I didn’t give weight loss ads and the push to lose weight much thought until I lost weight myself. When it came into my sphere of “paying attention”, I started to get angry. Before I go on about marketing, let me tell you how I came to lose weight.
For most of my life, thinness was just part of who I was, and not something I needed to reach for. But I got older, had some kids, and ate entire bags of cereal while I read. I found myself several pounds overweight. Even then, it wasn’t much of a worry, because I was healthy and happy.
But shortly after delivering my last baby, my blood pressure became elevated. There were a lot of stressful things going on in my life in addition to having a baby. The blood pressure was high enough that the doctor wanted to check it weekly to decide if I needed to go on blood pressure medication. No way, I thought. I needed to get back in control.
I decided that my course of action was to exercise. This would give me several benefits. Exercise reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and increases endurance. As an added bonus, I would lose weight too. The added bonus certainly was desirable and admittedly what I looked forward to the most, but to me it felt like the reward for doing something healthy for my body, not the goal I was actually trying to achieve: lower blood pressure and better stress control.
I got all that, and I got more weight loss than I’d even thought to want. I’m nearly as skinny now as before I had kids. The same size, in fact. But here is the kicker: I weigh a good 10 lbs more. Before kids I was 122, now I’m about 132. Do you know what that extra weight means? It means I’m a healthier than I was before. I have more muscle power, more endurance, greater speed, and a better heart rate than I ever had in my life.
Right after I achieved that, I was approached by a personal trainer trying to sell me the services of his company. His selling point was “You can’t do it on your own.” On the radio and TV are constant advertisements for weight loss pills, programs, and diets.
Suddenly, after losing weight, I realized that there is a huge marketing campaign aimed at us, at its message is clear.
We need to lose weight and we are helpless on our own.
There is only one problem. I don’t need to lose weight. Losing weight now would mean losing muscle, bone, and/or the essential fat my body needs to utilize, manufacture, and store certain vitamins and hormones, as well as being an important energy reserve. I needed that reserve recently when I had my tonsils removed.
But the message doesn’t stop. Over and over again I hear that I need to lose weight. And that isn’t the only message I’m getting. I need to have my body hair removed. I need to go the the dermatologist so that he can stop my skin from getting ugly because Iâ€™m getting â€˜gasp!â€™ older. At the gym I’m forced to stare at a poster advertising “sexy surgery” and “get a bust” while I’m on the treadmill.
All around me are images of such perfection they are unattainable. Models, who spend most of the hours of their lives obsessed with their looks so they can keep their job and status, are photographed under tightly controlled lighting and coloring. After that, the photos are still airbrushed. Existential ideals that have never existed are being held up as what we could be if only we purchased X.
In order to sell products and services we don’t really need, we have to be convinced that we do need them. And the message they are cramming down our throats is that we are not good enough. That is wrong.
There is very little that you can buy that will make you more beautiful than you already are. The beauty isn’t in the skin or the skinny. It is in you. Your actions, your confidence, your spirit. You don’t need them to become your ideal self. They don’t know what that is, only you do.
This is such common wisdom it is cliched, but the power of advertising is whittling away at what we all know deep inside. Take that knowledge and bring it back up to the stage of your mind. Polish it up. Be in charge of who you are, and don’t let pretty pictures bully you around.
Whenever you hear an advertisement for something, evaluate it. They are always trying to make a buck, and they want you to give it to them. But do you really need what they are selling? Is their product or service actually a part of what is the best you that you can be? Do they really have your best interest at heart?