As a clinical psychologist, I often see people entangled in emotionally abusive relationships. It’s a complicated dynamic, because the person develops a ‘‘Stockholm Syndrome’ attachment to their abuser, with strong feelings of connection, dependence, and even love towards them. Because of the ongoing emotional abuse, the person’s sense of self is utterly depleted and they are unable to think straight, know what is right and wrong, or feel confident in their opinions. And to top everything off, the abuser wants to keep them locked into this toxic powerplay, to keep them as a prisoner of ‘love.’

There’s no denying the similarities between emotionally abusive relationships and the toxic dynamics at play in the weight loss industry. In fact, the parallels are bone chilling. Here are some of the ways they’re mirrored:

  1. Abusive People CHARM THE PANTS OFF US

In the beginning, abusers are super charismatic, charming, sweep-you-off-your-feet people! They promise you the world, declare their love (often very quickly), and shower you in attention. Abusers do a great job at selling you a dreamy love story – but they don’t deliver. Before too long, you’re living in a nightmare. And then the verbal abuse starts. It’s subtle at first, then it gets ridiculous.

The Weight Loss Industry CHARMS THE PANTS OFF US

Like an abusive partner, at first, diets PROMISE THE WORLD!

  • Lose weight FOREVER! • Live longer! • Be perfectly healthy! Confident! Sexy! Successful!  

…But before long, the promised diet/love story turns into a shit show. We end up in food and exercise prison, trapped in destructive cycles of trying to be ‘good’ with food, then busting and being ‘bad’. In the long term, dieting is likely to make us gain weight, and can even cause eating disorders. Not exactly what we dreamed of!  

  1. Abusive People GASLIGHT US

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that makes us question our own memory, perception, and sanity. Abusers gaslight us by telling us something is one way when it’s really not. They use denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying: the point of gaslighting is to destabilize us and make us doubt our reality.

The Weight Loss Industry GASLIGHTS US

The weight loss wolves gaslight us constantly. They say – THIS ISN’T A DIET! and then sell us A DIET! Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Michelle Bridges…they ALL pretend not to be diets – but they are!

Instagram celebrities like Kayla Itsines & Ashy Bines love to gaslight us by preaching body acceptance & body love but then sell us bikini body diets!

Constant weight loss industry gaslighting leaves us utterly confused. Is this a fad diet or a ‘lifestyle?’ Can I love my body and still lose weight? We get so muddled, we lose the ability to think critically! We don’t know which way is up! (And that’s exactly how they want us)…


Abusers accuse us of doing things we aren’t doing, or doing things that THEY are doing. Projection is when an abusive person attributes the bad stuff they are doing to US. Abusers accuse their partners of cheating, when really it’s THEM cheating!


When we struggle to lose weight, diet peddlers blame us for a product that fails almost all the time! We get told that we must be LYING about what we’re eating/how much exercise we’re doing, when really it’s the weight loss wolves who are the MASSIVE LIARS because they know their products don’t work!


Abusers lie ALL THE TIME, about everything. It’s shameless and ludicrous, but they will swear blind that they’re not lying. They never take responsibility for their lies and end up twisting the facts around to blame us or make us doubt our reality. Everything that’s wrong is OUR fault, never theirs.

The Weight Loss Industry Are PATHOLOGICAL LIARS

The weight loss industry advertise incredible weight loss stories which are lies, because most people who buy their products will never have an incredible weight loss story! They tell you all sorts of shit: ‘the last diet you’ll ever need’, ‘scientifically proven to keep the weight off’. It’s your blood type! It’s carbs! It’s your untreated trauma! Buy my product! Utterly shameless!

  1. Abusers are MANIPULATIVE

Abusive partners love to play on our insecurities and create a deep sense of inadequacy. Over time, our sense of self-doubt and insecurity is entrenched. This secures us as utterly dependent on the abuser. In an abusive relationship, our emotional needs are not important. Only the abusers’ are. The abuser will manipulate and play on admirable human qualities in us – for example, our sense of loyalty – in order to get what they are after.

The Weight Loss Industry is MANIPULATIVE

The weight loss industry deliberately plays on our internalised sense of self-doubt, to make sure that we continue to do what they say. We become caught up in a world of promises, gaslighting, and illusion, losing sight of our own thoughts, feelings, needs and sense of self. The weight loss industry is shameless in manipulating lovely human qualities such as wanting to live a long, healthy, and happy life, and using them to sell us their crappy products.

  1. Abusers have NO EMPATHY

Abusers are incapable of feeling true empathy towards other human beings. Other people are there to service their needs, they cannot truly understand empathy. They might try at times to speak the language of remorse, but they just don’t really get it and they end up coming off as insincere.

The Weight Loss Industry Has NO EMPATHY

Even when caught red-handed in lies, the weight loss industry has no empathy or remorse. Here are some examples:

  • Pete Evans and his lack of remorse for dangerous advice about baby formula.
  • Dr Oz and his flippant response when interrogated by a Senate committee for unscrupulous promotion of crappy “miracle weight loss products.”
  • Michelle Bridges defending her awful comments about “obese people”. Instead of apologising, she called herself a ‘trailblazer”.
  1. When the Honeymoon is Over, The VERBAL ABUSE Starts

Abusers punish you when you displease them. After the honeymoon phase surfaces the true abusive character of the relationship. We are punished for speaking up. We are called names, belittled, and quite literally verbally abused.

The Weight Loss Industry is VERBALLY ABUSIVE

Our weight phobic world straight up hates fat people. Check out this headline:

Shouting abuse at fat people is not just fun. It’s socially useful”.

Words hurt. Terms like ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ are implicitly fatphobic, and these aren’t even the worst ones used to ridicule people in larger bodies. The weight loss industry continues to defend pathologising larger bodies by pretending that this is being done ‘for their own good’. TV shows like The Biggest Loser create a socially acceptable arena to humiliate and abuse fat people for public entertainment. The fitness industry is renowned for insulting people and calling it ‘tough love’. “Fitspo” is particularly heinous in its fat and body shaming – remember the horrendous “what’s your excuse?” woman? In diet culture, even Santa Claus seems to think it’s ok to fat shame children!

  1. Abusers Make It Really Hard To Leave

By the time we realise that the abuse will not stop and we need to leave, we’re demoralised psychologically. We’re filled with self-doubt and feel like a shadow of our former self. At our weakest point, we somehow have to find the strength to leave.

Abusers do everything in their power to stop us from leaving, escalating the abuse and the promises to change, making it SUPER hard to get away.

It’s Really Hard to Leave The Weight Loss Wolves

Even though diets fail in the long run, leaving us with weight regain and feeling demoralised, WE’RE NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE. Companies like Weight Watchers have LIFELONG memberships for a reason! Michelle Bridges admits that many people have done her weight loss torture program multiple times.

When we try to leave the weight loss wolves, we get bombarded by “please come back” messages for gym memberships, body transformation programs, cleanses, detoxes! And they turn on the charm again – enticing us with seductive promises…come back and you can HAVE THE DREAM!

I know that this has been a pretty depressing post this week! But it’s so important that we wake up and see the dangerous and toxic dynamics at play in the weight loss industry. They’re not interested in our freedom, they’re invested in our imprisonment.

I did a really interesting podcast episode on this with Kerry Beake: check it out!

It’s only when we can clearly see why something is wrong that we can become strong enough to reject it.