Discourse analysis provides a useful approach to analyzing various issues. In the current paper, weight loss pills and meal replacement shakes form the focus of analysis. The analysis of the topic is based on text and language examination that is employed in success stories pertaining to the use of the products. From the onset, it is clear that it is society that constructs what is acceptable and what is labeled as unacceptable. For instance, among the female population, staying slim or slender is preferred to being fat or overweight. The paper shows evidence that slim persons are perceived to be successful and doing well not without reason. As a result, women aspire to be slim since it has been made the norm. Designing success stories is also intended to promote the use of the weight loss products. Based on the paper, it is concluded that the design of the products focuses on graphical illustration of the effects of the materials on an individual leading to the creation of a positive image among potential users.
Key words: discourse analysis, weight loss pills, a meal replacement shake, slim, design of success stories.
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Weight Loss Pills and Meal Replacement Shakes
Society is obsessed with the perspective that success in life, beauty, and romance is linked to slimness and skinny figures. Thus, weight loss products have gained acceptance among people who seek to project a successful appearance (Sanli, 2011). For this reason, it is not surprising that products such as “Quick Trim” or “Smoothie King” are popular among women. Kaur, Arumugam, and Norimah (2013) observed that despite variations in names of products, they all posit one goal – to alter and configure the female shape to what the society perceives acceptable and what advertisers label as the norm. In the view of the above observations, the present paper is a discourse analysis on weight loss pills and meal replacement shakes as the suppositional means of reducing extra body weight.
The use of meal replacement shakes is intended to deliver similar results to those gained through the use of pills. Meal replacement shakes include prepackages of frozen or shelf-stable entrees, snack bars, and breakfast cereals that are proposed to replace high calorie foods. Such replacements might be used exclusively or alongside normal foods. In their study, Levitsky and Pacanowski (2011) found that a simple substitution of a meal by a small portion of the shake per day is sufficient to lead to a meaningful reduction in the energy that is consumed. Similarly, the arguments postulated by the proponents of the use of pills to slim resemble those that are used to sell meal replacements shakes.
Of critical significance is Hill’s (2012) process of discourse analysis which focuses on language analysis because it shapes meaning and sense-making. According to Hill (2012), much of what people make meaning of is dependent on what they hear or see from others. Despite the perceived presence of individuality, people are often interested in being a part of a bigger group. In order to understand the rationale behind the use of weight loss pills and replacement shakes, the paper employs discourse analysis as advanced by Hill (2012).
The justification for using weight loss tools is grounded on various issues. For instance, the increase in the prevalence of obesity has raised numerous health concerns (Kwan & Trautner, 2011). The weight problem leads to other health disorders that require monumental resources to mitigate (OECD, 2013). As a result, efforts to control weight gain are made by a number of health stakeholders. Thus, it is not unusual that pills, food alternatives, or medications that help in weight loss are seen as legitimate.
Koskel (2014) has also analyzed the perpetuation of the body in a given way to elicit acceptance. In this regard, reference is made to what is perceived to be an acceptable body. Hence, it is not surprising that individuals strive to achieve the ‘ideal’ figure. Citing a number of studies, Koskel (2014) indicated that a ‘beautiful’ shape is equated to a slim and sensual (for women) and an athletic one (for men). Owing to the current social definition of what an ideal body is, it is not uncommon to find people working towards attaining the perfect figures, either consciously or subconsciously. Although not a new phenomenon, the desire to be slim has spread significantly.
Dieting is normative among women across the western world. Harjunen (2009) observed that women and girls are in the habit of losing weight because that is the trend. The implication of the behavior is that individuals who do not try to shed some pounds are deemed peculiar. Within the context of postmodernism consumption, the human body is viewed as an object that is modifiable to acceptable social figures (Sanli, 2011). In this regard, attention is paid to the idea that people have the power to shape and reshape their bodies to appropriate standards. Since slenderness is associated with successfulness and overweight is considered as a step towards illnesses, people embrace ideologies that support the former state of the body. It is also noted that obesity/ overweight is viewed as a sign of laziness which partly leads to the stigmatization of victims. In this sense, it is no surprise that women aspire to have slender bodies and can legitimize their goals based on the conviction that slimness is equivalent to healthy living.
According to D’Alessandro and Chitty (2011), a connection exists between the body state and one’s self-identity. In addition, sociocultural factors play an instrumental role in perpetuating the perspective that influences women to attain the ‘right’ figure. However, it is the mass media that conveys such factors aggressively. Many adverts focus on highlighting what they term as ‘success stories’ while attempting to promote certain slimming products such as pills.
Design of Success Stories
Weight loss success stories are targeted at lending credence to the use of pills and other forms of medications to enhance slimness. Although such stories can add to the legitimacy of using pills if they are really effective, it is evident that the most frequent objective is to implore those who are not yet using the pills to embrace the idea (Wann, 2009). By presenting success stories readers of magazines are informed that being slim is fashionable and achievable. One of the success stories reads, “How 2 readers lost weight, fast!” and is claimed to be based on testimonial evidence. Many readers of the headline are thus likely to believe that the medication or treatment regime that the users underwent worked well.
Examining the words used also pinpoints the justification for taking slimming pills. In particular, it states that “When real women Jennifer Hynes and Nicole Laroche tried everything they could to lose weight without seeing results, they turned to NV, a new weight-loss supplement, to help them get their health and lives back.” The use of the phrase real women and getting lives back send a clear message to readers. A real woman is somebody who has proven her worthiness or significance to the society by scaling heights in terms of achievements. Hence, the writer is trying to suggest that for one to be successful, it is essential that such aspirants do what the real women are doing. As people tend to look up to stars, such messages are likely to drive their ambitions. Thus, it is natural that girls and women would be persuaded to buy these supplements in order to get similar results. In addition, the author supports using NV rather than any other supplement. The view is based on the allegation that the two real women have tried other pills but could not achieve the expected results. The author further amplifies his objectives of winning the audience by stressing that, the NV product is critical for women who want to get their successful lives back. In other words, fat or overweight women are claimed losers and their only chance to reclaim themselves is to take supplements.
The use of the above pictures demonstrates the effect of using NV. With such displays, users are given a picture on the effectiveness of the product. Additionally, the intention is to lend legitimacy to the drugs used.
The success story by Jennifer Hynes demonstrates the use of displays and words to influence the demand and consumption of the NV product. The choice of words is particularly impressive. For instance, when Hynes claims that the initial loss of weight was not healthy, she underlines the legitimacy to the use of the NV product. The statement, “Starting this NV journey has not only helped me get the body I had before my daughter, but it’s helped me get the body I haven’t had since I was a teenager” sums up how the author is attempting to manipulate readers. Based on the above remarks, the experience of Hynes is being used to prove to the rest of the female population that it is possible to regain the teenage look even after giving birth. Such a statement is likely to reverberate in the minds of numerous mothers for a long time as it is doubtless that women would like to have the image they had when young. Additionally, the fact that the society believes that being slim and looking young is fashionable is another incentive. The testimony by Hynes is reinforced by that of Nicole Laroche, further lending support for the use of the pills.
All success stories are based on purportedly positive outcomes of using the slimming products. In practice, they do not work for all people in the same way. For all people are unique, it is possible that for numerous individuals the sliming materials might fail. For example, Pi-Sunyer et al. (2007) found that for many subjects the use of slimming pills was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. In addition, the use of pills or meal replacement shakes may come with side-effects the adverse effects of which are usually not revealed by the promoters of the products.
The focus on feeling young after slimming is evident in the XLS-Medical graphics. The titles used, like ‘Find out how Zoe achieved sustainable weight loss with XLS-Medical Fat Binder’, are also indicative of the objective of the advertisers. Subsequently, the website states on another title, ‘Real People, Real Stories’. Under the individual testimonies, the one by Karin shows the perceived positive outcome of using sliming tools. Karin says’ “I feel fantastic, my two sons are very proud of my weight loss achievement, I can’t wait to get into my summer wardrobe now”. According to Karin’s words, the picture that is being painted is that being slim is the ideal thing that guarantees good feelings, acceptance, and setting the pace ahead of summer. Acceptance at the family level is also likely to influence mother’s considering the use of pills. From the statement, it is also obvious that Karin’s story is invoking the summer period when individuals prefer skimpy outfits. Thus, the message is that fat women cannot enjoy beautiful summer clothes. For them to be able to fit into these, they need to slim.
The organization of photos of many women into one picture while retaining individual aspects underscores the power of sliming pills in the lives of people. Despite allowing them to attain similar goals, the pills also permit each individual to obtain personal objectives (Smith, 2011). The uniting factor is that the participant is not alone in the urge to look lean and young. The presentation of well-organized photos is a deliberate effort to highlight the success of people who have supposedly benefited from the scheme.
The main attention is focused on recreation of youth and assurance. Consumers seem to be in a position to buy the health that they crave. Surprisingly, slimming is made a subject of the choice to be healthy, young, and self-assured (Seidman & Meeks, 2011). The use of pills and meal replacement shakes is epitomized as an appropriate way of losing weight. The analysis establishes that the discourse poses noteworthy implications concerning the use of artificial value propositions necessary to sell products. However, as critics observe, many myths surround the use of pills and meal replacement shakes. Without a doubt, the sale of these products ranks highly among the top marketing tricks of the 21st century.
The presentation of success stories pertaining to the effectiveness of the weight loss pills and meal replacement shakes demonstrates a mastery of language comprehension and use. Through various techniques, it is possible to perceive the products in a convincing manner. It is important that the design of the success stories is supported by the effects of the materials and individuals’ testimonies coming out convincingly such that those persons who have not used the products are made to believe that they have been left behind. In this regard, the products are seen as legitimate. Besides, their promoters do not focus on any negative effects. Nevertheless, easily achievable results are often associated with neutral or even negative outcomes.
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