We’re all familiar with celebrities endorsing diets. Some seem more genuine that others. Certain actors use their role as spokesperson to increase their exposure or energize a lagging career. Others, Jennifer Hudson comes to mind in this group, appear genuinely committed to making changes and invested in the process. As a nutritionist I’d like to think I can sniff out sincere dedication but the more I think about it, I’m not sure the public responds to motivated spokespeople as much as they do to results and physiques they find aspirational. No matter how fantastic a celebrity transformation-buyer beware. You must closely scrutinize the means to the (smaller) end. Look closely at the plan and not just the “packaging”.  Last week, The New York Times examined celebrity spokespeople for various diets in “When Dieting Becomes a Role to Play.”
Until reading this piece, I hadn’t thought of the tricky nature of celebrity endorsements for weight loss companies. While most companies want to link up with a celebrity for the potential revenue and image boost what happens when things backfire? Suddenly, things don’t look so good when, ala Carnie or Kirstie, the weight comes back as quickly as it was lost. Celebrity weight gain has the potential to discourage legions of dieters. Countless clients have watched Oprah over the years and her struggle worries them. They will come to me and say “if Oprah can’t do it, how can I?” While disheartening, I’m not sure people cancel their Weight Watcher’s memberships when the Duchess expands. After all, before you know it there’s a new smiling celebrity and the rounder representative is rapidly removed from all promotional materials as quickly as you can say (or eat) cheese.
As for the celebrity, the financial incentive exists for them too. They are paid nicely for their work. As the spokesperson, the celebrity undoubtedly will receive supplementary support and what better accountability could you have than a whole country watching? While I would have zero interest airing my dirty laundry (or larger laundry) in this manner, these are celebrities and accustom to being in the public eye. I can understand the reasoning, people are already noticing and commenting on your weight why not show them you’re doing something about it? This point of view makes sense until things start to unravel. With some of these plans, especially those based on meal delivery, they seem undeniably temporary. After all, at a certain point you would think people need to make choices and figure the food thing out which includes food shopping and preparation.
I would love to see one of these companies run a campaign in support of the “off the wagon” celebrity. I think it would be refreshing (and financially beneficial) to hear “this person has been struggling and this is what we do when this happens.” Instead of hearing that companies dumped the celebrities or failed to renew their contracts. That would be enlightening and real but then again that’s not what the weight loss industry is about. Silly them.
Have you ever been tempted by a plan based on the spokesperson? Or discouraged when a celebrity gains weight? Any celebrity transformation you’ve been impressed by? My vote goes to Valerie Bertinelli, did you know she also ran the Boston Marathon last year? Do you think this spokesperson business is more risky for the company or the celebrity?


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