By Dave Sewell
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Diet vultures get rich by making us hate our bodies

This article is over 8 years, 9 months old
Issue 2366

Anyone who’s stared at the bathroom scales in frustration knows how it feels to be manipulated.

In a new four part series Men who made us thin, Jacques Peretti exposes the manipulators cashing in on a weight loss boom.

It’s an industry that’s been growing ever since Louis Dublin of insurance firm Metropolitan Life redefined half the US population as overweight in the 1950s. He created a huge new market for driving people to hate their bodies. 

Future episodes will take on exercise and drug firms, but the first focuses on diet tycoons.

Science has never been kind to their claims, as dieters often end up heavier than before once they stop dieting. 

But therein lies the secret of diets, as former Weightwatchers boss Richard Samber admits. 

Only 16 percent of his customers “succeed”, so “the other 84 percent have to come back and do it again. That’s where your business comes from.” 

This doesn’t stop the NHS paying to send people to Weightwatchers classes.

Meanwhile Venice Fulton has created the Six weeks to OMG diet which relies on cold baths and coffee.

He promises you can be “skinnier than all your friends” if you hide your scales from your parents. Peretti confronts him over claims that he is targeting teenage girls, something Fulton denies.

The richest is Daniel Abraham, who invented the SlimFast shake to fill the gap left when an earlier shake was linked to deaths. It’s mainly sugar.

Unrepentant, he insists his frustrated customers have only themselves to blame.

Dieting is addictive because micromanaging calories and kilograms offers people the exhilarating illusion of control in their lives.

But the only control is in the hands of rich bosses who want us to be anything but healthy.

Men who made us thin. Thursdays, 9pm, BBC2.

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