We came up with the title before I wrote this article, honestly. It was designed to head up posts on fun ways to exercise all year round, but as soon as I saw the Protein World ad on the tube, and the reaction it was garnering, I thought ‘I have to write about that’. I think it’s a really interesting topic. On the one hand, there is a need for a healthy lifestyle. In a society of increasing obesity (1 in 4) and the world’s worst binge culture, a push for healthy living should be praised. On the other, an idol-worship culture of stick-thin models and dehumanisation is a dangerous game.
I think the backlash around the ad brings to light a disconnect in British society. It’s taboo to tell people they’re too fat or that the way they live might be detrimental to their own health, as doing so might in turn be detrimental to their feelings. As such, there’s a culture of trophying the ‘anti-body’, of saying ‘(s)he’s big, and doesn’t care what anybody thinks, good on him/her’. And yet, at the same time, the people that will wax lyrical about these nonconformists, that will champion the plus-sized Venus/Adonis, still have the same perception of what is attractive as everyone else. They will still swoon at pictures of Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake or Mila Kunis. Because healthiness is an attractive quality. It shows an energy for life, a willingness to work hard at something, be it physical or mental.
The rage at the image in the ad is perhaps more directed at the way the image has been used, rather than at the image itself (although it is a bit raunchy and photoshopped). Alongside the miracle weight loss products and ‘beach body’ strapline, the picture promotes an idea of a shortcut to healthy living, of fitness as an aesthetic quality and nothing else. Which it would do, it’s trying to make money. But that’s where it falls down. Of course there’s a visual gain to having a healthy body, but this should serve as an added bonus to the principal aim of living well, not as a sole motivator.
To summarise, I’m not sure I’d agree with the view that it’s okay to be any size. It’s a myth and it’s dangerous to people’s health to promote. However, the idea that one size fits all, that photoshop poster-girl’s figure should be divisible by all other figures, is also a myth. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a happy medium. Or there should be, it’s just that our society is struggling to find it. Rather than a message of one’s body being ready/healthy enough for others to deem it acceptable, I think we should set our own standards of what is healthy and comfortable enough. Because health can be our friend, when it’s not being so commercial.
Search for the hashtag #eachbodysready to find out more about the rebellion.