Monday, May 18, 2009

Say it after me: I-Am-a-Shill

My first reaction to this story on The Daily Beast was to look for the small print labeling it an ad. Sadly, it's not an ad but real-live editorial content. Sort of.

Written by one Dr. Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition and professor of psychiatry at Tufts University (who also just happens to be the author of a brand-new! fabulous! dieting book), this piece purports to tell you why crash dieting is just as effective as "more gradual weight-loss" regimens.

Dr. Roberts left out one tiny factoid here: No diets are effective in the long-term.

So yeah, Dr. Roberts, maybe crash dieting is "just as effective" as Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. But how could you have neglected to mention the fact that more than 95 percent of dieters not only gain back the weight they lost but they gain back more? Have you not seen the UCLA study showing that diets don't work? Maybe you think your new diet is better than every other diet that's ever been marketed. Or maybe you just don't care, so long as you make a buck here. Or a lot of bucks.

I expect better than this from a professor of psychiatry. And even, frankly, from Tina Brown's website. Brown used to be editor of The New Yorker, for god's sake, a magazine renowned for its fact-checking and reporting excellence.

How the mighty have fallen.


JS said...

Crash dieting is absolutely just as effective as traditional dieting. Also, unicorns make just as good pets as hippogriffs do.

Nussey said...

I find it just a bit hypocritical for you to question someone's motives when you have ads for your book all across the side of your site. A cynical person would assume this was due to jealousy since S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications isn't exactly Tufts.

Harriet said...

Dear Nussey,

Thanks for the giggle! If you read any of my site you would know that my critique of this doctor has everything to do with her boneheaded flogging of yet-another-diet-that-will-not-work, and nothing to do with jealousy! I regularly promote other people's books here, happily, since I am a book lover. I'm also quite secure about my own writing, thank you very much.

So if you are indeed the good doctor herself, please take my criticisms as they are intended and written. And I wonder why you (or she) would possibly create a diet given the richly plentiful evidence that DIETS DON'T WORK?

Harriet said...

Oh, and by the way, the Newhouse School, where I teach, is arguably one of the top 5 journalism schools in the country. So no, I feel no inferiority on that score either.

Heidi said...

I suppose that, technically speaking, crash diets ARE just as effective. Which is to say, not effective at all.

Harriet said...


Ari J. Brattkus said...

You are a writer, so it isn't hypocritical for you to promote books on your site. But a DOCTOR who promotes ILLNESS, well that is just....horrible.

Tufts has a journalism school?!? Syracuse is often rated as the third top graduate program behind Columbia and Northwestern.

Rachel said...

I received an email from a marketer who thought I would somehow be interested in sharing these crash dieting secrets with my readers who are recovering from eating disorders. It promoted me to start a new series called The Scarlet S (for spammer), in which I post the email and full contact information of the PR flack who sent it.