It was while I was sitting on an airplane flying home from Texas that I had another moment of truth. I was traveling with a friend and she nudged me and pointed to the woman sitting in the row next to us. She looked to be somewhere in her forties, blond hair, next to a significant other of some kind. We had seen them share pizza earlier in the flight, and my friend had noticed this woman was reading a prevention magazine while eating potato chips.
We both had a hard time figuring out why exactly this hit us as being funny. It was funny like a person sitting on the couch watching Tae Bo DVDs. Or Liz Lemon walking on a treadmill while eating an ice cream sundae. Why?
Personally I try to avoid health and fitness themed magazines about as vehemently as I avoid celebrity gossip; critiquing bodies of famous people next to chocolate recipes next to diet tips tend to make me a bit irate. The beautiful juxtaposition of the magazine and the chips worked to underscore how absurd these magazines are.
Growing up I was told by either my mother or another significant relative that no diet or pill or exercise is actually magically effective. If such a thing existed, we would know about it, because the creator would be millionaires and we would all be taking it. Every month when I read about the flat belly diet or the next big exercise to make your abs appear or your butt tighten or whatever, whatever’s going to fix the newest and most hated parts of our body, it’s absurd to think anything will actually be that effective. Sometimes you just have the body you have.
A while back I read this article talking about how people get frustrated because they don’t understand that weight loss and fitness are hard work and don’t come within three months or weeks. It’s unfair to blame this on people. Magazines and shows and diet books make money by promising the quick fix. For some people these tips and tricks really do work (although as someone whose whole family is big in the middle, I have doubts about the effectiveness of the flat belly diet etc). but I go back to the woman eating chips and reading about fitness.
Is part of this like The Secret effect where we visualize change and it happens? No doubt a large portion of the issue is our refusal to acknowledge the existence of differing body types and how effective dietary and exercise changes will be. Sometimes you have the body you have.
Why is this phenomenon so funny and so jarring?