that a woman must fit a certain mold in order to be considered attractive in the eyes of society.

Take FlatTummyCo for example, a weight loss management lifestyle company that sells appetite suppressant teas and lollipops. This company attempts to relate to its demographic with feminine color schemes and friendly language. The language and posts FlatTummyCo uses on its social media and website use conflicting language that does not accurately portray what the companies motives are.

Image result for flat tummy lollipops

 Terms like “ inclusive” are used on the companies website and Instagram page to “include women of all shapes and sizes”, yet they are promoting a “ Flat Tummy Lifestyle”. Which is clearly contradicting, and creates a question of how inclusive they could really be. Flat Tummy Co also uses encouraging terms like “ You got it babe!” and “ It’s time to Freaking own it!” implying that it is time to own and love your body, even though their products are intended to change the way a body looks. By suppressing appetite and making women skinnier- not necessarily healthier. When looking and superficially auditing a company’s social media page it is important to understand that their #1 goal is to sell a product- not to be your friend. This company cleverly uses language that makes it seem like the company is talking to you as a friend, even though it likely does not have women’s best interests in mind. This company is amplifying body image issues, rather than actually helping women who want to get healthier and lose weight. With products like lollipops that are supposed to replace a meal, any nutritionist would argue that cutting out healthy meals for empty supplements isn’t the best way to go about a healthy lifestyle.

Yet, millions of women are following and buying these products because FlatTummyCo is very good at telling women what they want to hear. The Instagram account @flattummyco has 1.7 million followers and uses an ambassador program style of advertising. They use real women as their ambassador, who try their products and send in pictures of their personal results.

So are real women seeing real results meaning that their product is making them healthier and happier? Or is it disregarding healthy means and just promoting “ flat tummy” body image stereotypes?

https://flattummyco.com/

This Article Has 18 Comments
  1. Em Chan says:

    Oh gosh, even just looking at the packaging makes me SO mad at this company! I completely side with you on the fact they’re just making women skinny, rather than healthy, which is so UN-healthy! I think the worst part is that they use influencers and ambassadors to make themselves seem more #relateable just for the bottom line. I personally considered for a long time in getting these products because one of my favorite YouTubers (at the time) was “using” them and then falling into a really unhealthy state of mind trying to achieve skinniness…
    These “ambassadors” are usually not even using these products in getting skinnier, they actually can afford things like time to work out, trainers, nutritionists and equipment to maintain a sustainable, healthy life and body – which usually happens to be skinny and in the socially acceptable proportions. There is nothing I detest more than deceptive marketing tactics for causes as dangerous as unsustainable, unhealthy and “guaranteed” weight loss.

  2. Molly Kavanaugh says:

    I completely agree that these companies are promoting body image issues on social media. Rather than promoting healthy eating habits, these companies are using influencers to promote weight loss using their supplements, which they also drastically overcharged for. By using people who are well known, like the Kardashians, these companies influence people to buy products that may not even are be beneficial for their health in the long-run.

  3. Miranda Menard says:

    I think this is an important issue- thank you for sharing!

    I have thought similar things when seeing advertisements for the Flat Tummy Tea products. My main concerns, in addition to the fact that the company is trying to promote self love for women but really telling them that they need to change their bodies and have “flat tummies”, is that they have used celebrity partners to sell their products. I see this as an issue, because celebrities have great influence over women, especially young women, and have resources far beyond Flat Tummy products to look the way that they do. These partnerships are setting unrealistic expectations for users. This is bad for women’s body image and the Flat Tummy company.

  4. Ofuma Eze-Echesi says:

    I agree with your stance on the misleading motive of the brand. I think the company’s brand name “Flat Tummy” is their key marketing strategy. Whether its deceiving or not, it serves as a marketing tag line to attract customers/ females interested in losing weight and achieving their body goals, which is, unfortunately legal. However, the company doesn’t force anyone to completely adopt their weightloss/ hunger-suppressing plan. I think a lot of people know, what a healthy diet or lifestyle entails, and some of the Flat Tummy customers may purchase some of their products as an addition to their lifestyle. For example, someone who has a healthy diet and wants a low sugar alternative to a bag of lollipops or Haribos may buy the flat tummy lollipop instead, which may reduce their sugar cravings. The main concern is the quality and authenticity of the ingredients. Would the products perform their proposed functions?

  5. Hannah Miller says:

    Thank you so much for sharing, I think this is such an important topic to bring awareness to! Sometimes I am just shocked to see how companies like this one are promoting self love. It is important to practice self love by giving your body the healthy nutrients it needs and remaining physically active. However, Flat Tummy is promoting self love the wrong way. The brand is using celebrity influencers that are setting unrealistic assumptions for consumers. Products like these are negatively effecting women’s body image and mental health.

  6. Bridget Kraus says:

    This a very important issue that you touched in well. I agree that this company is manipulative and misleading by promoting a “Flat Tummy” as their actual name for their brand. It definitely seems like the company is not trying to help girls find healthy ways to lose weight like eating well and exercising, but are instead encouraging them to lose weight by using influencers and and their ‘flat tummy’ tagline. The company basically tells women that they need to look a certain way to be healthy and look good in their bodies. And their use of celebrity partnering as a marketing strategy also has an impact on women and young girls because people who they look up to are using the product. I think it is an overall negative way to promote weight loss.

  7. Sara Espinosa says:

    I personally hate these type of ads on social media. I feel that we, as seasoned college students in our early 20’s, were kind of late to the game when it came to unhealthy weight loss ads in social media. What scares me is that the younger generation practically grew up seeing them on their smartphones. Seemingly-“fit” influencers are also part of the problem. By not showing the amount of hours spent in the gym and the professional nutrition plan they follow, they lead young girls to believe that all of their “problems” can go away by drinking this tea or taking this pill. It’s honestly sickening and makes me worry about the future of “weight-loss” solutions. What companies like Flat Tummy are doing is preying on insecurity and selling eating disorders.

  8. Mary Edman says:

    I agree that brands like these are causing more bad than good in terms of marketing. What is interesting about this brand specifically and probably many others like it is the use of social media influencers/reality tv stars to push forward their messaging. It is interesting to still live in the world where people imagine how they want to look via celebrities and brands have totally taken advantage of this. I would say a majority of the social media influencers I follow at least once have posted about flat tummy and honestly I have clicked into the page to find out more about it. These types of brands have figured out the market of social media influencers and use it to their advantage.

  9. Molly Garcia says:

    Flat Tummy and other weight loss companies like this are a total scam! Theses companies prey on many women’s insecurities to sell the product. They use influencers like the Kardashians to promote the products to say “if you use this product you’ll look like the Kardashians.” Obviously the Kardashians do not use these weight loss products as they can afford the best personal trainers, nutritionists and plastic surgeons. By using high-profile influencers and tricky wording, companies are able to sell products that do not work and further promote insecurities among women.

  10. Chase Ford says:

    This is spot on. I think the idea of using influencers who either have the “perfect” body type or have the money to have a personal trainer and dietician is a horrid way of marketing. It often feels like lying, saying that tea is capable of helping you lose weight and obtain toned abs and arms. One thing that I have thought about is the effect it has on young girls, as they are constantly berated about how they should look and dress marketing an appetite suppressor through a beauty blogger or fashion blogger, to me, is completely unethical and rather disgusting.

  11. Emma Brennan says:

    I completely agree with you and all those comments above. This company is for sure promoting unhealthy body image idealization. They are wanting to make you skinny not healthy. It makes me so mad seeing so many celebrities and influencers promoting this and other similar companies on my social media. They are only continuing to push the “perfect body” message by promoting this and themselves. It’s honestly sad how many people are trying to influence us and make us want something this tea will never give you.

  12. Monty Miller says:

    I’m really glad that this company has been brought to my attention. I also find it very upsetting to see a company that is apparently more focused on the “flat tummy” element rather than nutrition and a healthy body and mindset. Clearly, a “flat tummy” lollipop leads to a message that is more about suppressing your appetite rather than eating foods that fuel you with the energy you need. It is upsetting to see this company being promoted in a light that seems to be “empowering” and “female boss babe energy” but I believe that actually may not be the case. This company is promoting unhealthy ideas surrounding body positivity and that is apparent through their branding.

  13. Brandon Yee says:

    Hi Klaire, thank you for writing this post on such a controversial topic. As someone who has worked in the fitness industry over the past 6 years, I am well aware of the marketing traps that consumers can fall into. I believe that there are multiple segments to the fitness and supplement industry and unfortunately, some brands are blurring the lines between bodybuilding and health/fitness. It are these types of deceptive marketing campaigns that give reputable brands a bad image and perception in the media. I personally don’t see anything wrong with promoting a brand or product as bodybuilding and body image related as long as they have a clear identity and don’t moonlight as a health and wellness supplement company. Another unfortunate reality is that consumers fail to educate themselves properly on products, brands and what healthy lifestyles really entail. As a bodybuilding competition prep coach, I intimately understand the difference between health, performance and appearance. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer to make educated purchases that reflect what type of goals they have. As a society, we must be better about identifying reputable companies in this industry and giving them our business. This will force companies like “Flat Tummy” into changing their products/branding or they will go out of business.

  14. Olivia Gabriel says:

    Thanks for addressing this! I have always had a problem with brands that market weight loss in a unhealthy way. The media is filled with these images of what the “ideal” body is; skinny is seen as the goal, and brands who use this ambassador form of marketing and advertising are only playing into this harmful image and narrative that the media has formed. These ambassadors for companies such as Flat Tummy didn’t actually get skinny or achieve their body type from these products. Most of these women had the “ideal” body type already that Flat Tummy claims are results from their products. This type of advertising is extremely problematic especially when our culture and society has become so obsessed with reaching this ideal image. It only creates mental health problems and body image issues, especially among young women, who are the most impressionable, but most likely to be consuming this content.

  15. Jaden Watkins says:

    Klaire,

    I completely agree with you that certain weight loss programs go against positive body image. In this digital age especially there is so much competition and unhealthy standards girls feel pressured to live up to. Most “ideal” body types are unachievable and brands promoting these kinds of products just makes it worse. When brands, social media accounts, and celebrities endorse products like appetite suppresants, it is telling women they should not be hungry or eat. Great overall blog post.

  16. Cassidy Stevens says:

    Thanks for this post Klaire! I personally despise companies like this that act on unrealistic beauty standards and insecurities in women for their business. Social media has created a place for people to post edited and posed pictures that don’t represent real life in any way. I think its pretty disgusting to promote appetite suppressing lollipops to lose weight rather than living a healthy lifestyle and eating a well balanced diet. Although companies like this are disheartening it makes me happy to see a lot of other companies and health influencers putting positive helpful content on social media. Overall though I think people should be cautious of where they get their information and definitely ask their doctors with anything to do with their health.

  17. Kyra Flynn says:

    I completely agree! It is concerning that there are companies among Flat Tummy that manipulate consumers with messages that express body positivity when in reality the product itself aims to do the exact opposite. Body positivity is about embracing all body types and should not be used to try and sell a product that encourages people to suppress their appetites to reach the goal of a “flat tummy” and ultimately live up to society’s standards.

  18. Connor Nolan says:

    Great topic Klaire,

    I have a similar disdain for so many food products that promote “inclusivity” when they actually are trying to change the people consuming them. This I believe is such a big issue within the nutrition space, since so many companies are trying to resonate with younger audiences while selling products that completely go against their supposed ‘values’. There’s got to a be a bubble of these types of nutrition/supplementation companies, and there’s bound to be industry fallout when more and more of us realize how damaging these products are to our mental wellbeing.

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