Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Used To Be A Fatty, Now I'm A Trophy Wife

The health risks of obesity are common knowledge. Most people are aware of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and joint problems as they relate to weight. So why are these concerns never addressed by advertisements for weight-loss products?

Women are constantly shown discussing how they’ve gotten down to the coveted size 2, or how their husbands love their new bodies. One ad for NutriSystem even contains a woman who gushes that her husband likes to call her a “trophy wife” now that she is thin. These ads consistently put across the message that the only reason we as women should try to lose weight or look better is so we can impress the men in our lives.

Why so tiny? Where is the woman who is happy to have reached a size 12? We as a culture are so inundated with images of skeletal celebrities that the idea of someone feeling great in a double-digit clothing size is ludicrous to us. In fact, if you do the math on many of these ads, the starting size of most of these success stories was barely a double digit. Someone who lost 30 pounds to get into a size 2 started around a size 8 or 10. So these ads feature people who really didn’t need to lose weight but have starved themselves down to unnatural standards.

One key group is all but missing: men. A Y chromosome does not make someone impervious to the effects of obesity, so why is it so underrepresented in commercials? The occasional man is shown, but in a completely different light. There isn’t a man in these commercials gushing about how his wife can’t keep her hands off him. You also don’t often hear them male successes talking about how tiny their waist size is. It is generally men who were morbidly obese and have lost enough weight to be relatively average. The standards applied to men to be considered a success are completely out of what with those applied to women.

So where does that leave health? It would be nice to see someone who lost weight because of the health risks. So many people who are morbidly obese have problems like diabetes and hypertension, and these problems often disappear or reduce with drastic weight loss. So let’s see someone who had these problems disappear. I think that is more impressive that going from a size 10 to a size 2 so your husband can’t keep his hands to himself.


AnnieMcPhee said...

"The occasional man is shown, but in a completely different light. There isn’t a man in these commercials gushing about how his wife can’t keep her hands off him."

I think it's worse sometimes what they do with the men. One man I see on the Jenny Craig commercials says loudly, "My wife says I'm not as *disgusting* to her as I used to be." I mean really, whiskey tango foxtrot? They wouldn't dare have a woman saying that.

Liza said...

Wow...I haven't seen that one. Gag.

oceansof said...

They do have "guy" commercials for their special "guy" program. The differences are interesting.

The commercials marketed to women are all about looking hot and sexy after being on Nutrisystem. And then they show pictures of skinny girls dancing around in heels and bikinis.

The commercials marketed to men are all about how you still get eat "real" food. And then they show pictures of giant hamburgers and cheesy pizzas.

Rachel said...

The health risks of obesity may be common knowledge, but they aren't commonly accepted.

As for the gendered Nutrisystem ads, I wrote about the implications of their campaign previously here. These ads are aspirational - women do not want to be a size 12, they want to be a size 2. Ergo, size-2 trophy wives.