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Hey, guys. It's Chelsea, from The Financial Diet. And if you have not already, please hit that Subscribe button to find out about every new video we make and hit that Join button to support TFD because we deserve it, honestly. And today, I am deep diving into a topic that I think is incredibly important to be aware of around this time of year, especially from a financial angle. I did a video last month about the way that celebrities and celebrity culture essentially gaslights us about beauty standards and body image and how they look the way they look at the age they look it. And there is obviously, a lot to unpack there from skincare, to cosmetic procedures, to all different kinds of beauty secrets that mostly just boil down to finances. But when it comes to pervasive and expensive elements of this gaslighting phenomenon that is incredibly prevalent at this time of year, you're going to have a hard time finding anything worse than diet and weight loss culture. Now in our particular era-- which I described in that previous video as being a weird moment where we're nominally body positive, but still functionally very fat phobic-- we've, sort of, rebranded the concept as being healthy, making lifestyle changes, eating clean-- but more on that later. And this is the time of year will you'll see all kinds of commitments and resolutions and products and services and radical changes and programs-- like the deeply restrictive Whole30 regimen-- basically on every one of your social feeds and in all of your casual conversations leading up to January. In fact, I think it's become, sort of, a norm while at a holiday party or a dinner or an event where you're otherwise maybe eating and drinking a little bit more than you would to talk about all of your various plans to detox in January so as to somewhat offset the guilt even in the moment. And especially recovering from a 2020 in which the industry did take a fair amount of hits, the diet and weight loss industries are under huge pressure to profit off of the insecurity and uncertainty that many Americans feel after statistically, on average, they gained a bit of weight during a global pandemic. I'm sorry. I'm allowed to sit on the couch. Jesus.

In 2020, Medifast stock on March 17th plummeted 53% from the start of the year, while Weight Watchers shares plunged 68%. However, by the end of 2020, alternative weight loss program-- that's just, like, still a weight loss-- Noom reported that because of COVID, they added more than 900 coaches over the past three months alone. And those new hires represented more than a third of Noom's 3,000 coaches, which put it on track to double their 2020 revenue to $400 million over the previous year. Because the overall truth is that even with our slight cultural rebranding of weight loss as something a little less overtly about weight, the industry centered around profiting off of your insecurities and changing your body remains incredibly lucrative. The weight loss market size measured by revenue is about $2.7 billion in 2021 and the market size of the weight loss services industry is expected to increase a full 4.2% by the end of the year. And I want to be clear, when I say that on aggregate, as it comes to eating a balanced, nutritionally dense diet and getting a sufficient amount of physical activity, Americans do have a problem.

Now, some of this is about access-- for example, with those living in food deserts or in poverty having a very functionally difficult time even sourcing or preparing healthy foods-- but some of it is also cultural and consumer driven. For example, as much as diet and dubious wellness products are marketed to us for incredible financial profit, so are things like fast food, alcohol, sugar, and lifestyles, which discourage physical activity, like our incredible cultural reliance on cars over walking, biking, or public transportation. That said, though, the diet, weight loss, and exercise industries are largely not trying to sell us any kind of cure for our problem because the vicious cycle in which many Americans find themselves of constantly attempting to lose weight, sometimes succeeding, and then statistically regaining that weight is what is most lucrative in the long-term. Basically, someone who is constantly coming back for the next miracle solution or magic bullet is going to be a lot more profitable than someone who makes a change, feels comfortable and healthy and vibrant in their body, and doesn't have to use those services anymore. And yes, statistically, most people who lose weight will regain it, given a long enough timeline.

I talked recently on Twitter-- and yes, this is me boosting my own tweets because this is literally, my house and I can do whatever the hell I want-- about the American tendency to oscillate between extremes when it comes to our behavior and dietary choices and this is reflected in the data. And no time is that more visible than a time like the holidays when, on aggregate, Americans tend to overeat, over drink, gain weight, and then follow it up in January with heavily restrictive diets like Whole30, total sobriety like in Dry January, or resolutions to do things like exercise more, which is statistically, the number one New Year's resolution, which by early February about 80% of people have given up on. Rather than focusing on small modifications that can make for sustainable lifestyle choices or committing to living in such a healthy and balanced way year round that you don't ever feel as though you have to do a hard reset on any of your behaviors, we have a tendency, as a culture, to binge and purge with nearly everything we do. Now, again, this makes sense in a cultural context of overall poor health indicators being popular and while the language may have slightly changed in 2021 with the body positivity of it all, that does not mean that we have to fall for the same old traps. 
Take, for example, the aforementioned Whole30. Now this is a radical diet very popular during the month of January, during which the practitioner eliminates dairy, meaning no cheese, cow milk, yogurt, cream, sour cream, kefir or butter. The only exception to this rule is that you can have ghee. No grains, meaning no corn, rice, quinoa, wheat, rye millet, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur or sprouted grains. What did the sprouted grains do? Alcohol, meaning no alcohol for cooking or for drinking. I'm sorry, but any diet that doesn't allow me to put a little bit of, like, red wine in a nice sauce, you can't put wine in your tomato sauce? Can you even eat tomatoes? I'm sorry, I'm still reading this. What is this, a war on flavor? OK. No alcohol for cooking or drinking is to be consumed while doing Whole30. This includes vanilla extract. Sorry. Catch me getting drunk off vanilla extract in my kitchen. You can have something like kombucha, however, which does conclude a very minor amount of alcohol, as long as there isn't added sugar outside of fruit juice. Legumes, meaning for 30 days, no beans, no soy, including tofu, soy sauce, miso, or edamame, no chickpeas, no peas, no lentils, no peanuts. My husband's out. That man eats nothing, but friggin' miso and chickpeas and lentils. No added sugar and that means real or artificial during the 30 days, including honey, maple syrup, agave, Splenda, xylitol and Stevia. And that includes all kind of common household ingredients like sriracha, meaning you need to check the label on everything you buy. No carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites. No junk food, meaning that you cannot recreate your favorite junk food recipes even if they use Whole30 compliant ingredients. Yeah. Basically, you just send yourself to prison for a month.

Anyway, there are a lot of risks associated with this diet and it is also incredibly controversial among experts, no matter how much it is touted as a miracle reset come January. As US News put it, the slams against Whole30 came in strong from our experts and was one of the lowest ranked diets in best diets overall, best diets for weight loss, and best diets for healthy eating. One panelist concluded that Whole30 is an extreme plan with no research and likely, quite unsafe. But perhaps the most insidious part of the program and the reason why it is so emblematic of our particularly complicated moment as it pertains to diet culture is the extent to which Whole30 tries to market itself as not a diet and even not really intended for weight loss when, let's be [BLEEP] honest, that's what people are using it for in large numbers. The Whole30 proponents will say you're not even supposed to look at a scale while you're doing this. But when you Google Whole30-- pages and pages and pages of people asking, how much weight do I lose, how much weight do you lose on average, weight loss Whole30-- will tell a different story. And it's reported that adherents lose an average of 10 pounds over the 30-day period, which, survey says, is way more than is a normal rate of healthy weight loss.

Now here's the thing. This is not a shock. Radical elimination diets as a way to very quickly lose weight is about as old as the concept of a diet, itself. Whole30 is basically like when some '600s housewife who's, like, completely gone off of Klonopin or whatever they were on back then is like oh, I can't eat anything for a month except my leek soup. I have to fit in my dress, again. It's that, but for the, like, body positive era. And we continue to engage in diets like this despite enormous amounts of evidence that these radical elimination diets, particularly which are not meant to be sustained over the long-term, have the highest incidence of losing and then regaining as much or more weight than you initially had. It also can have the psychological effect of leading us to further over consume during the period leading up to that diet because we know shit's about to get not very fun in a very short amount of time and you feel like you might as well enjoy being able to eat all that good stuff and drink that eggnog while you can.

But as I mentioned earlier, all of this becomes a lot easier to obfuscate when the goalposts have moved from losing weight to eating clean or eliminating toxins-- two phrases which should be yeeted into the sun. Because when it comes to something being effective for weight loss, that's pretty easy to debunk. When it comes to something being promoted as a way to reset or get rid of toxins or be clean or reset your body, it's really difficult to actually debunk that or even to understand what the goal is. And yet, an obsession with clean eating and eliminating toxins has given rise to entirely new genres of disordered eating, such as orthorexia, in which adherents becomes so obsessed with the idea of only eating in clean ways that they eliminate effectively, most of their solid diet.

And in an era of ostensible body positivity, it's no longer chic to have a cupboard full of SnackWell's cookies, even though they were delicious, which are explicitly there because you're looking to lose weight. It's much better to have a Mason jar full of activated almonds so that you can pretend you're eating them, instead of a meal for lunch in order to be more healthy. And the phenomenon of eating clean becomes all the more pernicious when you realize just how lucrative it has become to sell dubious health treatments, which now often come in the form of predatory business models such as MLMs and range from essential oils, to vague supplements, to the whole world that is CBD-infused-- insert product here.

Essentially, we have taken the idea that health should be democratized and morphed it into a world in which health has become almost totally unregulated and who can lay claim to having a remedy or treatment has expanded so as to be almost completely meaningless. At the end of the day, this time of year is an incredibly profitable one for people seeking to capitalize on discomfort with your own body. And coming out of a global pandemic-- although we should all just be focusing on being grateful to be healthy and alive-- it is understandable that many of us have developed a slightly more complicated relationship with our bodies. But no matter what heading these kind of products or services are coming under-- straight up weight loss or eating clean or resetting-- it's important to remind ourselves that the changes that are ultimately going to lead us to a more happy and sustainable relationship with our bodies are going to be ones that we can do over the course of our lives in a sustainable and enjoyable way.

That means maybe sometimes walking, instead of driving places or swapping out nutritionally void and calorie dense snacks every now and again for things that are a little bit better for the body. The changes are not going to be sexy. They're not going to be uniformly the same for everyone. And most importantly, if they're going to work, they're likely not going to be something you have to radically do and spend a bunch of money on for the month of January and then go back into YOLO mode for the rest of the year. The diet and weight loss industry have hijacked our psychology and our finances for pretty much centuries at this point, but that doesn't mean in an era of widely available information that we have to keep letting them get away with it. As always, guys, thank you for watching and don't forget to hit the Subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for new and awesome videos. Ciao.