Next time you are waiting in a grocery store checkout line, pay attention to the magazines in the rack nearby. Particularly, notice the specialty magazines focused on health and weight loss, the ones with a seemingly endless supply of articles with titles like “The Guilt-Free Way to Shed Fifteen Pounds” or “Lose Inches in Just Ten Days!”
I’ve done this and observed how the articles listed and the cover photos often directly contradict one another. That is, the article may say you can “Lose Inches in Just Ten Days”, but next to it, you’re likely to find a picture of a cake or a pie, some frosted cupcakes or a fruit-filled pastry, the very kinds of foods that we all know pack pounds on with unforgiving efficiency. We may know very well that these are guilty pleasures, but the presentation here is meant to make us forget or downplay what we know.
Can you believe that? They actually try to sell us on weight loss with the kind of fatty and calorie-rich food that caused us to gain weight in the first place. And they have no better weapon than that photogenic classic, the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, so moist, and with such creamy, rich frosting. It’s the most seductive image in the baking world (which is why it’s on the cover more often than any other thing).
These magazine covers are a total come-on, an illogical, completely emotional, and semi-subliminal messaging which nonetheless is wickedly effective (judging by their sales figures). These guys aren’t fools. They know just how to play on our gullibility and hopefulness, and the money rolls in (to them) when we do.
Think of all the suspect messages we are given in our culture. Here are a few:
1. You can be anything you want! – Not true, since your natural skill, among other things, limits how far you will progress with any endeavor.
2. Don’t be afraid of a risk. – Oprah can say this because she has a wide skill set and a bazillion dollars in the bank, but most of us have to work hard to build any security, and can’t afford to jeopardize it on a dream that isn’t pretty much guaranteed to pay off.
3. Always be yourself and say what you think. – Some people who do this are just jerks!
Well, I certainly don’t want to be discouraging and defeatist. The point would really be that we all need to be pretty aware of the messages we are given, and to challenge them. Not to do so leaves us open to manipulation because these messages are strong, and like I pointed out earlier, get us right where we are vulnerable – in our sense of ourselves, our desire to improve, and the wish to achieve this without too much pain.
And the next thing you know, you are on a Chocolate Cake Diet and wondering why it doesn’t work out.