An Ounce of Prevention
New Miracle Diet Targets Belly Fat! Bye Bye Belly Fat! No Exercise Required! These are the kinds of e-mails that have been showing up quite frequently in my inbox since I signed up recently for a nutrition-related newsletter.
I’ve been dieting, reading about dieting and writing about dieting for 25 years. I’ve done everything from the ice-cream diet to Weight Watchers. Tried Dexatrim, which made me eat faster, and Slim-Fast, which made a great shake with lunch (though didn’t work so well in place of it). I took fen-phen even after it was banned, and once, I massaged a baked potato because I read that doing so breaks up and, hence, negates the calories.
Anyway, I know a thing or two or 20,000 about proper nutrition and exercise — even if, admittedly, I’ve yet to tap the power of that elusive sprite Willpower and harness it for my own good. I know there’s no such thing as a miracle diet. Or one that “targets” belly fat. And I know that even though exercise isn’t required to lose weight, it sure does help.
So I was summarily deleting these silly e-mails, which I thought were coming from the producers of some herbal miracle pill that makes your head ache, your skin crawl and, eventually, your heart explode. But I got the shock of my dieting career when I discovered they were coming from Prevention magazine! Prevention freakin’ magazine!
I’ve been reading Prevention since I was in my 20s. With that previously established good will in mind, I researched the Flat Belly Diet. A quick Google search helped me figure out what it’s all about. And really, there’s nothing new here. Despite a couple of twists to keep you interested, in the end it’s really just a calorie-restrictive diet that will help you lose weight if you stick to it. Just like any calorie-restrictive diet will.
The diet itself isn’t a scam — but the marketing around it sure is. The sensational claims and aggressive e-mail campaign play on the public’s deep desire for a quick fix and expose Prevention’s apparent belief that it can slap a new face onto an old idea and simply exclamation-point its malleable readers into buying — and buying into — it. And it probably can. But at what cost? Googling a little more deeply, I found a whole lot of folks who feel that Prevention sullied its good rep by inundating its readers with these clearly over-the-top claims. No, you can’t sell a magazine by proclaiming month after month, “No New News! Eating Right and Exercising Still the Key to Good Health!” But come on. There has to be a happy medium.
As you dig deeper and extend your reach further to find more donor dollars in a worsening economy, be careful about who and what you align your organization with. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t pretend to be new and improved. Don’t play your donors like mindless pawns. In the case of nonprofit organizations, an ounce of Prevention (-like tactics) could well be worth a lifetime of donor trust issues. Why risk it?