Everyone has things they don’t like about themselves — but multi-million dollar corporations are exploiting young women’s deepest insecurities. 

Lately, I’ve noticed a surge in ads from weight loss companies on social media. Flipping through Instagram stories, I’ve seen countless ads from Noom, MyFitnessPal, and LoseIt. They’re specifically targeted at women in their teens and early 20s; they claim to be perfect for a student's busy schedule.

Every time I see these ads, I feel terrible. I’ve tried each and every one of these programs. 

These apps know how to target us at our weakest: when we’re consuming media that is curated to an image of sheer perfection. In an age where everyone is a master of Facetune and Photoshop, there’s no way to tell what’s real and what isn’t — dieting companies capitalize on this. 

They create ads deliberately aimed at young women. I’ve seen ads for diet programs claiming to be designed with college-aged kids in mind, complete with multi-level marketing campaigns swindling students and their friends into joining their weight loss programs. They encourage you to join for "self-care" or telling you that you're "worth it", using language that's become trendy with our demographic.

The constant exposure to dieting-related media is, without a doubt, especially harmful to young women that are highly impressionable, I know because I’ve been there.

The first time I tried dieting, I was 10 years old. I was a ballerina at the time, and upon realizing I wasn’t as thin as my friends, I would skip lunches at school. Since then, I’ve tried just about every fad diet in the book. From Keto to WeightWatchers — I’ve spent hundreds of dollars trying to be skinny.

But, what these weight loss programs don’t teach you is that skinny doesn’t equal healthy. 

Approximately 25 per cent of college-aged women have engaged in behaviour associated with eating disorders, and 90 per cent have engaged in diet culture. And the dieting industry aims for profit instead of safety.  

I’ve seen this in action. I’ve watched my friends log their calories into apps and avoid meals to keep their counts low. Sometimes, these behaviours escalated to not eating for entire days, or throwing up food to maintain a low calorie count. 

This is not healthy.

If diet companies are going to prey on vulnerable populations, they need to do their due diligence to ensure that their clients are safe. With the rise of online diets, which lack in-person meetings, there is little accountability in place to keep young women safe.

Diet fads are dangerous on their own: they encourage unhealthy and unsafe behaviours among their followers — and they’re even more dangerous when advertised to impressionable university students.

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