“Best Way for Girls to Lose Weight”

Above is a commercial which has been making the rounds on Facebook the last day or so. In case you’re not able to watch it; we see a line of electric bikes set up in a line (all colored pink you’ll notice). Slowly, people (mostly women) approach the bikes and start using them.  Doing so activates a digital pink line powered by the movement of all the bikes which shows a dancing man doing a “strip dance”.  At the end, the man “goes around a corner” to pull off those digital undies and comes back with a sign in front of his bits which says, in French: “Bravo!  You’ve burned 2000 calories! “.  The tag-line for this commercial at the end is  (loosely translated*, again in French):  “Losing weight would be easier if it was more fun”.  The ad seems to be for a water company “Contrex” which wants to be known as “your slimming partner”.

Okay.  First off, let me say that I LOVE the idea of making exercising, moving around, FUN again instead of a drudgery intended to bore and yet be endured for the sake of “less fatness”.  What I DON’T like and wish we could really REALLY move away from as a world; is the idea that even after making movement fun and a group activity that folks seemed to enjoy, the punchline is still:  Hah!  See, we made you (girls) work out and now you’ve burned such and such calories so forget all the fun, etc; it’s the CALORIE BURN that made it all worthwhile, amiright?  *sigh*  NO!  Just make moving FUN.  Period.  The end.

Also very problematic is the way this is STILL marketed as a way for “girls” (yeah, not even women though you’ll notice that most of the folks using the machines are far from “girl”-aged) to lose weight.  There is one older gentleman who climbs up on a pink bike at one point but overall the message is STILL that women, sorry “girls” will NEVER be accepted unless they lose weight.  No.  Never.  What’s that adage?  You can always still lose another 10% and be “healthier”?  Yeah.  Talk about setting the bar to “infinitely impossible”.

My thought? Set up video games that run on treadmill or bicycle power similar to this electronic dancing man.  I know there are already such devices out there.  Bring them to the limelight!  Also? Remind folks that all that work they do standing and moving about in their daily lives is ALREADY a great bunch of exercise.  Promote forms of movement that cater to people’s vastly different desires: group activities for those socialites, individual sports or games for those who would rather work on challenging themselves alone, different skill levels for varying levels of ability.  Fight for government subsidies to create safe spaces around each nation to DO these sorts of activities.

But, above all, STOP equating movement with a Smaller Body.  You set people up to ultimately fail and stop WANTING to move when the only goal is a smaller body which does not occur or does not last.  Make the goal: Have Fun, Get Your Heart Rate Up, Enjoy the Movements Your Body is Capable of Making.

When you REMOVE the conflation between health and weight; you end up with people interested in, instead, working towards fitness goals that don’t involve smaller pant sizes or tighter dresses (you know, since we’re all worried about these “girls” you know).  Fatness isn’t killing us sooner, isn’t taxing the healthcare systems more than actual illnesses, and is really only a measure (consistently and erroneously measured and analyzed) of how large your body is; NOT what it is capable of.  Weight is not a proxy for behaviors.  All bodies benefit from movement.  As the awesome Dances with Fat writer Ragen so aptly points out:

There are exactly two things that you can tell by looking at someone’s size:

  1. What size they are
  2. What your personal preconceived notions and prejudices about that particular body size are

That is just perfectly put.  Visual cues on fatness need to be disassociated from all the baggage we’ve attached to it.

We need to put our energies into efforts to spread the word that movement IS fun.  It isn’t a payment you make to the gods of thinness.  It is energizing and fulfilling and good for you body.  No matter WHAT size that body may be.

*Literally: “One would lose weight better if it was more fun”

17 thoughts on ““Best Way for Girls to Lose Weight”

  1. You know, much as I’m a believer in physical activity, something about those pink exercycles and that whole scenario makes me want to hurl. The gendered nature of it. The tie to sex. Don’t get me wrong. I can get into cheesy and fun, but the implication that we all need to jump onto our little pink hamster wheels so that the men will take their clothes off for us is truly cringe-worthy. Also, one fake man, many real women. Serve the imaginary sex god, ladies! Or maybe I’m just in a bad mood.

    • Dee no I think you could very well be spot on. I love the idea of changing up our assumptions that exercise needs to be a non-fun punishment time. That doesn’t mean this video wasn’t filled with VASTLY more issues than I mentioned here!

  2. I saw this video on Facebook last night. I can’t read French, so I had no idea what it was about, other than guessing at the “2000 calories” bit in the sign.
    Did anyone else notice that none of the women shown were visibly overweight other than the older woman that the man replaced, and her just slightly plump?
    Between the sexist, exhibitionistic, pink = females, “trick you” into exercising, etc, the whole thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth before I knew what was actually said.

  3. I don’t hate the color pink, but the idea of “tricking” people into exercising reminds me too much of the concept of “tricking” children (and adults) into eating vegetables by “hiding” the veggies in something else. And that leaves an awful taste in my mouth. If something like exercise and vegetables are so great, then why in the name of all that is bright and beautiful do people need to be tricked into it?

  4. The McDonald’s near where we lived in Germany had these stationary bikes that were hooked up to video games. The faster you pedaled, the faster the game went. They also had a basketball hoop and a large maze the kids could run around in. It was a great place to take them on a rainy Sunday as you sipped your coffee because not much else is open on Sundays in Bavaria.

    It’s also interesting to note that the food cooked there is locally harvested stuff, and the things in the McCafe are from local Backeri. And the coffee was Italian. And the people at the till were very polite and well-dressed. But that’s another topic for another time…!

  5. I love love LOVE your statement that exercise isn’t payment to the gods of thinness!!! it so perfectly captures the mindset I have equated with exercise since I was a teen! Thank you!

  6. Oh I don’t know… Except for the 2000 calories bit, I thought it was kind of cute. As for sexism, I could imagine boys doing something similar (on a line of blue bikes?) with a digital female stripper, except that the stripper would praise them for building muscle instead of praise for burning calories.
    I’d certainly like exercise better if it were fun and not punishment. Not punishment for eating or being fat, but punishment for being excessively sedentary.

  7. I’ve been thinking recently about how many ads for exercise machines and exercise clubs boil down to “pay us money and we will make you conventionally sexually attractive and socially acceptably thin.” I would love to see an ad touting the actual benefits. For example:

    OPENING SCENE: Grandma with laugh lines and visible chub standing in front of flight of steps in home.
    GRANDMA: I used to have no energy. I got out of breath climbing a flight of stairs. Then I started a three-times-a-week exercise program at Sweaters.
    MONTAGE: Grandma looking tentative at front counter of club, being assisted in use of exercise machines, growing confident, looking out of breath but smiling victoriously as she takes her own pulse.
    GRANDMA SPEAKING OVER MONTAGE: Sweaters helped me get moving in a way that felt good. I learned how strong I already am and how fit I can become. Six weeks after I started the program, I did this:
    GRANDMA: *turns and trots up flight of stairs* *calling down from top with great big smile, obviously not out of breath* Without even thinking about it!
    DISSOLVE TO: Grandma setting off to walk a large energetic dog, or chase grandkids down a beach or public lawn, or do a walk-a-thon–nothing as overblown as climbing eleventy bajillion flights of stairs in a sports stadium which IME is the general cliche
    GRANDMA, SPEAKING IN NEW SCENE, LOOKING HAPPY AND WEARING SWEATERS SWAG: Life gets bigger with Sweaters! ‘Scuse me, gotta go!
    CUT TO: Logo and URL

    • Jenny Islander I really like your suggested promo! 🙂

      Sleepydumpling (and others) I do have to cringe at how “Come on Girls! Let’s work hard to get men to take their clothes off for us!” is used to encourage exercise. I love the intent of making movement FUN and not drudgery. However, even the “joke” at the end of this video made me wince. Like this “sexy” line man couldn’t even give these women the goods after all their hard work. Instead, they get the equivalent of a tap on the nose like a naughty six-year-old girl and a note about calories. So, I’d say we’re far from promoting such cliches but hope that pointing it out more and more makes even just one more person reconsider such ads each time.

  8. I am so glad someone else has spoken about this advertisement. It bothered me deeply when I watched it but I didn’t really have the sanity points to express how and why.

    I had a problem with both the whole “burn calories girls!” aspect of it and the fact that it shows women as screaming teenyboppers at the idea of a man undressing. Seriously, haven’t we got past those cliches by now?

  9. I watched the advertisement last week on Facebook and thought to myself that’s no way to get me onto a stationary bike. I can’t stand the whole chicks squealing over a male stripper thing, it’s just plain embarrassing.
    There needs to be more focus on being fit at any size, not the continual “You’re worth more the smaller you are” messages that are bombarding us daily. SO OVER IT!

  10. April, what would you have replied if they’d shown a fat person on the exercise bike? Would you have been offended? In your opinion, how could it be improved?

    The only ways I could see this scenario being improved is if they changed the colour of the bikes (made them all different or added skulls because I really do like skulls) and thrown some men on them. I objected to 95% of the women on the bikes being young, thin, beautiful, and toned, not so much the exercise part. You will always have a segment of the population barking like seals for a bit of naughty visual pleasure…doesn’t matter what they look like.

    I think it’s a silly ad from beginning to end, and I’m doing what I do with 80% of what’s on the internet these days: I’m ignoring it and not letting it swirl around in my head. The little red X button up there is a handy, handy thing…means we still have veto power.

    • Yorkie I think I would have been pleased to see a variety of body types, genders and racial demographics represented as ENJOYING the movement on the bikes. But, a large part of the visual is the intent. Seeing a fat woman happily pedaling along with thinner women, all laughing at the line-man dancing? Sure. Bring it. But if the fat woman is there as a huffing, puffing, “example” of what all those thinner women were working so hard to avoid? Not cool.

      So I think I’m with you that the entire ad was “silly” and had vast areas open to improvement. At the base level I’d suggest that the water company market themselves as a tool for increasing your body’s wetness level during movement instead of a “Slimming Partner”. That would be my idea for improvement!

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