The Changing Language of Weight Loss

The language used in media, advertisements, education, and entertainment ultimately shape our own self-image to a large degree—or, at least, it affects which words and phrases we use to think about ourselves. 

And, in recent years, language around body image has become highly politicized. And, of course, body image has become a major concern for apparel brands. 

“A brilliant business decision,” is how Business Insider described Nike’s decision to introduce plus-size mannequins to its London store. This decision saw searches for “plus size” and “Nike” almost quadrupled. Sales of the tights worn by the mannequins have doubled. 

Just over a year ago, Pinterest banned “all ads with weight loss language,” which it said was an extension of its long-time prohibition of “body shaming [images] and dangerous weight loss products or claims.” 

Now Pinterest is saying that its latest analysis of pinner behavior reveals “that global searches containing the search term ‘weight loss’ have decreased by 20% in May 2022 compared to July 2021.” In other words—unsurprisingly—since weight loss-related searches have declined, unsurprisingly, since Pinterest banned weight-loss ads. 

“Weight loss” has always been an inaccurate and largely euphemistic term. People don’t go on diets to lose weight; they do it to specifically decrease body fat. And, when people start working out, and see themselves getting slimmer, they are often confused why the weight isn’t going down as much as they think it should be. The answer is simple: It’s because, in regards to “weight,” the muscle gain is more than making up for fat loss.

Notably, weight loss diets have sometimes required eating pre-packaged food that is “fat free” though filled with preservatives and—worse—cunningly disguised sugars (which actually promote fat gain).

The collective consciousness is shifting from “weight loss” to getting “healthy” (which, of course, often results in fat loss). Hence, Pinterest also notes that “Searches for ‘quick and healthy meals’ were 65X greater and ‘healthy food motivation’ increased by 13X during mid-April to mid-May 2022 compared to the year prior.”

The age-old concern isn’t going away. Instead, like the language we to think about it, the approach to “weight loss” is becoming more holistic. 

Results may vary from person to person.