How Instagram & Jameela Jamil Are Cracking Down On Weight Loss Scams

If you spend a lot of time on Instagram or in the general world, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a major problem with the way we talk about diet, weight loss, and “wellness” in general. This isn’t one simple problem, but rather an entire culture that needs to shift. (If you want more details, try listening to our entire Diet Starts Tomorrow podcast.) But one of the biggest issues on Instagram is the way that influencers promote diet and weight loss products with no regard for what actually works, and what messages could be harmful to their audience. Well, Jameela Jamil is working with Instagram to make some important changes.

Jameela Jamil has long been a crusader for more honest practices around wellness products, particularly on social media. She’s repeatedly called out people like the Kardashians for misleading ads and comments glorifying unhealthy weight loss tactics. Earlier this year, she launched a petition to Instagram to “Stop celebrities promoting toxic diet products on social media,” and she got over 200,000 signatures.

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THIS IS HUGE NEWS. @i_weigh are changing the world together. After a bunch of shouting, screaming, and petitioning… we have managed to get the attention of the people at the top, and they have heard us and want to protect us. And this is just the beginning of our efforts. As of now, if you’re under 18, you will no longer be exposed to any diet/detox products, and for all other ages; all fad products that have bogus, unrealistic claims will be taken down and easy to report. I’ve been working with Instagram all year towards this, who were amazing to deal with, and they expressed that they passionately care about creating a safer space for us all online. This happened so much faster than I expected and I’m so proud and happy and relieved. WELL DONE to the many people who have been working towards this huge change. This is a mass effort. This is an extraordinary win that is going to make a big difference. Influencers have to be more responsible. ❤️

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Instagram saw the same issues as Jameela Jamil, so they’ve now worked with her to institute two new policies dealing with diet products.

-“If a post promotes a weight loss product or cosmetic procedure and has a price tag fixed to it, users who are younger than 18-years-old will be prohibited from viewing the post.”

-“Any content that makes a ‘miraculous claim’ about diet or weight loss products [is banned]. So, for example, if an influencer posts a picture of themselves sipping diet tea, promoting their discount code, and telling their followers how they managed to lose 10lbs rapidly solely due to the tea, it will be removed for violating the new community guidelines.”

Before I get into anything else, let me just state the obvious: both of these are great policies, and it’s an important step toward creating a better culture. I just have some questions, and I’ll be honest that I’m a little skeptical of how well these rules will actually work.

I’m extremely happy that Instagram is specifically taking measures to shield teens and kids from the harmful messages of weight loss posts. From increasingly young ages, people in our world are taught to feel bad about their bodies, and it needs to stop. Even recently, we’ve seen huge controversy over WW’s decision to launch a weight loss app aimed at kids. The sentiment behind the 18-and-under policy is great, but it sounds like the only way they’re going about this is through posts that use the shopping feature (hence the “price tag” language). I invite you to scroll through the feeds of some influencers and look at their weight loss ads. None of them use the price tag feature. You have to start somewhere, but I have my doubts that this rule is actually going to do anything. Sadly, companies that want to target minors will just get smarter about their specific tactics to skirt the guidelines.

For example, here’s an ad that Khloé Kardashian (Jameela Jamil’s enemy #1) recently did for Flat Tummy Tea. It’s obviously an ad, but she doesn’t use the shopping/price tag feature, though she uses #ad, which adheres with FCC guidelines. Does the 18-and-under rule even apply to this?

While I’m really unsure about the implementation of the first new policy, the second one has its own set of concerns. According to Jameela’s own words, “all fad products that have bogus, unrealistic claims will be taken down and easy to report.” Again, an excellent goal, but the implementation is where it gets tricky. From Instagram’s wording, I gather that they’ve just updated the community guidelines to make these things technically against the rules, so there are grounds to report these posts. There’s no Instagram bot that’s going to automatically detect these posts and remove them, because that would be basically impossible. How do you quantify a “fad” product? Flat Tummy Tea is an easy one, but what about chunky dad sneakers? I mean, those are a fad, just saying.

Despite all the problematic effects of posts making false claims about weight loss, censorship is a slippery slope. The nature of weight loss and dieting is that everything works differently for different people, so there’s a fine line between a claim that seems unlikely and something that is categorically false. While I’m not buying that Khloé got a whole new body by sipping diarrhea tea, I can’t say with 100% certainty that it didn’t do anything for her. With this in mind, it’s probably for the best that Instagram’s new policy will rely on self-reporting, so people can judge for themselves what crosses the line.

Overall, I’m excited about the changes that Instagram is making, because we shouldn’t have to live in a world of fake weight loss products and Photoshop fails forever. But as with anything, change takes time, and I’m looking forward to seeing Jameela Jamil continue to work with Instagram to tweak and expand these rules to address the full breadth of the issues. Someday, we might actually be in the good place.

Images: Shutterstock; jameelajamilofficial, khloekardashian / Instagram

Dylan Hafer
Dylan Hafer
Dylan Hafer has watched over 1000 episodes of Real Housewives because he has his priorities in order. Follow him on Instagram @dylanhafer and Twitter @thedylanhafer for all the memes you could ever want.