So there I was, sitting on the sofa in my student house, quite content. Our sofas are
wonderful, if also incredibly dangerous. Once you sit on them you’re pretty
much set for the rest of your life. Only desperately needing a wee, or somebody
telling you Johnny Depp- dressed as Captain Jack- is at the door, can get you
out of them. They’re just too comfy. So there I was, comfortable, attempting to
educate/permanently depress myself by watching the news, and eating a salad. I
know, throw me out of university, I let the unhealthy, pizza-fuelled student
image down completely.
It was as I lay there munching on my cucumber that I realised the television was
talking to me. No really, it was. Pretty much every other advert involved a skinny,
attractive girl telling me, me, that it was okay, that she had the perfect solution to
those weight worries I obviously had. If I did as she said, if I ate Special K for 2 of my 3
meals a day, I too could ponce around in a red swimsuit and look fantastic. Oh really?
That’s great. Except I don’t like Special K and I didn’t really think I was that
fat to begin with.
As for Weightwatchers, they’re punching even higher. According to their advert
they can make my dreams come true. Excellent, they can obviously pull some
strings in the musical business and get me that part as the Teapot in ‘Beauty and the
Beast’. Ever since I was small I have dreamt of being that Teapot. However, to
the relief of West End directors if nobody else, I’m afraid to say that I will
not be taking that role anytime soon. It turned out, as the advert played on,
that the dream Weightwatchers was referring to was the one that ‘clearly’ all
women have, the dream where I’m not fat anymore.
Except the problem is, most of us aren’t fat in the first place. The majority of us do
not need to go on a diet. I’m sure there are some people out there concerned about
their health, and if WeightWatchers and Special K work for them then that’s
great. But these adverts are not aimed exclusively at those kinds of people. I
acknowledge that men are also under a lot of pressure to look a certain way,
but there is a particular obsession in our society with women losing weight.
WeightWatchers and Special K do not know who is watching the television at any
one time, they cannot bank on their audiences always being unhealthy or
overweight and therefore these are not the only traits they appeal to. What
these companies sadly can bank on, is that the television will be watched by
women, and so they play on the vulnerabilities, insecurities and doubts that
many women have; they remind us of the need to be thinner when they should be
reassuring us we’re beautiful as we are.
As far as I’m aware, men can eat Special K too. My brother always did. I’m pretty
sure the reason he started buying it wasn’t because he wanted to look body-beautiful
in a red swimming costume, but because, shock horror, he actually liked the
taste. Losing weight has become an activity absurdly associated with perfectly
proportioned but insecure women; losing weight organisations therefore target
them in particular. But WeightWatchers is not exclusively about losing weight,
or at least it shouldn’t be. Losing weight in itself is not necessarily a
positive thing; for most people it’s at least un necessary, at most, dangerous.
Instead of focusing on the ‘losing weight’ aspect of these diets, we should focus
on just being healthier; Weightwatchers should be called healthwatchers really.
Plenty of us do not need to drop a dress size but we do need to cut down on the
vodka, yet what does society make us more concerned about?
Losing weight has become an art, a habit, a pastime, and just like football, which
is absurdly linked to masculinity, there is a distinctive link between being on a
diet and being a girl; as if weight insecurities were innate inside that second
x chromosome, along with pillow fights, wearing heels, and not being able to
put up shelves. Let me make this clear, there is nothing innately feminine
about losing weight, nothing predominantly female about going on a diet, and
yet I’ve never seen a man on the WeightWatchers advert telling his success
All this might seem hypocritical coming from the girl eating the salad and I’m not
going to lie. I too spend about 80% of the time thinking I’m fat, and in my depressed
moments I do genuinely believe that if I was only that tiny bit thinner the
whole of the world’s problems would be over. But as I sat there with my celery,
and found myself still being sold the idea I needed to watch what I ate, I
realised how cheeky these adverts actually are. Hello, skinny slimmingworld
girl on the television, I’m eating a salad, can’t you see? And so I ranted on
until I wanted to throw my lettuce leaves at her- which would of course be
counterproductive as she clearly sees enough of them.
What she really needed, what we all really need, is a slice of cake. Just have some
cake. Girls, boys, whoever, just have a slice of cake. We’re all told we should
look a certain way and be a certain thing, I say eat cake. Unless you don’t
like it, in which case eat something else, Special K if you want to. But for
goodness sake eat it because you like it, not because you’ve been deluded and
brainwashed into thinking a size 12 isn’t acceptable. After all, you could lose
all that weight, get the swimsuit, and find out red isn’t even your colour.