Don't mention the "D word"

Updated Thursday 8th March 2007

Men are becoming much more conscious of their body image. But when was the last time you saw an advert for a diet product that featured men?

On a recent Saturday evening Channel 4 presented a programme aptly titled 100 Greatest Sex Symbols. Amongst the usual collection of beautiful or sexually attractive celebrities was the not unexpected appearance of Brad Pitt. Whilst not wanting to detract from him his acting skills or his large back catalogue of films (for example the superb science fiction thriller Twelve Monkeys) the programme focussed on why he was a sex symbol. Using a variety of female commenter’s, it would appear that Brad’s sexiness doesn’t lie in his facial features but his ability to get a six pack.

For those who are unaware of what a six pack is let me inform you. Rectus Abdominis,and the external and internal oblique are a group of muscles that collectively form the abdominal muscles or more popularly called “washboard abs”.

Quite simply the women commenter’s reduced Brad’s sexiness to his flat “six pack” stomach and how he used it so eloquently in a sex scene in the film Thelma and Louisa and a host of other films since. As a male viewer, seeing a highly skilled actor reduced to the muscles in his stomach area only served to remind me how body conscious we have become, regardless of us being men or women.

And here lies the problem for British men in the 21st century. We live in a consumer driven society where young, muscular male bodies are presented to us as a health and sexualized ideal. It is the stark contrast between an idealized fantasy of a six pack and the reality of increasing obesity amongst men in Britain that the diet industry aims to exploit. Cartoon man with beer belly from a shop window display Creative commons image Icon djwhelan under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license An image of manhood from a shop window

Yet what stops men from dieting and slimming down? One issue is time. We live and work in a society where time is precious, where work dominates and valuing yourself often comes second. This lack of self valuing can lead to low self-esteem which may only heighten an individual’s denial over their body weight.

Compounding this denial is the association with dieting being for women only, a perception that maybe reinforced by the diet industry itself. An argument that can be illustrated by remembering the last time you saw a diet related advertisement featuring men? It is these associations that the diet industry needs to overcome and overcome fast, but how? The answer lies in how we perceive what is being sold to us.

In other words, marketing can tell us that a weight loss program may make us healthier, feed into our masculine need to compete against others and even make us feel sexier without using the D word.

And for those who don’t think men are so easily persuaded then just think that twenty years ago the idea of men moisturizing and cleansing their skin was something only women did. Twenty years later, thanks to marketing, the British male cosmetic industry is rapidly growing in size and value. The diet industry using a few carefully chosen words with some clever marketing can get men losing weight and getting healthier. Just don’t mention the D word.

Further reading

  • Competitive advantage – how can companies ensure they've got a lead over their competitors?
  • Fat Man ThinThe Money Programme investigates the companies trying to get men dieting.

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Theo Paphitis: Business adventurer Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Tiger Aspect article icon

Money & Business 

Theo Paphitis: Business adventurer

Theo Paphitis tells Sesame magazine about his new role - and suggests we're living through a revolution.

The life sciences industry: An introduction Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission free course icon Level 3 icon

Money & Business 

The life sciences industry: An introduction

This free course, The life sciences industry: An introduction, covers the emergence of the life sciences sector out of its precursor the pharmaceutical industry. After examining some historical perspectives, the course uses case studies to look at developments in the science, business and, primarily, management strategies used in life sciences. It also briefly considers the place of life sciences in the wider story of health provision. This introductory course will be of interest to managers in the life sciences sector and to the general reader.

Free course
6 hrs
Getting marketing right Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University audio icon

Money & Business 

Getting marketing right

Theo Paphitis expects start-ups to invest in building a market, while Fiona Ellis-Chadwick says an audit can help getting marketing right.

5 mins
Competitive advantage Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Money & Business 

Competitive advantage

How can companies ensure they've got a lead over their competitors? This course extract from 'Marketing in a Complex World' explores this question.

Evan Davis on... American capitalism Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Jupiter Images video icon

Money & Business 

Evan Davis on... American capitalism

Isn't pizza an Italian invention? After The Bottom Line looked at pizza, Evan Davis wonders how it joined hamburgers and cappuccino as successes for American capitalism.

5 mins
Family or stock market ownership: What’s best for business? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Anton Sokolov | article icon

Money & Business 

Family or stock market ownership: What’s best for business?

Whether family or stock market ownership is best, the current debate has put the family firm back in the limelight.

How we can treat clothing more sustainably Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Brooke Becker | article icon

Money & Business 

How we can treat clothing more sustainably

Why some of the most effective ways to behave more sustainably may not be quite what you’d expect.

Estate agents on the brink? Creative commons image Icon beast love under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Money & Business 

Estate agents on the brink?

Matthew Hinton considers whether the internet constitutes a threat to the role of the estate agent.

Collective Creativity article icon

Money & Business 

Collective Creativity

Can the boundaries of the 'creative class' be broken down? Should they? How do creative people contribute to society and the economy?