29 January 2010

Anti-obesity campaigns: belly rolls and tape measures

Remember the Xenical Fat Mountain from a few weeks ago? There's more where that came from. Karen Throsby has offered these delightful examples of anti-obesity marketing junk for the pile. Feast your eyes and enjoy.

Karen says: "The first item is an ad for obesity surgery services in the form of a fat torso - each fold of body fat opens upwards, revealing text inside - I've tried to capture this in the two pictures, but you really need to see it to appreciate its fully glory.

"The other is my BMI weight circumference tape measure, complete with traffic light markings to let you know just how perilous your condition is (plus a handy BMI calculator built into the casing)."

She adds: "What I think is most important is that these are aimed at other medical professions – 'BMI: the consultants' choice – which seems to give leeway (or even require?) some kind of entertainment/novelty aspect. They are fundamentally insider jokes. But aside from being offensive in their own right, these also leak out into the clinical setting (you could imagine the fat mountain on someone's desk, and at the obesity surgery clinic; I saw a lot of branded BMI calculators using a 'traffic light' system for degrees of fatness).

"I got these two objects at the National Obesity Forum conference this year; a two-day event where medical (and associated) professionals talk about what to do about/with fat people. For me as an observer, by the second day, the contempt in the room for the fat body had become so pervasive that I even picked up some sample meal replacement sachets, seriously thinking about a quick bout of crash dieting. It's taken years for me to stop thinking like this, and particularly in the last couple of years since I've been swimming, I would never have contemplated such a thing. And on top of that, I have a pretty well-developed critical perspective on how all this anti-fat stuff works. But still, there I was with my sachets in my bag. I left the conference early, and threw the sachets away, but it was an incredible, embodied reminder of the shaming potency of those messages."

Do you have examples of anti-obesity marketing junk lying around? Wanna talk about it? Take a pic of it and send it to me please!


Miriam Heddy said...

The interesting thing about the first one--the torso--is that I saw the title of it and then all the things written on it and thought, "Oh, so they're admitting that weight-loss surgery has negative effects on the body like depression?"

And then I went, "Oh. Duh."

As for the second--the tape measure--it's rather pretty.

All this stuff would make an interesting art installation of some sort, illustrating what medicalized hate looks like.

Charlotte Cooper said...

Oh. Duh indeed!

I'd love love love to see an art installation of this stuff. Anyone up for curating one?