Analysis of Diet Culture Ads

cooked food with meats and vegetables inside white bowl
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

In the society that we currently live in, many businesses are pushing towards the idea of an idealized figure, most oftentimes referred to as an hourglass shape. We can see this present in many types of social media, whether being skinny lollipops on Instagram, or a video on methods to lose weight fast shown on Tik Tok. These can spread messages that not only harm the physical health of growing teenagers but also harm their mental health. As a result, I have decided to create an analysis of how ads may convey their messages.



clear glass with red sand grainer
Photo by Pixabay on

In fact, by referring to the ideal figure as an hourglass, subjects are immediately dehumanized and objectified. While the term “hourglass” implies having a narrow centre, it is literally impossible for an individual to have a waist as thin as an hourglass. By idolizing a figure that is impossible to have, many can develop disordered eating behaviours to reach this goal, only to realise the futiliy of their efforts.  The University College London and the London College of Fashion published a study found that only 8 per cent of women tend to have an ‘hourglass shape’.

1. Sculpt – Looking Sexy


Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 5.20.37 PM
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By using an oppressing tone and active verbs in the copy when describing “flatten, block, suppress”, the advertisement forces a sense of inferiority or loss of identity from the viewer, both the connotations of compress and neglect demonstrate the idea of aspiring to be an ideal figure.


When the advertisement explains “melt belly fat faster”, the use of Visual imagery allows us to understand the pressure put towards shaping a slim physique magically. In particular, the word melt connotes the idea of disappearing, forcing a sense of effortlessness, which serves to reveal the importance of shaping a slim physique magically. 

Furthermore, the foreground is rich in saturated colours creating a joyful mood in contrast to the skin colour of the female in the background, making it clear that the female would desire to be connected to it and enjoy more positive emotions. 

This is unfortunate as it worships thinness and employs symbolism to equate it to ‘healthy’, it can negatively impact people as the messages that are alluding to saying: thin = healthy, therefore you could spend your entire life undervaluing your body.

  • This emphasizes the belief that we can earn our worth through losing weight and wellness in the pursuit of looking a certain way, ignoring the reality of body diversity and perpetuates widespread phobia.


  • The copy uses oppressing words
  • Active verbs
  • Visual imagery 
  • Presents female body – Targeted towards females

3. Good/Bad – Moralizing Food

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The concept of moralizing food is highlighted in the phrase “Good fats”, where the personification invites a sense of superiority; the term good implies that there is a dichotomy created, therefore implying that this type of fat is superior to another. 

As long as there are two types of food, some would contend, one of them will always tend to dominate over the other. That’s just the inevitable outcome of creating a dichotomy between two things.

The words ‘clean eating’ implies a hierarchy and purity, an unsaid insinuation that those who partake in any other form of eating are the opposite – dirty, bringing a sub-culture of shaming. In fact, food is not intrinsically ‘good’ or ‘bad’, therefore it does not have any inherent morality, and it is pointless to moralize food. 

To elicit a sense of attaining a higher status, the advertisement incorporates diction when arguing “Healthy Diet”. By doing so, the idea of moralizing food is strengthened as the word Healthy connotes in good physical condition, while the word Diet connotes restriction, demonstrating the means of attaining a higher status. 

  • Also, the word “best” connotes supreme while the word “experts” connotes authority, these illustrate the idea of only providing the highest quality advice by using Appeal to Authority. When “Advice from the best experts” is said, the audience can fully understand the claim that what they say must be true. Ultimately, this further illuminates the idea that there are foods that are superior to others. 

On one hand, they may use negative connotations to discourage people to buy certain foods and demonize foods. Consequently, we are conditioned to be hyper-vigilant about the way we eat, associating guilt towards ‘unhealthy food’. This not only oppresses the power of individual needs, but it also oppresses the people who don’t match up with the ‘ideal figure’, which leaves them to think that they are irreversibly unfit.


  • Good/bad – dichotomy 
  • Healthy
  • Adjectives that give a positive connotation, magnified
  • Imperative
  • Hyperbole
  • Background – Image of food, implying that this is a model food
  • Appeal to authority

3. Detox – We Are Poisonous

Detox tea
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When the advertisement shows the measuring tape being wrapped around the lady’s waist several times, the use of symbolism allows us to understand the idea that we are toxic, the way we are now, showing that we will also be able to wrap around the measuring tape around us if we take this product. In particular, the measuring tape denotes the comparison between the audience and the lady, which elicits a sense of eternal scrutiny upon the viewers. 

  • By using Pseudoscientific language when describing “It was made to purify the body from toxins and free radicals,” the advertisement employs scientific-sounding terms that aim to persuade, and fool the audience into believing that their product holds a scientific status. Both the terms Purify and toxins connote the idea of cleansing poison, which demonstrates the insinuation that we are poisonous and therefore need to ‘detox’.

The concept of the audience being toxic is argued for in “detox, toxin buildup, free radicals”, where the lexical field of the word toxin brings attention to any food’s place on a continuum of purity, eating only the things that meet the strictest standards of unprocessed freshness. The terms “toxin buildup” have the connotations of increasing harmful substances, while the term “detox” implies decontamination, ultimately proving that there are lethal substances in our bodies. 

Furthermore, to invite a sense of shame and guilt, the advertisement incorporates the use of numbers when describing “14 day” or symbolizing the measuring tape. By doing so, the idea that numbers indicate health, or that toxicity is measured through numbers is strengthened as both “14 day” and the measuring tape imply that in 14 days, you can drastically detoxify your body, this insinuates the idea that toxin buildup is quantifiable, or that weight and numbers are a measure of health.

By personifying certain foods, labeling them as ‘toxic’, granting food the ability to possess the power to ‘harm’ our bodies, we have to realise that we are crediting food power by emphasizing the harm done to us, engaging fear in the audience. As well as this, we are entitling ‘diets’ to ‘solve’ all of our problems when in reality it isn’t true. 

By using the terms “it was made to detoxify”, it implies that if you took this, your body would instantly be purified.


  • Waistband – Symbolism – I can wrap it several times
  • Pseudoscientific Language
  • Numbers – A reminder that it really – about ideals / Subliminal message
  • Lexical field

The diet culture can lead to victim-blaming or food shaming, while also increasing health inequities and fostering internalized oppression. People will try to rationalize disordered eating, normalising it, they celebrate the numbers lost on a scale, even if it’s unreasonable. They cultivate a fear of being fat in the society, which in turn endangers people into obsessing about body image, ultimately leading to a never-ending cycle of shame or guilt in an attempt to feel differently about ourselves, providing that false sense of security. However, as much as we try to rationalize many feelings of hunger, it is virtually impossible to measure health.

Thank you for listening, hopefully, you have learned more skills to detect what is really helpful to you and your personal goals.


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