08 June 2011

Diet Songs: Ayds

It's a box of sweets with added magic lovely and slim ingredient X. This turns out to be an anaesthetic, later replaced with a mild kind of speed of a type that was later withdrawn from over-the-counter products because it raises the risk of stroke in the young women who eat this stuff.

I'm stuck on the name, I can't get past the name. A weight loss product called Ayds which, when you say it aloud, sounds like AIDS. I associate dieting so strongly with drawn-looking emptied out bodies that when I hear Ayds I think of the wasting suffered by people with AIDS, and that famous photograph of David Kirby dying amidst his devastated folks. This is probably not the association that the makers of Ayds wanted to promote in the product's heyday, but it's certainly the association that led to Ayds' demise.

Just saying the name invokes a handful of feelings: schadenfreude, a longing for other similar diet crap to bite the dust, sadness and rage about HIV/AIDS, bemusement. Ayds is so exposed by its name and obvious quackery, if it can happen to that product, why not Slim Fast, LighterLife and the rest of them? Why must it fall to an unfortunate coincidence?

Would Ayds be a viable brand nowadays? I'm inclined to think that it would. I think the obesity epidemicTM has made many people more desperate than ever to try and lose weight. Associations with illness don't seem to matter, I know someone who was congratulated on her weight loss after a couple of months suffering amoebic dysentery. How does the stigma of AIDS or terminal illness compare to fat stigma? Would people be willing to be associated with one in place of the other? I really don't know.

We recorded this pretty straight because, really, what else are you going to do with gold like this? Simon's spidery track sounds like a virus in your blood.

Diet Songs: Ayds by Charlotte Cooper + Simon Murphy (.mp3, 840kb)

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wonderful woman said...

the name and connotations with both the brand and the syndrome reminds me of Mark Graham's chapter 'Chaos' in Fat: The Anthropology of an Obsession (Kulick and Meneley 2005), which is about weight loss of PWA, and also about the fear of having a skinny appearance that is associated with PWA. Graham mentions that one of the first names for the disease in African countries was 'Slim' because of the wasting symptoms. The recent success and subsequent health-scares associated with Alli come to mind when I read your post here. I always forget if it's supposed to be pronounced like the girl's name 'Ally' and so like a friend, or as in 'ally' or 'allies', like your ally in getting lovely and slim. Of course it should have been called 'you'll shit your pants but don't worry because you'll be about a pound or so lighter, so it's worth it, right?'

Charlotte Cooper said...

Oh yes, good point. I can't remember where I read about it but there are theories that bear culture is a response to AIDS wasting. Not sure what I think about that, it sounds simplistic, lacking in critical depth.

Oh god, Alli is such a nightmare product! It seems stupid to laugh at Ayds as some unsophisticated throwback to yesteryear when diet products available on the shelves at Boots are just as idiotic. Alli is easier to sneer at because of the shit factor, I think, but meal replacement very low calorie diets are just as bad. I asked our dietician friend to have a look at LighterLife ingredients of the powdered food sachets and 'milkshakes' and she said: "it's tantamount to eating skimmed milk powder and a handful of vitamin and mineral pills". Mmm. And this is being sold under the rhetoric of science and modernity. It's nonsense.

wonderful woman said...

it's in the Bear Book ed by Les Wright - I only know this because i was looking at the contents list just the other day!

Charlotte Cooper said...

Oh yes, thanks.

I knpow I'm not its target reader but god, what a disappointment that book was to me. They're so patronising about fat dyke feminist activism and the Bear Book II has those really depressing chapters about fat, I don't know if you've seen them, about health and fetishism. Grim. And highlights the gulf between the work that the dykes were doing and the lack of engagement with a broader fat politics in Bear culture exemplified by that book.

I'm really glad to know people affiliated with Bear life now who have more of a clue and I hope there can be more productive crossover in the future.

wonderful woman said...

i've only seen the contents lists online... but yes, noticed the massive space given in the Bear II to 'health issues'. Like, 'let's upfront tell you how are most likely going to die... and now a bit about culture!' Urgh, put me right off. Unless I have to, I'm trying these days to avoid anything that I know will just be annoying. There's plenty of that stuff that I have to engage with out of necessity. I think trying to downsize it and put more nice things in front of my eyes is the way forward.

lilacsigil said...

I'm a fat cancer survivor and hell yeah people compliment people with severe wasting illnesses for losing weight (when they're not asking what you did to get cancer, so they can avoid it). My mother commented "Trust *you* to get the one kind of cancer where you gain weight."