I had a really bad day yesterday: I’d been in a media blackout (more or less – by today’s standards anyway) for the past few days. It was lovely. I still had to deal with all my drama, the constant arguments in my head that sound like they’re emitting from a bad soap opera turned up too loudly, but this background noise is pretty normal to me no – I can ignore it completely on very good days, turn it down, muffle it out on worse days – the past couple of days have been the former and I was happier than I have been for a very long time.
This bubble popped on getting home, not immediately, my house itself is not a giant needle that will destroy the beauty of happiness – I would have moved already if that was the case – no it was the morning after (isn’t it always?) as I was eating breakfast and watching something on TV; now for the life of me I cannot remember what I was watching, reruns of something I’ve already seen 8 or 9 times most likely, however what really stuck out was an advert. The advert was for “Diet Chef” problematic in itself but that would be a whole other post, and involve me trying to dig out dietary information and nutritional values, which I’m sure would not benefit me anyway. No, what really struck me was the opening.
Now I’m sure that I’ve seen this advert about a thousand times, that might be hyperbolic, but who knows, I watch a lot of TV and it’s on often. Today I saw the full advert.For those who haven’t seen it, it opens with a daily routine: waking up, showering, hair drying, and then “I weigh myself once a day” — WHAT?! So, we’re going to normalise obsessive scale behaviour (I don’t know if this is the technical term, but it’s what I’m calling it) – weighing yourself should not be equated to showering: good personal hygiene, awesome; your self worth and image coming from a number on a scale, awful.
I’m not saying that this isn’t something that a lot of people do, heck I’m really not one to judge – I often weigh myself upwards of 5 times a day – but the idea that it is okay for a company to advertise this as a regular behaviour, as something almost necessary, if its comparison to washing is anything to go by, for me at least, this is just plain wrong. You may ask why, after saying that “it is normal for some people” to have this behavioural trait, that it is wrong to put it on TV? Well, normal isn’t really what I’m saying, I’m saying that for some individuals that the scenario pictured in the advertisement is part of their own routine – what I’m condemning is that this should be publicized as healthy, that this is how you will become happier in your body.
For many, the scale is just part of the love/hate relationship that we have with ourselves, often I’ve heard this described as a hatred towards the scales, but more often than not this is just projection – it’s a lot easier to vocalise hate of an inanimate object (she says thinking about all the mobile phones, tablets, XBox controllers, TV remotes, plates, etc. the endless list of things chucked in frustration), right? But the old phrase “the scales do not lie” is, excuse my language, complete bollocks; according to my scales my weight changes based on what room I’m in – something this flippant is not something to live by, and that’s not even taking into account your weight fluctuations (WHICH ARE COMPLETELY NATURAL), weighing yourself daily can be extremely detrimental to how you view yourself, and, in my experience, can become a very painful habit, one that takes over every activity.
For those that this advert is aimed at, those wanting to be slimmer (not lose weight Diet Chef, that is not your target audience, you are not advertising to jockeys are you?) it reinforces the notion that the scale is king, and how you feel about yourself is not as relevant. The most worrying thing about this advert is the impact that it will have on those that do not weigh themselves daily, those that are happy with themselves, not yet conscious of societal pressure, in other words young. There are of course various things that happen in Western culture and today’s society that is going to have negative impact on body image, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this right now, but this just seems to be another nail in happiness’ coffin.
Thinking about this advert from the perspective of a younger me, a me before the anxiety and self-attacking, I would have only had a fraction of understanding about what this advert was really doing – there is however a trifecta that I would have understood: happiness, calorie, scales. We always had scales, you use scales for baking; calories are what make your body move; happiness is running around outside, playing netball right?
Oh no, that’s where you’re wrong little one, happiness is scales and calories.
I’m not sure if I’ve expressed this in quite the way I wanted to, but I’m hoping that at least I’ve got the point across that this kind of advertising can be dangerous; normalising ritualistic, weight oriented behaviour is dangerous.
This may just be another case of advertising agencies, and companies themselves, preying on insecurities to make money, which in itself is frighteningly normalised, but the notion that through the advertising of their product they could be creating the very problem their product “solves” is to me inherently evil – it reeks of evil planning: inserting themselves as both destroyer and solution, I’m having V for Vendetta flashes. There are enough land mines out there without another one being added to the field, much less one that is offering you a way to navigate a safe path through.
I know that this kind of thing is not going to stop overnight, that the larger problem needs to be tackled, but to those out there who have children, younger siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, whatever, if you see them watching this advert, or if they mention it, please address the issue that this is not what they should aspire to. Scales are not happiness.