Shame Sells… But Who’s Buying?

In the advertising and marketing worlds, it’s true that sex sells, but so does shame.

Shame Sells But Who's Buying |

(If you get the band reference in the title, one billion bonus points to you.)

Its effects are no less insidious than the massive culture that objectifies women to sell everything from diet supplements to fitness equipment. “Here’s some giant knockers, now buy this protein powder.”

This week, someone brought to my attention an article about ten reasons to add bone broth to your diet by a doctor with a bone broth diet book. (Imagine that.) Seemed harmless enough, but when I clicked the link, I was wrong.

First, let me say I’ve got nothing against bone broth! I love it, and I make a few batches a week to sip on or to use in cooking. Yes, it has nutritional value. Yes, it’s a traditional food. But let’s be honest, some of the claims people make about bone broth are grossly overstated:

  • Erases wrinkles
  • Makes your gut glow
  • Makes stress disappear
  • Zaps cellulite
  • Melts fat

You get the idea.

Though the exaggeration of the benefits is bad enough, what I read next as my eyes skipped down the post stuck out like a sore thumb:

“8. Bone broth can fight cellulite.

Because the collagen in bone broth strengthens your skin’s connective tissue, it doesn’t just erase wrinkles – it helps smooth out that unsightly “cottage cheese” cellulite on your thighs. (Hello, swimsuit!)

(Note: The article was quietly edited earlier this week after several people spoke out about it.)

There’s virtually no evidence to support that claim.

Other nuggets include a comparison to bone broth as, “Spanx for your face,” – there’s a visual for you – and the prescription of a twice-weekly fast of nothing but broth so you can “lose weight rapidly.”

I’ve sincerely held out hope that the holistic health and wellness communities would take the higher road and shun shame-based marketing, but the people looking to capitalize on your purchasing power are circling like sharks around chum.

Mainstream advertisers have realized this market is insanely profitable, so they’re shoving their traditional messages into pretty packages full of bone broth, “natural” supplements, and gluten-free this-and-that.

The average person is already bombarded by dozens, if not hundreds, of advertisements daily from mainstream diet and fitness companies that relish the opportunity to tell you how fat, wrinkled, grey-haired, ugly, and inadequate you are. And now, it’s coming at you from the holistic angle, too.

As if the false promises and marketing hoopla weren’t bad enough, there are two bigger issues looming here.

  • Health still being reduced to what you look like and,
  • Shaming people into buying whatever it is you’re selling.

Logically speaking, you know that the complete picture of your health goes beyond skin deep. It goes further than your weight, further than your body fat percentage, and further than your bumpy, wrinkly, saggy bits.

Yet it’s still so common to hear how clients improved their diet, started exercising, and sleeping better which leads to feeling like a million bucks, but if the scale doesn’t budge as much as they wanted, the whole effort is deemed futile.

Your health is so much more than your weight on the scale. Click To Tweet

Marketers can’t wait to sell you on quick weight loss but time and time again, experience shows that shedding weight quickly and keeping it off are usually at odds with each other.

And now we come to shame-based marketing.

Cellulite. It makes me so angry to have to even go here.

It’s normal to have “unsightly cottage cheese” cellulite. Yep, normal. Even really f*cking fit people – yes, elite athletes – have it.

Here’s a photo of Elizabeth Akinwale, CrossFit Games competitor, and her cellulite. (Read her post here.)


The horror.

I wrote about my own cellulite a few months ago.

There’s nothing wrong with cellulite. In fact, 90% of women – yes, you read that right…NINTEY – have some cellulite.

The only reason we think it's ugly and unsightly is because people with something to sell tell us it's bad. Click To Tweet

News flash: You can wear a swimsuit even if you have cellulite. And if you’re convinced that cellulite makes you bad or ugly, there are deeper issues that you may need help addressing.

Trying to change from a place of self-loathing, hatred, and shame doesn’t work for a lot of people. Even if it does jump start you into acting, it’s unlikely to address the underlying reasons you feel that way in the first place.

Will marketers ever stop with this nonsense of pointing out your flaws, telling you you’re bad, and then offering you a “solution?” Unlikely, as long as there’s money to be made and someone with an open wallet nearby.

How do you avoid it?

Get attuned to shame-based marketing. Yes, it’s even present in alternative holistic health circles that exist outside the mainstream.

Vote with your dollars by supporting companies that refrain from these tactics.

Change the conversation, starting with the language you use to think and speak about yourself. Are you constantly focusing on  your “flaws” and imperfections instead of what makes you incredible and unique beyond skin deep?

(Looking for more strategies? Check out my post here.)

So the next time a marketer ponies up, points out your flaws and (subliminally) asks, “Are you buying,” you can say, “Not today.”

Pin this for later!

Shame Sells But Who's Buying |

Questions or comments? Does shame sell? Write your thoughts below!